Data Bus Width
Modern Pentium class motherboards have a data bus with 64 bits. That is the width of the data highway that goes in and out of the processor. The Pentium processors, however, do use 32-bit registers to handle 32-bit instructions.
Bus speeds and widths have increased due to faster processors and the needs of multimedia applications. Typical bus names and widths (in bits) are:
- Industry Standard Architecture (ISA) - 8 or 16 bits
- Extended Industry Standard Architecture (EISA) - 8 or16 bits
- Microchannel Architecture (MCA) - 16 or 32 bits
- VESA Local Bus (VLB) - 32 bits
- Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) - 32 or 64 bits
- Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP ) - 32 bits
How Have Motherboards Changed?
Speeds, temperatures, density, faster chipset designs and component count have driven the need for circuit cooling via miniature electric fans. These fans mount inside the actual computer case. Heat sinks act like an automobile radiator and provide additional surface area to help cool a component. Replaceable fan-heat sink assemblies are often used to help dissipate the considerable amount of heat on modern processor chips. The fan-heat sink assembly conducts heat away from the chip by convection, using a layer of thermal grease between the two mating metal surfaces. Fans often have a third wire used for monitoring the speed of the fan.
Modern motherboard designs include provisions for monitoring:
PCI slots are replacing the older ISA slots, and both types of slots are being replaced by USB ports. USB ports can also be used to replace the usual keyboard, mouse and printer ports. Sound card function is also typically incorporated into modern motherboards. Multifunction chips are on the horizon that will do even more multiple tasks.
- fan speed in RPM for the personal computer case, processor and power supply fans
- temperatures of motherboard and processor
- personal computer case intrusion
The additional function on the motherboard saves the motherboard manufacturer costs because:
The consumer can still upgrade function integrated on the motherboard (such as audio and game controls) so long as the motherboard manufacturer provides a means of disabling the function in order to prevent subsequent system resource conflicts.
- there are less warranty claims due to problems associated with all the many electrical contacts (fasteners) in the usual card slot
- there are lower power supply wattage requirements
- there are savings from elimination of a slot's socket and its space on the motherboard
A motherboard still may have voltages present on it even if the computer is switched off due to recent advances in power management and power controls. Always make sure that the power cord is unplugged!
Chipsets provide the support for the processor chip on the motherboard. The Intel 440BX is the dominant chipset in the non-Apple personal computers. The chipset is the heart of the computer since it controls and determines how fast and which type of processor, memory, and slots are used.
Another chip on the motherboard is called the Super I/O controller. Its main function is to control the floppy disk drive, keyboard, mouse, serial and printer ports.
Recent motherboard designs include additional chips to support USB, sound card, video adapter, computer host and network adapter. These chips save the cost of an adapter slot.
Advice on Motherboards
When buying a motherboard, follow these tips:
- Deal only with a reputable manufacturer.
- Ensure that it has the same form factor as your current case.
- Read the booklet that comes with your motherboard. It should fully cover the motherboard's settings and specifications.
- Check the power supply requirements for AMD processors. Some motherboards have unique requirements.
- Verify the form factor of your computer case matches the form factor of any motherboard you plan to buy.
- Avoid tweaking voltages and timings to get more speed out of a computer ("overclocking")."
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