Monday, 21 September 2009

How to find the best Motherboards

Welcome to Building Computers for Beginners.
A motherboard is simply the name given to a printed circuit board (PCB) that in most cases is capable of accepting additional printed circuit boards (daughter boards) via expansion slots.

There is little doubt that finding the best motherboard for your computer build is a daunting task for most beginners. In my last post I wrote about the importance of finding the right computer case because this is obviously vital as it houses the motherboard. The first consideration has to be compatibility with all other hardware components in your computer build. In addition make sure that the case, motherboard and hardware components are physically compatible. Some parts may appear on paper to be compatible because they have the correct interface or attributes but in reality are physically the wrong shape. It may be that your graphic card is slightly too long or too wide and blocks access to another slot or interferes with an internal hard drive bay. It is surprising how often these problems can arise even with the standard form factors like ATX. It may be like reading another language at first but read the specification of the motherboard. A good manufacturer will supply all the relevant information about their product. This is important because you need to know in exact detail which features and technology the motherboard supports.

Processor Sockets

Motherboards are manufactured to support a specific central processor unit (PCU). The processor is fitted (or connected) to the motherboard by an interface most often called the socket. When the motherboard is manufactured it is designed to work exclusively with a particular processor and is not interchangeable with different manufacturers socket technologies. However, the motherboard socket will generally support a range of processors that run at different speeds measured in megahertz (MHZ).

To reiterate, the type of socket on the motherboard defines which processor can be used with it. When you choose the motherboard to build your computer around you are also deciding which type of central processing unit (CPU) at the same time. There are several manufacturers of CPU's and this will be covered under processors.

Universal Serial Bus

USB superseded less practical serial and parallel ports. The current specification is USB 2.0 but this will soon be replaced by a more advanced and quicker USB 3.0 specification at some point in 2010.

Motherboard Brands

Asus (AsusTec) claim to be the number one manufacturer of motherboards in the world, commanding almost 40% market share of motherboard business. To back up their bold claim Asus say on their website that one in every three computers has an ASUS Motherboard inside. Asus also proudly point out that they have been voted The Best Motherboard Brand for six consecutive years by readers of acclaimed tech website Tom's Hardware Guide (THG).

 Asus
 Intel
 MSI
 HP
 ECS
 Soyo
 Asrock
 Foxconn
 Acer
 EVGA
 Gigabyte
 Abit
 DFI
 Soltek
 Albatron

There is definitely growing admiration for Asus products within the computer building community. Several builders state that they will only Asus motherboards not only because they provide the best product but also better support. This is largely based on Asus' policy of updating their drivers and bios firmware as required. Motherboard Manuals are a point of contention for many computer builders, often playing a vital role in getting a system set up correctly. The importance of the motherboard manual cannot be under estimated. Every setting and possible configuration for your computer's motherboard can be found in the manual. It should be clearly written in a legible language whilst also being suitably comprehensive.

Motherboard Chipsets

The chipset really is an intrinsic element of the computer system because it controls the rate of data transfer. It is the chipset that determines the operating speed of all hardware components and peripheral devices attached to the motherboard. It is therefore important to check beforehand which chipset is incorporated into the motherboard and that it supports all of your hardware components and peripheral devices.

Standoffs, Risers and Spacers

The motherboard is usually fitted to the computer case (or chassis) on standoffs also known as risers or spacers. The standoffs allow the motherboard to be fitted so that it does not touch the metal parts of the case and cause a short circuit. There are different types of standoffs but the most commonly used are hex head barrels. The configuration of standoffs can be altered easily by moving or adding the risers to pre-tapped holes in the computer chassis. It is very important to make sure that all screw holes on the motherboard are aligned with a standoff on the chassis. It is also essential to ensure that any unused standoff does not come into contact with the motherboard as this is likely to cause a short circuit and can lead to serious damage to the motherboard. Spare spacers are usually supplied with the motherboard and are also available separately from computer component retailers.

PC Motherboards

It can be difficult finding the best motherboard for your computer build. Read as many motherboard reviews from tech websites and magazines as possible and avoid the really cheap motherboards as they tend to be of poor quality. Do I need to write an article on how to fit a motherboard because it really is an incredibly easy task to complete? Most computer motherboards are supplied with full installation instructions and a manual. A good motherboard is supplied with everything required to fit it to the case and often all the cables, screws, standoffs, cable ties and adapters.

Computer Building Tips - Motherboard

1. Take anti-static (ESD) precautions when handling the motherboard.
2. Align the motherboard carefully with the standoffs on the back-plate of the computer chassis.
3. Put in all motherboard screws loosely at first, Line up the motherboard with the I/O panel and then tighten the screws firmly (but take care not to over-tighten them).
4. Use tools designed for electrical circuits because they are properly insulated.

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