The motherboard is the main logic board around which a PC is built. It is the center of the PC in the sense that every system component connects to the motherboard, directly or indirectly. The motherboard you choose determines which processors are supported, how much and what type of memory the system can use, what type of video adapters can be installed, the speed of communication ports, and many other key system characteristics.
Use the following guidelines when choosing a motherboard:
For a general-purpose system, choose an ATX motherboard. For a small system, a microATX motherboard may be a better choice, although using the smaller form factor has several drawbacksónotably, giving up several expansion slots and making it more difficult to route cables and cool the system.
For a Pentium 4 or Celeron system, choose a Socket 478 (current technology) or Socket 775 (the new Socket T) motherboard. The former is less expensive and more widely available; the latter incorporates newer chipsets, provides additional features such as PCI Express support, and provides a better upgrade path. For an Athlon XP system, choose a Socket A motherboard. For an Athlon 64 system, choose a Socket 939 motherboard.
For an Intel processor, choose a motherboard that uses an Intel 865- or 875-series chipset (Socket 478) or an Intel 9-series chipset (Socket T), depending on your budget and priorities. For an Athlon XP processor, choose a motherboard that uses an nVIDIA nForce2-series chipset. For an Athlon 64 processor, choose a motherboard that uses an nVIDIA nForce3-series chipset.
Make sure the motherboard supports the exact processor you plan to use. Just because a motherboard supports a particular processor family doesnít mean that it supports all members of that family. You can find this information on the motherboard makerís web site or in the release notes to the BIOS updates. Itís also important to know exactly what revision of the motherboard you have, because processor support may vary by motherboard revision level.
Choose a motherboard that supports at least the host bus speeds you need now and expect to need for the life of the board. For example, if you install a 533 MHz FSB Celeron initially, choose a motherboard that also supports 800 MHz FSB Pentium 4 processors.
Make sure the motherboard supports the type and amount of memory you need. Any motherboard you buy should support PC3200 DDR SDRAM. Do not make assumptions about how much memory a motherboard supports; check the documentation to find out what specific memory configurations are supported.
Before you choose a motherboard, check the documentation and support thatís available for it, as well as the BIOS and driver updates available. Frequent updates indicate that the manufacturer takes support seriously.
Motherboards For Intel processors, we recommend Intel motherboards. The D865GBFL is our usual choice. The build quality is very high, and the board is fast and as stable as any weíve used. The embedded video, audio, and LAN are good enough for most purposes. The D865PERL is a D865GBFL without video, and is equally good. Choose the D865PERL if you want to use a separate AGP 3D graphics adapter. The D865GLC is essentially a microATX variant of the D865GBF. The D875PBZ is a good choice when top performance is necessary. ASUS also manufactures top-notch P4 motherboards. We can recommend any of their P4P800-series boards based on the 865P/PE or 875P chipset, including the microATX P4P800-VM.
For AMD processors, we recommend motherboards based on nVIDIA nForce2- and nForce3-series chipsets. For the Athlon XP, the best of these are ASUS A7N8X-series motherboards. For the Athlon 64, choose the ASUS SK8N.
We avoid motherboards from ABIT, Adtran, Albatron, Biostar, Chaintech, DFI, ECS (Elitegroup Computer Systems), FIC, Iwill, Leadtek, Shuttle, Soyo, Vantec, and others we havenít listed. We also avoid motherboards that use a VIA Technologies chipset or a PC Chips chipset, even if the motherboard was made by one of our preferred manufacturers.
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