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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Understanding gaming PC motherboard

Now that we know how to choose our CPU is time to choose the motherboard for our computer. The main function of the motherboard is to put all of the hardware together and establish communication between them and the CPU. Choosing the wrong motherboard will prevent the other hardware from performing at their full capabilities so we should choose it wisely. The motherboard also determines the upgrade-ability of our gaming computer so we should choose one with room for improvement. There are some reliable brands of this piece of hardware including Asus, Asrock, Biostar, Gigabyte, MSI, Intel, EVGA, and XFX with a wide selection of products for every budget. Is important to choose a motherboard with the best combination of reliability, features and price so we have enough room in our budget for a good CPU and video card for our gaming computer. Is a bit difficult for users with limited knowledge to do that so we will explain the most important features to take into account when choosing this piece of hardware.

Features to look for when choosing a motherboard for your a gaming computer

1) chipset – the chipset determines which features the motherboard will support. The CPU and memory support, integrated video and audio, expansion slots and ports, all of this is determined by the chipset. It is divided into north bridge and south bridge. The north bridge controls the communication between the CPU, south bridge, system memory, AGP or PCIe slot the and integrated video while the south bridge controls the communication between the CPU and everything else. The most popular manufacturers are: Intel, VIA, SIS, nVidia and ATI. Our chipset should support the CPU, RAM and video slot type we intent to use in our gaming computer.

2) socket type support – as we mentioned earlier we must choose a motherboard with support for our CPU’s socket type and brand.

3) RAM or system memory support – this is one of the key piece of hardware in terms of 3D performance. There are different slot types like DDR, DDR2 and DDR3, sizes like 512 MB, 1 GB and 2 GB, and speeds like 400 MHZ, 1200 MHZ and 2200 MHZ. DDR is the older/slowest type while DDR3 is the newer/fastest type (more information about RAM later so keep reading).

4) graphics support – this is controlled by the Northbridge. There are some fast onboard graphics cards available but none of them are capable of running the most demanding video games so we should focus on the graphics slot which should be PCIe. There are three main graphics slot types PCI, AGP and PCI express (PCIe) with PCI being the older/slowest and PCIe the newer/fastest. Since the video card is a key piece of hardware in terms of 3D performance and it will be installed in the graphics slot our motherboard should have at least one PCIe X16 slot which is the one used by the latest video cards.

5) SLI or Crossfire – this feature lets you install two or more video cards on our gaming computer to improve 3D performance. The motherboard must have at least two PCIe slots and at least two similar video cards with support for this feature must be installed to enable it. SLI is nVidia’s technology while Crossfire is ATI’s. It depends on your budget if you choose a motherboard with SLI or Crossfire support.

6) onboard audio – since this is not a key feature in terms of 3D performance we have no preference for it. The latest motherboards are including quality 5.1 audio so we can end up with a cool feature for just a few bucks more.

7) IDE and SATA device ports – here we connect our hard disks and optical drives. There are two main affordable interfaces which are IDE and SATA. IDE is the older/slowest and SATA the newer/fastest. IDE devices are becoming more expensive and uncommon due to decrease in demand so our motherboard should have enough SATA ports for our new hardware. If you have some older IDE devices that you can’t afford to get rid off, you should choose a motherboard with at least one IDE port or get an IDE to SATA adapter. Not a key feature in terms of 3D performance.

8) expansion slots – the most common are PCI and PCIe X1. We should choose a motherboard with enough expansion slots according to the hardware we plan to install in our gaming computer. Not a key feature in terms of 3D performance.

9) form factor – this will determine the kind of power supply and computer case that we can choose. The most common are BTX, ATX and micro ATX. ATX was developed almost fifteen years ago while BTX was developed recently. Not a key feature in terms of 3D performance.

10) features like Raid, LAN ports, IEEE 1394 ports, USB ports, PS/2 ports and Legacy ports doesn’t have an impact in 3D performance. Since the availability of those features depend entirely of the configuration you want to have, is up to you if the motherboard you choose has them or not.

Those are the most important features to take into consideration when choosing our gaming computer motherboard. Keep reading so you can learn how to choose your RAM or system memory.

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