Let’s continue on our journey through the parts of a computer!

This week we’ll discuss the motherboard, the skeleton of the modern computer. Skeleton really is a good analogy as well, as much like our muscles, organs and all other body parts connect to the skeleton; every single aspect of a computer connects in some manner to the motherboard. Generally the motherboard is a flat PCB (printed circuit board) varying in size between the size of a small book to a serving dish, with a thickness of roughly 0.5mm. On the board (sometimes called the mobo) is a suite of connectors, slots and ports for different parts. In a standard scenario the most contact a normal person would have with a motherboard is the multitude of connections you see sticking out the back of your desktop. Unlike most components of a computer however, the motherboard generally has the least impact on performance, so it is usually safe to buy a reasonably priced motherboard without having any doubt as to your computing experience. So lets dive into the things you should be looking at when purchasing a motherboard.

CPU Compatibility

This is essentially the reverse of last weeks first statement. The generally concept is that motherboards have a CPU socket that only accommodates a certain type of processor. The first is the difference between AMD and Intel (the two largest CPU manufactures), with CPU’s from one manufactures being entirely incompatible with motherboards made for the other. Here I’ll provide a quick overview of the current sockets for modern processors:

  • Intel
    • LGA1366: i7 900 Series
    • LGA1156: i3 500 Series; i5 600, 700 Series; i7 600, 700, 800, 900 Series
    • LGA1155: i3 – i7 Sandy/Ivy Bridge Revisions
    • LGA1150: i3 – i7 Haswell/Broadwell Revisions
    • LGA1151: i3 – i7 Skylake
  • AMD
    • AM2+: Athlon 64, X2; Phenom, II
    • AM3: Phenom II, Athlon II, Sempron
    • AM3+: Phenom II, Athlon II, Stempron

Size

Size is pretty straightforward, with two main things to consider. Firstly, will it fit into the case you have chosen and secondly, how many PCI expansion slots does it have. For example, a standard motherboard (known as ATX) usually has two PCI expansion slots for large cards like graphics cards, and one or two smaller ones for network cards, and other more minor components. For example, given a small case and need only for a single graphics card a Micro-ATX sized motherboard can be appropriate.

Comparison of the standard motherboard sizes

Comparison of the standard motherboard sizes

SATA Ports

SATA ports are primarily used to connect two components, hard drives or disk drives. Almost all modern motherboards have between 2 and 12 SATA ports, with 6 being the average. So unless you are going to have a large amount of hard drives in your computer, most motherboards should be suitable.

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SATA Ports on an ATX motherboard

RAM Slots

The amount of RAM slots on your motherboard controls the total amount of RAM you are able to put into it. This means that smaller boards would need larger sized RAM, that is usually more expensive than a board with more slots to achieve the same total amount of RAM.

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Four RAM slots on a standard motherboard

Next Time!

That’s all for motherboards, next week we’ll discuss RAM and all the fun that, that entails..

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