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Selecting a New Motherboard: A Beginner's Guide

Posted by Michael Quarles on: 2006-09-10 17:26:36

Self SEO > Hardware Articles


Are you looking for a new motherboard? With so many models available, deciding which to buy can be difficult. However, if you use this checklist, considering each motherboard feature, you should be able to find one that’s right for you.


1. Socket type: What socket type does your CPU require? A 775 for Intel Pentiums? Perhaps a 939 AMD. Start to narrow your selection with this most basic criteria, matching motherboard socket to CPU.

2. Form factor: The board has to fit your case. The size of the board is its “form factor”. An ATX form factor case will accept 12x9.6 inch boards. But a microATX requires boards no larger than 9.6x9.6. Please note that any of the smaller boards can be mounted in an ATX case.

3. RAM: You’ll probably buy a board that uses PC3200 RAM. But be aware that some older boards still on the market call themselves “PC3200 capable” but can only use it in up to two banks. Also, some boards only have two slots, rather than the more common number of three. If you need to run 3 GB of RAM, for extreme game play, you’ll need a three-slot board.

4. Front Speed Bus: It’s an oversimplification to say this number is the speed information passes through your motherboard, but it’s a good enough definition for our purposes. Faster is better, but keep in mind that speed is money, if you’re on a budget. The tops on AMD based systems is a whopping 2000MHz.

5. Video and sound on the motherboard: Do you want these two items built into the board, or would you rather buy cards and plug them in? Video on the motherboard is usually adequate, unless you’re a gamer. In that case you’ll want to forgo it in favor of the next feature.

6. AGP port: Gamers, video editors, 3-D animators, all want the best graphics card they can get, so they require an Accelerated Graphics Port. Most all boards have them, but make sure they will handle 8X or better speed, if you’ve got your heart set on a really fast card.

7. PCI slots: How many slots will you need for things like modems, capture cards, and the like? Some of the microATX boards come with only two, which may be inadequate. I favor boards with 4 or more slots, giving plenty of expansion capability.

8. Firewire: If you shoot and edit video, 1394 IEEE, otherwise known as firewire, is a necessity. If a board you’re considering doesn’t have it, figure on using one of your PCI slots for a card.

After you’ve gone through these eight items, you should be well on the way to making your selection.

Michael Quarles is the author of Building a PC for Beginners.




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