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The Atomic Motherboard Resource
TheFrunj 
12/4/08 1:44:10 AM
Titan

The Atomic Motherboard Resource


Motherboards are an essential piece of the puzzle that is a computer. They provide the foundation for the entire system, and integrate all the separate components into a contiguous whole.

Technology is moving at an extremely fast pace, and a gap of even two years can be enough to cause your knowledge to become obsolete. This article is intended to enhance your understanding of what a motherboard is, and which selections are the most appropriate.


What is a motherboard?

A motherboard is a piece of silicon that contains many different components that all work in unison to provide you with the ability to create a system. There are two main categories of motherboard, specifically AMD and Intel. These two companies are the largest manufacturers of CPUs and Chipsets, and as such define the choices that are available to the consumers.


What does a Motherboard contain?

A motherboard is made up of many different components, such as:
•Integrated Audio and Network solution - An onboard sound processing chip that utilises the CPU to create up to 7.1 channel audio, and a Network port for internet use.
•Storage interfaces - Contains an array of ports, including an IDE and SATA ports. SATA ports are the most widely used, and provide a faster speed of data transfer.
•Expansion Slots - These are where the components such as Graphics Cards and Sound processors are installed. They take the form of a PCIe slot (in 16X or 1X size) intended for graphics cards, and PCI slots that are intended for sound cards and TV tuners.
•Memory slots - Can take the form of DDR, DDR2 and DDR3. These slots allow the installation of memory, and are physically and electrically incompatible with each other.
•CPU socket - This is either an AMD or Intel socket, and each are incompatible with another.
•Onboard Headers - These are small groups of pins that allow connection to a case for USB, Firewire, Audio, Case buttons and LEDs, or connection to fans for power.


What types of Motherboard are there?

Motherboards come in many shapes and form factors (or sizes). These ensure compatibility with every case, and allow standardisation of equipment. The sizes are:

•Advanced Technology Extended (ATX) - This is the most commonly used size, and provides the greatest flexibility in terms of cost and expansion options, with 7 expansion slots. The physical size is 12" x 9.6"
•MicroATX (or mATX) - This is the second most commonly used size, and is smaller than an ATX board while retaining some features, though it is limited to 4 expansion slots. The physical size is 9.6" x 9.6", or a perfect square.
•Extended ATX (EATX) - This is used in workstations and servers, and is an oversized board that is incompatible with most cases. It provides many connection options, and often had dual-socket capabilities. The physical size is 12" x 13"
•Balanced Technology Extended (BTX) - This is a form factor that was created in late 2004 to combat increasing CPU temperatures. This has become redundant, as CPU temperatures have fallen significantly since then. It was used mainly by Dell and HP.
•Other Sizes - There are some other smaller sizes that represent a small portion of the motherboards. These are ITX, picoATX, nanoATX, mini-ITX and DTX



AMD Motherboards

AMD motherboards contain a unique socket, currently called the AM2+ , into which an AMD CPU will be inserted. It contains 940 pins, and is backwards compatible with AM2. This type of socket is a PGA, or Pin Grid Array, which means that the CPU contains the pins that insert into matching slots on the socket. To install a CPU into this type of slot:

1 - Raise the lever to the side of the CPU socket by pulling outwards (1), then lifting (2).
http://tinyurl.com/55zww4

2 - Hold the processor with two fingers on the edges of the CPU. Do Not touch the pins beneath, or the Heat Spreader on top. This places oils on them, and may cause physical damage if handled roughly. Align the marking on the CPU with the marking on the Socket, and place vertically into the socket.
http://tinyurl.com/68wpj6

3 - Close the lever, and secure into place. Install the heatsink.


AMD motherboards integrate all the features listed above, and a few extra features. They require a Northbridge and a Southbridge, but the memory controller is built into the CPU itself, reducing the power consumption and physical size of these components. The communication method used to connect the components is the HyperTransport bus, and has versions 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0

Some current Chipsets for this platform are:
•The 7-Series chipset (Eg 790FX, 780G) - AMD created chipset
•The nForce chipsets (Eg 780a) - nVidia created chipset

Sockets for this platform include:
•Socket A
•Socket 754
•Socket 939
•Socket AM2
•Socket AM2+ - Current standard
•Socket AM3 - Currently in development, scheduled for release in late 2008



Intel Motherboards

Intel motherboards contain a unique socket, currently called the LGA775, into which an Intel CPU will be inserted. It contains 775 pins, and is not backwards compatible. This type of socket is a LGA, or Land Grid Array, which means that the CPU contains metallic pads that contact with pins on the motherboard. To install a CPU into this type of slot:

1 - Grasp the handle of the socket (1), and pull outwards, then raise up. Raise the metallic cover (2), and place into the fully open position.
http://tinyurl.com/5ej8a8

2 - Hold the processor with two fingers on the edges of the CPU. Do Not touch the pads beneath, or the Heat Spreader on top. This places oils on them, and may cause physical damage if handled roughly. Match the two notches on the side of the CPU with the raised edges on the socket, and place vertically into the socket.
http://tinyurl.com/5kauxv

3 - Lower the metallic cover back down, and return the lever to the original position. This will require some force, but don't force it if it's not moving. Double-check that you have installed the CPU correctly first. Install the heatsink.


Intel motherboards integrate all the features listed above, and a few extra features. They require a Northbridge and a Southbridge, with the memory controller built into the Northbridge, increasing it's physical size and power consumption. The communication method used to connect the components is the Front Side Bus (FSB).

Some current Chipsets for this platform include:
•The X38, X48 and P35 variants - Intel's official chipsets
•The nForce 780i, 790i and 750i - nVidia created chipsets

Sockets for this platform include:
•Socket 8
•Slot 1
•Socket 370
•Socket 423
•Socket 478
•Socket T (Commonly referred to as LGA775) - Current standard
•Socket B (Also known as LGA1366) - Currently in development, scheduled for release in late 2008


Proprietary Graphical Technologies

Each graphics manufacturer in the industry differentiates themselves with different technologies used to enhance performance from their graphical cards. A single card solution will work in any motherboard, regardless of manufacturer, but for more than one card this causes some restrictions. Each platform has certain compatibilities with multi-gpu solutions, and these are:

Intel Chipsets - Restricted to dual ATI cards (Crossfire only). The only exception to this rule is the Skulltrail, but this is out of the realm of consideration for 99.9% of users.

nVidia Chipsets (for Intel CPUs) - Restricted to dual or triple nVidia cards (SLI).

AMD Chipsets - Restricted to dual, triple or quadruple ATI cards (Crossfire, CrossfireX).

nVidia Chipsets (for AMD CPUs) - Restricted to dual or triple nVidia cards (SLI).

For more information on multi-gpu configurations, have a read of this thread:
<Shameless self plug>
http://tinyurl.com/5duc4w


Capacitors: Electrolytic vs Solid

A capacitor's primary role is to store and release electrons, or electricity, and release them for components on the board. Without these, the components would receive fluctuating power, and would easily become damaged over time, if they worked at all. There are two main types of capacitors:

Electrolytic

This type of capacitor was invented in the late 1800's, and contains an anode, cathode, and liquid that connects the two, and also stores the charge. These are found on low-end motherboards, old motherboards, and some nVidia-based boards. They can often be of questionable quality, and heat up under use. Eventually they can burst, and leak corrosive liquid if allowed to get too hot, or simply through constant use. This can be minimised through adequate airflow, and a quality power supply.

Solid

Solid state capacitors are a relatively new creation, and have recently been introduced to motherboards, pioneered by Gigabyte. They also contain an anode and cathode, but instead of a liquid they use a solid material. This solid material is much more efficient, and does not expand when the temperature increases, which also means that it cannot burst. These are the preferred type of capacitor as they will keep the motherboard stable and cool for many years.

Hi-c CAP (Highly-conductive polymerized Capacitor) - Thanks to SceptreCore

Similar to Solid capacitors which were used on motherboards in the past. But it has better ripple current and dissipation factor characteristic. The impedance values of general capacitor will differ due to the operating frequency change. The most commendable of Hi-c CAP is that in all kinds of operating frequencies, this product can maintain low impedance characteristics. So, Hi-c CAP is suitable for motherboards with high-frequency switching power supply. MSI is the first to implement this next generation solid capacitor on the desktop platform, and is currently the only manufacturer to offer this higher quality solid capacitor.


Motherboard Checklist

Now you should have an understanding of the various technologies and configurations available in a motherboard, but how can you decide on which motherboard to purchase? This quick checklist should go some ways with helping your decision, just answer each question when you have selected a possible motherboard:

1. Is it an Intel or AMD motherboard, and is the socket compatible with the CPU you have chosen?

2. Does it have support for the DDR2 or DDR3 memory you have chosen, or a combination of both?

3. Does it have the required amount of expansion slots (i.e PCI, PCIe etc) for the cards that you intend to install?

4. Can it support the number of HDDs and Optical drives that you need (Hint - the number of SATA/IDE ports)?

5. Does it have onboard sound and networking? Does it have enough USB ports for your needs?

6. If you intend to overclock, does it have sufficient cooling to allow tweaking?

7. Does it have Solid State Capacitors?

If the motherboard satisfies all of these, then it should be a good option for you. Before you purchase, search online for reviews, and incompatibilities that other users have found. If unsure, create a thread asking if a forum member knows.


All requirements have been decided - which brand?

There are many brands in the motherboard market today, and each have varied models of the same chipset. This can cause confusion, as the plethora of options out there can baffle even experienced users. While not an exhaustive list, here are some manufacturers that I believe are reliable:

Gigabyte - My personal favourite
ASUS - Close second
EVGA - The best choice for nVidia solutions
XFX - Respectable manufacturer, often first to release nVidia based products
MSI - An excellent choice for AMD systems


This guide should have helped you in deciding which motherboard to choose, in this very crowded market.


Generally Recommended Motherboards

LGA775
Budget:
°Gigabyte EP35-DS3 - DDR2-based, very stable, good overclocker, features all of the main checklist requirements. Intel P35 Chipset. Very affordable, $130

°eVGA 750i FTW - DDR2-based, SLI capable nVidia chipset, features most of the main checklist requirements. Only 4 SATA ports, but includes solid capacitors. nForce 750i chipset. Affordable SLI motherboard, only $250

Highend:
°DFI LANPARTY LT X48-T2R - DDR2-based, support for Crossfire. Intel X48 chipset. Expensive, costs $390

°eVGA 790i - DDR3-based, Triple SLI capable nVidia chipset, features all of the main checklist requirements. nForce 790i chipset. Expensive, costs $485

AM2+ - Thanks to SceptreCore

Budget:
°MSI K9A2 CF - DDR2-based, A very affordable, and excellent budget board, good BIOS options, and great performer. AMD 790X chipset. Very affordable, $118

Highend:
°MSI K9A2 Platinum V2 - DDR2-based, QuadFire capable, Nice looking board, well placed and set out, decent overclocker... plenty of options, and SAS support. AMD 790FX chipset. Affordable, $235

°DFI LANPARTY UT 790FX-M2R - DDR2-based, TriFire capable, The board the infamous 'Tony' used to achieve the 3.5GHz watercooled overclock on the phenom 9850, also all of the of the DFI goodness including an on board post. AMD 790FX chipset. Price n/a as of 21/5/08, estimated at $300

°ASUS M3N-HT Deluxe/Mempipe - DDR2-based, TriSLI and HybridSLI, Memory Heat Pipe, Instant Internet Access with Express Gate, Phase Power Design... great for AM2+ Nvidia enthusiasts. nForce 780a chipset. Expensive, costs $300
______________________________________________________

Thanks for reading, and I'll just mention Josh Collins' article as the inspiration for the creation of this one. I will update this periodically as technologies change, and feel free to give me feedback and suggestions for improvements.

-TheFrunj


Edited by TheFrunj: 9/6/2008 11:53:10 PM

-----
Minister of Technology

Q6600@3.4GHz,1.34V | Tuniq Tower | Gigabyte P35-DS4 | 2GB 916MHz | Galaxy 8800GT @724/1816/1982 | Corsair 620HX | Auzentech X-Fi Prelude | 320GB Seagate | P182 Gunmetal

Australia says NO to Velociraptors!

radioBirdman 
12/4/08 6:47:13 AM
Journeyman

excellent read there Frunj... this outta be stuck...

*rtm'd to be stuck*

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Q6600 @3.2GHz w/ultra120x |GA-P35-DS3P |Gigabyte 8800GT |2x1GB DDR2-800 |Audigy 2 ZS |WD500GB + WD200GB + WD120GB + WD e-sata 500GB |Antec P182

toru173 
12/4/08 3:01:09 PM
Master

Good work! We need more of these general recommended component threads.

-----
Quote by greycat
Chuck Norris(good actor is probably not actually Chuck Norris.

.:Cyb3rGlitch:. 
12/4/08 3:56:37 PM
Titan

Nice! You'd give Scott Mueller a run for his money. :P

Good contender for first sticky of 'Motherboards and RAM'.

-----
Cyb3rGlitch Tutorials: http://www.cyb3rglitch.com/
Tutorials for the aspiring beginner.

Mac Dude 
12/4/08 4:39:51 PM
Mod
SuperHero

Immortal


noice work! :)

-----
where there is smoke...

iamthemaxx 
12/4/08 5:26:20 PM
Mod
SuperHero

Immortal


/golf clap.

Nice.

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TheFrunj 
12/4/08 5:44:43 PM
Titan

Aww, thanks everyone.

My first sticky :D

-----
Minister of Technology

Q6600@3.4GHz,1.34V | Tuniq Tower | Gigabyte P35-DS4 | 2GB 916MHz | Galaxy 8800GT @724/1816/1982 | Corsair 620HX | Auzentech X-Fi Prelude | 320GB Seagate | P182 Gunmetal

Australia says NO to Velociraptors!

sora3 
12/4/08 8:15:21 PM
Immortal

Nice work there. You might want to add in the issue of solid state caps as Atomic did mention it in their article so you might want to shamelessly plug that in :P

-----
Fight or die. Either way, you're f*cked...

Let life go and challenge me again...

Quote by Jen-Hsun Huang
"How much faster can you render the blue screen of death?"



Khamûl 
14/4/08 12:20:34 PM
Journeyman

Very nice, but, the motherboard is a piece of silicon? The entire thing is mostly plastic isn't it? Were you meaning the north bridge?

-----
Khamûl is a fictional character being one of the most powerful of the nine Ringwraiths or Nazgûl, second only to the Lord of the Nazgûl himself

Cheers Tak for the Av :-)

toru173 
14/4/08 7:36:22 PM
Primarch

It's actually mostly fiberglass - or was, at one stage. I think they've changed it coz of health issues. I know from experience that snapping a pcb is a bad idea

-----
Quote by greycat
Chuck Norris(good actor is probably not actually Chuck Norris.

TheFrunj 
17/4/08 2:14:05 PM
Titan

OP updated with Solid vs Electrolytic caps, and the checklist updated.

TF

-----
Minister of Technology

Q6600@3.4GHz,1.34V | Tuniq Tower | Gigabyte P35-DS4 | 2GB 916MHz | Galaxy 8800GT @724/1816/1982 | Corsair 620HX | Auzentech X-Fi Prelude | 320GB Seagate | P182 Gunmetal

Australia says NO to Velociraptors!

c0nc0n 
23/4/08 10:16:24 PM
Overlord

I think you should mention a few good motherboards. Such as DS3 range and Asus P5K range (maybe).

Possibly keep it up to date so that you show the CURRENT good mobos which people can buy for good value. You could also have an budget divider, ie. Low cost, Best Price/Performance, No limits etc.

Regardless, great resource!

-----
C2D E6400@3.2GHz | Corsair 2GB DDR2 800 | Inno3D 8800GTS 320mb @ 625/1035 (24/7) Brother Number 5 of Marxland, Minister of LOST AND FOUND
Upgrading to: C2Q Q6700 + Asus Blitz Extreme + Tracers 1066 (All Purchased)

TheFrunj 
20/5/08 6:37:03 PM
Titan

Added generally recommended motherboards, LGA775. AM2+ to come.

-----
Minister of Technology

Q6600@3.6GHz,1.417V | Tuniq Tower | eVGA 750i FTW | 4GB 800MHz | Dual 8800GT SLI'd | Corsair 620HX | 320GB Seagate | P182 Gunmetal

Australia says NO to Velociraptors!

TheFrunj 
21/5/08 5:39:15 PM
Titan

Added AM2+ motherboard recommendations, courtesy of SceptreCore . Cheers mate :)

-----
Minister of Technology

Q6600@3.6GHz,1.417V | Tuniq Tower | eVGA 750i FTW | 4GB 800MHz | Dual 8800GT SLI'd | Corsair 620HX | 320GB Seagate | P182 Gunmetal

Australia says NO to Velociraptors!

SceptreCore 
21/5/08 5:56:51 PM
Guru

Always here to render assistance to Atomicans.... and it's a good thread to contribute to :)

-----
Marxland, Minister Of The Treasury and Brother Number Two

"Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the the universe." - Albert Einstein

nesquick 
22/5/08 1:36:32 PM
Guru

sif not ask for my input :P

nice work frunj must have taken a while to write it all.

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Q6700@3.8 24/7|ASUS P5K DELUXE|PATRIOT 2GB 1148MHZ 4-4-4-12|8800GT 722/1800/1026|640GB WD HD| ANTEC SP500W|ANTEC TX1050B CASE|TRUE w\DUAL FANS|


SceptreCore 
22/5/08 4:05:41 PM
Guru

Quote by nesquick
sif not ask for my input :P

nice work frunj must have taken a while to write it all.



There is no reason why you can't have input... just be useful!

-----
Marxland, Minister Of The Treasury, Minister Of Uber Coolness and Brother Number Two

"Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the the universe." - Albert Einstein

Werewolf 
3/6/08 2:41:04 PM
Serf
fml

-----
Asus G1S, and Kick ass Desktop (unfortunately only AMD)

SceptreCore 
4/6/08 2:35:22 PM
Guru

Frunj, you might want to add Hi-c Caps to your Capacitors section. Ive seen these on MSI's top end boards, but other manu's could be using them too!

EDIT: MSI press release of the upcoming K9N2 Diamond. The PWM capacitors on the motherboards are HI-C CAPs. HI-C CAP (Highly-conductive polymerized Capacitor) is a high end capacitor which is already used for years in the server industry. MSI is the first to implement this next generation solid capacitor on the desktop platform as well. The HI-C CAP is suitable for motherboards with a high-frequency switching power supply. The looks of the HI-C CAP are similar to the Tantalum capacitor.

Source: http://www.msi.eu/news/press/2008/PR_MSI_K9N2.pdf


Edited by SceptreCore: 4/6/2008 2:38:49 PM

-----
Marxland, Minister Of The Treasury, Minister Of Uber Coolness and Brother Number Two

"Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the the universe." - Albert Einstein

TheFrunj 
9/6/08 11:54:04 PM
Titan

Added additional capacitor information, again, courtesy of SceptreCore .

-----
Minister of Technology

Quote by David Hollingworth
TheFrunj: The man in the hat is right.

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