Learn about Motherboards

Motherboards For Computers

So what exactly is a Motherboard? What functions does the device serve? The image to the right (or below for mobile users) is a Gigabyte GA-880 Motherboard for review. This is an ATX Form Factor; meaning it uses an ATX style power connection for the power supply. In the lesson below we’ll discuss how to Identify the components (peripherals/connections), RAM clock speed, CPU socket, and the slots: PCI-Express, SLI, PCI, USB 3.0, USB 2.0, and the onboard chipset features of the North-Bridge, and South-Bridge Chipsets.

Terminology Highlights:

Solid State Capacitors
North-Bridge Chipset
South-Bridge Chipset
USB 2.0
USB 3.0


Exploded View Diagram of the Gigabyte GA-880 Motherboard

Exploded view diagram of a Motherboard

Gigabyte GA-880 Motherboard

The Gigabyte GA-880 Motherboard is equipped with support for AMD CPU’s Only. This means an Intel Processor will not work with this Motherboard. Some standard I/O Ports offered on this Motherboard are the RAM Slots, PCI Slots, and PCI-Express Slots.

PS/2 Port – Typically used as an interface between a keyboard, mouse, or (POS) Point-of-Sales hardware to the motherboard.

Solid State Capacitor: Contains a chemical element called Tantalum. It is claimed that SSC’s do have a better tolerance to higher temperatures vs electrolytic capacitors.

IDE: Known as Integrated Drive Electronics (IDE) is the old technology interface for connecting CD/DVD Drives, and Hard Drives. Speeds were rated as ATA-66,ATA-100, and Ultra-ATA-133.

RAM: Or Random Access Memory is a data storage chip.

AMR: The Audio Modem Riser slot was an expansion slot for modems and sound cards during the Pentium III up to AMD Athlon time era.

AMD Phenom II X2 555

This motherboard was tested using the AMD Phenom II X2 555 Black Edition CPU. This CPU comes with 6MB L3 Cache, and 2 x512KB L2 Cache.

The Memory/ RAM (Random Access Memory) used was 8GB / Kingston DDR-3 RAM.

I’ve configured the operating systems with a dual-boot setup with Windows XP 32-BIT, and Windows 7 64-BIT. Often times you’ll see the BIT referred to in software as an x followed by two digits. For example 32 Bit Versions translates to x86, as where 64-BIT translates to x64. With 32 BIT operating systems they cannot utilize more than around 3.5 GB/Ram. 64-BIT Operating systems can handle 8GB+ Keep in mind Windows operating system versions also regulate Memory capacities!

Windows 7 starter only supports max of 2GB/RAM as where Professional and newer support 192GB/RAM.

CPU: AMD Athlon X2-555

Processor / CPU

The Central Processing Unit or Processor is a contributing factor towards computer performance. Here are some key factors to CPU performance: Amount of Cores, L2 Cache, L3 Cache. The amount of cores can range anything from one core (Single Core Processor) to Dual Core, Quad Core, and 8-Core/6-Core CPU’s.

USB Universal Serial BUS

The USB Ports also range in performance based on a numbering scheme. USB 1.x – USB 2.0 – USB 3.0 – USB 3.1
USB 1.0 was officially released in 1995, current times we now see USB 3.1 which was released in 2013 at speeds of up to 10 Gbit/s they call this transfer mode “SuperSpeed USB 10 Gbit/s” by Wikipedia

DDR – Double Data Rate

Memory also referred to as RAM is simply a buffer zone for processing data. The RAM helps reduce Hard Drive use and can impact system performance substantially. Most often we see RAM usage going up when opening large format images, and demanding applications/games. Solid State Hard Drives (SSD) help as well. Because a typical Hard Drive has platters that spin with a motor you’re literally waiting on physical moving parts; with Solid State Hard Drives the data is stored in Solid State; meaning like a flash drive. Back in the late 90’s you’d still hear about 32-PIN and 72-PIN SIMM Memory. I recall purchasing 32MB of EDO 72-PIN SIMM RAM for a total of $70.00 in the early 2000’s.

Northbridge Chipset

The Northbridge Chipset on the Gigabyte GA-880 motherboard is a AMD 880G Chipset which is an AMD 8-Series Chipset Family. This chipset supports the Phenom II AM3 and AM2+ processors. The Northbridge Chipset on a motherboard is designed to act as a bridge between the Southbridge chip. The NB-Chipset (Northbridge) is physically located above the Southbridge Chipset hence the word “North” in Northbridge Chipset.

Southbridge Chipset

The Southbridge Chipset on the Gigabyte GA-880 Motherboard is an AMD SB710 Chip. This could be considered a less direct pipeline to the Processor meaning it handles less demanding portions of the motherboards I/O (Input/output). the SB Chipset handles: IDE, SATA, USB, Ethernet, Onboard Audio, and the CMOS Memory.

PCI / PCI-Express

The PCI port is a generic port for adding features to your computer; similar to USB ports in a way. PCI-Express is more geared towards handling more demanding software like 3D-Rendering or Graphics like CAD software – AutoCAD, and OpenGL, and Microsoft Direct X which is designed more for gaming.

Motherboard & Conclusion

Now that you’ve learned some basics about Motherboards take a look around Newegg.com and take look at the motherboards, see what features they offer.