Choosing A Good Computer Motherboard
Your motherboard is one of the most important parts in your PC and choosing a good one is crucial. Everything else relies on your motherboard to control them - it's essentially the central nervous system of your computer.
However, choosing a good computer motherboard can be extremely difficult because they are complex and because there are seemingly hundreds of options available to you on the market. In this article we will look at each of the things you should know in order to pick a good motherboard for your rig.
Picking the Right Size Motherboard
While it may seem there are a plethora of differently sized motherboards they all adhere to a set standard (with variations in this standard). This is so that different motherboards, cases and components can fit together more easily.
Credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:AsusP4PE_MainboardSocket478.jpgThe most common sizing standard and the one that you will be focusing on is Intel's ATX sizings. There are more than six different sizes of ATX motherboards for you to choose from.
The main difference between the different sizings is additional component slots and CPU support, however larger motherboards can sometimes need larger cases to mount properly. When picking a size think about the future - will you want to upgraded your other components in the next two years?
The Motherboard and the CPU
The CPU socket on your motherboard determines exactly what CPU you can use so it's a good idea to plan this out in advance. CPUs change very often so the only real way to know which ones will fit in which sockets is to get the information directly from the manufacturer.
Because of all of this it is recommended that you go out and buy your ideal CPU before even looking at motherboards.
Memory is actually the simplest thing to pick and most motherboards will support most most of the different RAM components on the market. Your decision will come down to reliability vs. price. Get the most reliable brand you can afford whilst saving money for other components.
There is one extra consideration with RAM, however. DDR3 is the most recently developed type of RAM and in around a year it is likely to replace DDR2 RAM. DDR3 RAM is currently quite expensive but if you can afford DDR3 it will be a wise investment for the future.
Alternatively, you can save money now and upgrade in a year or two when DDR3 is cheaper.
On Board Features vs. Extra Expansion Ports
It is easier to go for a motherboard that has more on board features over one that has a lot of extra expansion ports for you to add your own hardware. However, choosing your own extra features will give you the flexibility to build the exact rig you want.
Keep in mind that smaller boards are better suited to on board features so if you are going for a space conscious build you should go for on board features.
You will want your motherboard to at least have one Ethernet port. Optionally, you can also include a wireless networking chip but this isn't necessary for desktop computers.
At a minimum you want a couple of USB 2.0 ports as these are absolutely essential for nearly all external devices. Some motherboards are starting to include USB 3.0 ports and this can be a nice upgrade when it becomes the standard in a few years time.
Firewire is a nice optional extra but not that many devices utilize it.
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