An essential part of a computer system is the motherboard, or colloquially known as mobo. It is called as such because it is the “mother” of all crucial components of a computer, including the CPU(Central Processing Unit), and keeps them together in one place. The base of a motherboard is made up of a very firm sheet, like a sort of rigid plastic, of non-conductive material. Traces, which are thin layers of copper or aluminum foil, are printed onto the sheet and form the circuits between various components of a motherboard.
Before the microprocessor was invented, a digital computer consists of multiple PCBs (printed circuit boards) in a card-cage case with a set of interconnected sockets. It was only after PCBs became standard practice that the CPU, memory and peripherals were housed in a single PCB and then plugged into a backplate.
During the late 1980s and 1990s, moving an increasing number of peripheral functions on the motherboard became an economical option. A PC’s motherboard now includes single super I/O chips, serial ports, parallel ports, floppy disk drive, and slots for peripherals, such as a mouse and keyboard.
Motherboard Parts and Their Function
- 1. CPU socket
This is where the actual CPU is soldered on. It comes with a heat sink and mounting points for fans that keep heat generation to a minimum. A CPU handles the calculations and instructions needed for all the computer programs to run.
- 2. Bus or sub system
This serves as the line from which the CPU socket communicates with the rest of the computer hardware on a motherboard. The speed of the bus dictates how quickly communication happens between processor and memory, boosting overall computer speed in the process.
- 3. Memory slots
There are multiple computer hardware sockets for RAM on a motherboard, which are typically in the form of DIMM modules that contain DRAM chips. RAM allows a computer to handle multiple programs at once, and the number of RAMs can significantly affect the speed and performance of computer hardware. It comes in multiple types, but only one type can be used in one motherboard.
- 4. Expansion card slots
Motherboards have extra slots for video cards, sound cards, and other hardware components that you wish to add to boost computer performance.
- 5. Hard drive interfaces
A motherboard can have SATA, IDE or both hard drive interfaces, which allows you to connect hard drives, optical disc drives and other computer hardware. Unlike RAM where you can only use one type in one motherboard, you can use multiple hard drives in the same machine, as long as the motherboard supports multiple interfaces and RAID configurations.
- 6. Northbridge
This refer to the chip that forms an interface between the CPU, the main memory and other components. It features a large heatsink.
- 7. Southbridge
This second chip, serves as I/O controller, controlling the input and output functions, and is connected directly to the Northbridge. Together, both chips are referred to as the chipset.
- 8. ROM Chip
Also called the BIOS, a read-only memory (ROM) chip contains the startup instructions or firmware for the computer.
Motherboard Form Factors
Advanced Technology Extended (ATX) motherboards was introduced during the mid-1990s in response to the need for a more integrated form factor, where locations for the mouse, keyboard, video and I/O connectors are defined. ATX form factor allowed expansion slots to be placed on a separate riser card, reducing the overall size of a computer and its case. Improvements in the design specification also allowed for the inclusion of a single 20-pin connector for the power supply, integrated IO Port connectors soldered directly on the motherboard, and a power supply that blows air into the case for better airflow.
This form factor shares the same benefits as the ATX form factor, except that the physical size of the motherboard has been reduced, resulting in improvements in overall system design cost. This was made possible by reducing the number of I/O slots supported on the board. With more space at the rear emissions from integrated IO connectors have also been reduced.
LPX is a non-standard proprietary form factor that also comes with a mini LPX version. While it allows for a low profile computer case, because expansion cards run parallel to the motherboard, it has limited expansion slots and offers poor cooling.
Balance technology extended (BTX) form factor is a total breakaway from ATX. It was designed to take advantage of technologies such as PCI Express, Serial ATA and USB 2.0.It features better component placement for back I/O controllers. Because it is smaller than Micro-ATX, it can be used in a tower-size system with an increased number of system slots.
Popular Manufacturers of Motherboards
Intel motherboards allow you to build a feature-rich system with expansion capabilities.High-quality Intel Desktop Board comes with Turbo Boost Technology and Hyper-Threading Technology that guarantees a seamless visual experience and smarter performance.
Asus offers a wide range of motherboard options based on the latest technology platform in series, chipset, socket and other features. Asus motherboards boast of Asus Turbo Key DirectX 10 support, Asus Anti-Surge and Express Gate and EPU options.
What makes MSI an ideal option is Killer E2200 G’s offer of the highest frag and lowest lag. Other models boast of superb graphics, with VGA Boost, Audio Boost, blazing fast booting with Super RAID, and Gaming Device Port and Military Class 4 Components.
- Gigabyte Technology
Motherboards from Gigabyte Technology features the latest technology, including on-board acceleration, Super Speed USB 3.0, and enhanced stability option for overclocking. It is also made of the highest quality components that perform impressively at lower system temperatures.
When Shopping for Motherboards…
- Make sure the computer processor socket is compatible with your CPU or vice versa. Otherwise, it won’t fit. Look for a processor that matches the socket number on the motherboard.
- Check that the bus speed can help boost overall speed of a computer.
- Because only one type of RAM can be used in one motherboard, make sure that it has the sockets for the type of RAM you have, whether it’s DDR2, DDR3 or other varieties.
- Expansion slots have several types, including Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) or PCI-Express, and Accelerated Graphics Port. Make sure the slots match the hardware you wish to install and expand.
- Consider the size of the case when shopping for the appropriate form factor. Don’t forget to take into account each form factor’s pros and cons as well.