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What you should know before you buy a

Computer Motherboard.

What is a motherboard / mainboard ?

The motherboard or mainboard is the heart of your computer. It is the 'brain' where all the processing is handled for running applications, browsing the internet or sending and receiving emails.

How do I know what is the best Motherboard to buy ?

There are lots and lots of motherbards in the marketplace today ranging in price from a few tens of pounds up to several hundred pounds for some top-end models. All motherboards will have the same basic features, that is to say connections and sockets USB devices, Networking, Video and Sound. Computer Solutions will be happy to advise on what is best for your particular requirements.

Popular Makes

Motherboard manufacturers are constantly bringing out new models to support the latest range of processors and memory. Basically motherboards fall into two broad categories. These are Intel motherboards that support Intel's range of processors and AMD which support AMD's range of processors. The two are not interchangeable. You cannot use an Intel processor in an AMD motherboard and vice-versa. Popular makes to look out for are ASUS and Gigabyte. For the budget conscious Asrock do some less expensive motherboards.

Motherboard Features

Almost all motherboards today should have sockets for the DDR3 memory type. This has now superceeded the DDR2 memory type popular 3 or 4 years ago. Your motherboard should also have at least two SATA hard drive sockets as these have also superceeded the older IDE hard drive sockets. Budget motherboards tend to have built in sound and video, whereas for top end motherboards this is not generally the case.

For those motherboards that do not have a built in video socket the standard is now PCI-X, which looks like a jumbo PCI socket. Most manufacturers are now ONLY providing PCI-X sockets rather than 3 or 4 standard PCI sockets of a couple of years ago. Some budget, cheaper motherboards do have a built in VGA video socket. This is a 15 pin connector ro which your monitor is attached.

As a minimum your motherboard should at least be capable of normal stereo sound output usually via a 3.5mm mini jack socket, as well as a microphone input and a line output socket too. Many motherboards today have 3.1 or 5.1 surround sound features as standard.

Higher end motherboards will usually have built in HD-Video sockets too or multiple networking LAN ports, which can be used together. Sometimes on-board wireless adapters are also included. Expect to pay more for these features though.

Buying A Processor & Motherboard Together

This is undoubtedly one of the best options buying both the processor, motherboard and sometimes the memory as a bundle can result in a saving and you know that everything is going to work together as intended. But beware of extremely cheap deals as these are usually based on stock that the retailer is finding it difficult to sell. The shelf life of a motherboard can be very short !

Cost & budget

With all motherboards it really comes down to which features you would like and what budget you have available to spend. For most people who are browsing the Internet or working from home, the basic motherboards will suffice. However if you are a "die-hard" gamer or software developer then a more expensive motherboard, with some degree of "future-proofing" might be suitable. Computer Solutions are always happy to advise you in this respect.

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