How to Buy a Motherboard
Building a custom PC can sometime be easier than finding a one on a shelf that fits your needs. Putting together a system on your own is pretty simple and can be done successfully in a day as long as you have all the right parts.
When picking out your parts, it is crucial to choose the right ones ? and the motherboard is the most important one. Cost and specifications vary in motherboards, and it is helpful to understand all the options, because your mother board will control everything on your system from the CPU to the storage.
Key Features of a Motherboard
CPU: The CPU is the brain of a modern system. There are several mainstream options for a CPU. Intel currently has the highest-performing processor lineup with AMD following up with the AM2 and AM2+ socket. AMD also offers the Phenom (quad- or triple-core) and Athlon 64 (dual-core) CPUs. In third place, is Via Technologies, which produces the low-power C7 processor.
Chip set: If the CPU is the brain, the chip set is the spinal cord. It is responsible for connecting all of the different devices in the computer.
The chip set is the single most important component of a motherboard. Because motherboards using the same chip set will generally have the same performance, we different them by features such as the storage options, expansion slots, and other discrete chips that could be included.
Chip sets will always have what is called a northbridge and a southbridge. The northbridge includes the memory controller, plus integrated graphics.The southbridge includes networking, storage, audio, general peripherals, and other devices.
The major options for chip sets consist of Intel, AMD, and nVidia.
Memory: Selecting memory for your PC is usually pretty simple: pick a reliable brand that's as cheap as possible. Most chip sets use DDR2 memory at up to 800 MHz (PC2 6400). DDR3 offers more bandwidth (1066 to 1600 MHz) and consumes less power. DDR3 is more likely to be useful for later upgrades.
Graphics hardware: The graphics hardware (or GPU) is the third-most-important part of a system. The main considerations for graphics are cost, performance, and upgradability.
The lowest-cost option is choosing an integrated graphic processor (IGP). IGP are intended for basic 2D and 3D functionality and is a fine choice for users interested in a little multimedia, office work, and other lighter workloads. Gamers should choose a motherboard with a single PCI Express x16 slot.
When price is no object and maximum gaming performance is a priority, true multi-GPU support is a very high-end feature and is priced accordingly.
Sound: Integrated sound will meet the needs of most users. For the dedicated audio listeners who would benefit from a discrete sound card, an extra PCI-E slot is recommended.
Storage: Like memory, basic storage tends to be very straightforward. 1.5-gbps versus 3-gbps SATA can make a bit of a difference in performance, but will only affect those that do video editing and other media-heavy tasks.
The real storage issue concerns RAID, which is standard with many modern motherboards. RAID 0 or 1 can be used with two hard drives; RAID 5 requires at least three drives, and RAID 6 needs at least four. If your workload includes video editing or other multimedia-rich jobs, basic RAID 0, 1, or 5 is recommended.
Networking: Wired networking is simple ? any chip set will have at least one integrated gigabit ethernet port.
Assorted peripherals: The peripherals available can include USB 2.0, FireWire, PS/2, serial and parallel ports, and a floppy drive. Of those options, USB 2.0 is the only that is absolutely a must.
Form factor: Most motherboards use either the ATX or microATX form factors.
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