Friday, April 01, 2011

Multimedia Computer: Part 2, The Motherboard

When you first begin building a computer, there are infinite possibilities, but as decisions are made these possibilities decrease until the final decision producing a unique computer. The choice of the motherboard decreases possibilities, but it gives direction. Many decisions are made by virtue of the choice of the motherboard.

As I have mentioned before, putting a computer together is now like making tinker toys or putting Legos together. The important part is being able to get it to all click together at the end. In order to insure articulation, the motherboard is the guide.

The first part to consider is the form factor, i.e. what are the dimensions of the motherboard? My last two computers were based on the mini-ITX form factor motherboard. These are small. The current motherboard is a micro-ATX (not to be confused with a mini-ATX). It isn't quite as small as the mini-ITX but isn't as big as the ATX. It kind of makes sense. The form factor will determine the type of case you get. In case you are worried, the engineers have it all worked-out that the holes match up in the right way.

The motherboard also determines the type of CPU. It does that via the type of socket. The socket, clearly enough, is where the CPU plugs in. This wasn't an issue in my mini-ITX computers as the CPU came attached to the motherboard. I will have to buy a CPU for this and there will be a choice as the motherboard has an LGA775 socket which will accept a variety of different chips.

The type of memory that will work in the computer is determined by the motherboard. It turns out that this motherboard has slots for DDR2 memory and for DDR3 memory. According to the manual, there is no mixing and matching on this board; I've got to choose either DDR2 or DDR3. So I still have a choice to make there. However, there is more to know. I have to know what speed of memory is compatible. For DDR2, this board supports 1066/800/667 MHz and for DDR3 it supports 1333/1066/800 MHz.

Then are the various drive connectors. This board has one IDE connector and four, count 'em, four SATA connectors. I've discovered that one really has to go out of the way to get an IDE drive anymore, and I doubt that I can even find an IDE blu-ray drive, but if I can find a cheap one, I do have that option.

The board has two PCI expansion slots. I will use one of there for a TV-card and the other for a wireless network card.

In addition to the two PCI slots, there are a couple of PCI Express slots of different sizes. I am not to familiar with these other than I know you can plug cards into them that will do cool stuff. That might enable me to have more choices in my TV-card or wireless card.

I will confess that this motherboard is a bit more complex than I thought it would be. I hope that doesn't turn out to be a headache for me, but this is a hobby. I am doing it to learn. Sometimes headaches are part of the learning process. I will keep you informed.

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