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PC Buying Guide
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Buying A Motherboard

Oh motherboards, the mother of all boards. Yeah, that was pretty cheesy but there is a sibilance of truth to it. Motherboards are the backbones of every PC. They are the platform on which you build your PC. Therefore, it is important that you choose the right motherboard. Without a good foundation, your PC may not work as well as it should.

 

Performance

The performance difference between motherboards using the same chipset is so minimal (give and take 5%), it probably isn't worth buying any motherboard based on its performance. In my view, there are only two key issues to look at when it comes to motherboard performance - overclocking performance and a newer point - disk controller and peripheral performance. However, motherboard features should still be the deciding factor when you want to choose a motherboard.

Overclocking Performance - So, what differentiates two motherboards of the same chipset and generally the same features? Overclockability. That's why manufacturers charge a hefty premium on overclocking or enthusiast-grade motherboards. The better a motherboard overclocks, the better it is. Usually, that's determined by the maximum FSB and memory bus speed a motherboard can hit above and beyond the rated clock speeds.

Peripheral Performance – Most motherboards aren't made equal in this sense. This is because motherboard manufacturers find peripheral support the easiest way to cut down on cost without anyone noticing. As long as there's SATA and USB 2.0 support, who bothers to check how they perform? We will discuss the impact of the SATA controllers on hard drive performance in the Hard Drive section of this guide, but I will discuss basic USB and peripheral performance.

When it comes to external buses and their controllers, we need not bother about SNR, shielding and signal integrity. It all comes down to two things that show the performance of the controller and the quality of implementation - CPU utilization and pure throughput.

CPU utilization is how much processing the controller needs to offload to the CPU. Obviously, the lower CPU utilization the better, because your processor obviously has better things to do than coordinate data transfers to your printer or your USB drive. Throughput is simply a measure of how much data the controller can transfer. The simplest test you can do is copy a large file from a hard drive over a USB or Firewire connection and then calculating its transfer rate in MB/s. The higher the transfer rate, the better.

To summarize, the higher the throughput (in MB/s) and the lower the CPU utilization (in %), the better.



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