Weâ€™re at the dawn of the desktop 64bit computing age and many of us are trying to decide whether or not to dip our toe in the 64bit waters or not. If however you have made your mind up and decided to buy one of AMDâ€™s shiny new chips, youâ€™re going to need a good motherboard to accompany it.
TrustedReviews has got hold of some of the latest motherboards for the Athlon 64 and compared them to give you some help when it comes to choosing the right platform for your needs. Unfortunately we where only able to get hold of VIA and nVidia based motherboards this time around, but rest assure that weâ€™ll hunt down some SiS and ALi based motherboards in the near future as well.
With the memory controller being a part of the Athlon 64 CPU, the northbridge has been demoted to handling the AGP controller and is now often referred to as an AGP tunnel.
Another addition that nForce2 users will be familiar with is the introduction of Hyper Transport across all Athlon 64 boards. This is a high-speed serial bus that eases bus congestion across the motherboard. A word of warning here though, as different motherboard vendors offer different speeds depending on the chipset used and this does affect the performance of the system. You can think of the Hyper Transport bus as the system bus, which in the past used to run at 133MHz. The Hyper Transport bus can run at up to 800MHz in its current version if implemented correctly by the motherboard manufacturer.
The most important thing, as always, when youâ€™re purchasing a new motherboard is to take in consideration your needs. Most modern motherboards incorporate a wide range of integrated features, but these arenâ€™t thrown in for nothing. Some features are standard, such as USB 2.0, Serial-ATA and 5.1-channel sound, other features such as networking, RAID and FireWire are added cost options which are handy, but push up the overall price. Depending on what components you already have when youâ€™re upgrading your PC some of these features might not be necessary, while others cost less to have built into the motherboard than to purchase as separate cards.
Other things have disappeared over time and youâ€™ll find that many motherboards lack the game port and one serial port. There are even boards today which lack both serial and parallel ports. Itâ€™s worth bearing this in mind if you have external devices that connects to these ports.
But letâ€™s not delay things any further, onward to the reviews.