Glossary of terms, some expansion of phrases and words that are used in this site and about computer components in general. There is a lot of jargon used in Motherboard specification, here we will explode some of the jargon and try to explain in simple terms.
AGP [Accelerated Graphics Port] Dedicated graphics card slot on some motherboards (up to about 2004), usually positioned above the PCI slots. Most motherboards have just a single slot, but there are some (SLi) boards that have two. AGP cards come as AGP 1x, AGP 2x, AGP 4x or AGP 8x - AGP x1 runs at 66MHz, the others are basically faster cards that run at multiples of 66 (ie. 133, 266 and 533MHz). Other specifications of the AGP cards includes voltage (1.5v or 3.3v) and the level of on-board memory. Check the specifications of your motherboard before buying a graphics card, but apart from voltage requirements, the AGP cards should be backwards-compatible.
ATX [Advanced Technology Extended] A form factor established to standardise on computer cases and power supplies. ATX overtook AT as the industry standard which can also accommodate mini-ATX and micro-ATX due to the common placement of the rear panel connections. Intel introduced ATX in 1995, but there have been revisions since, and even a new standard 'BTX' that has not been as yet so widely accepted. The dimensions of a full ATX motherboard should be 12 x 9.6" or 305 x 244mm.
Chipset - Usually refers to the 'northbridge' and 'southbridge' chips on the motherboard which combine to provide a communication bridge between the CPU and other peripherals. The northbridge caters for the faster elements such as RAM and graphics, the southbridge deal with PCI devices, ethernet, USB and audio. chipsets are generally specifically put together to work with a specific family of processors.
CPU [Central Processing Unit] - the busy part of the modern computer that processes all of the commands the CPU is made a specific shape and with a set number of 'pins' to fit into a specific Motherboard. CPU's vary in processing speed (MHz), number of cores and socket-type. It is not strictly true to say that a 2GHz dual core is twice as fast as a 2GHz single core, but the dual core has more processing power available for multi-tasking.
HyperTransport - High speed interconnect, open-specification technology, replacing proprietary front-side bus in AMD Athlon 64, Sempron 64 and Opteron CPU's. HyperTransport offers speeds up to 2GHz for the socket 939 platform. HyperTransport may be often confused with Hyper-Threading which is an Intel technology having no bearing on AMD processors.
IDE [Integrated Drive Electronics] interface standard for connectors of storage devices such as hard-drives and CD-ROM drives. The standard was introduced in the 1980's and standardised in the 1990's. It refers to not only the connector but also the drive controller integrated into the drive. After the SATA drive was introduced in 2003, IDE was retrospectively named PATA [Parallel AT Attachment] and although it has not completely disappeared from new motherboards, SATA has taken over the role as the primary standard.
[Level 1 and Level 2 cache] many modern CPU's have both Level 1 and
a larger Level 2 cache (see CPU cache, above), originally
Level 2 cache was in a separate chip on the motherboard, but modern
CPU's may have L1 and L2 on board. Level 1 (L1) memory is a smaller
faster store for frequently-used data, Level 2 (L2) is a larger slower
store still offering a faster read speed than the computer main memory.
RAID [Redundant Array of Inexpensive/Independent Disks]- Originally named 'inexpensive', the term has been 're branded' to get away from the implication that cost is a factor. The term refers to the way in which SATA disks can be made to interact with each other to provide a 'redundant' back-up system. Generally split into RAID 0, RAID1 etc.. up to RAID 6 and beyond. The most common types seen are:
RAM [Random Access Memory] -
provides a 'working' memory to hold data from the programs that you
are running, the more RAM you have, the working DATA can be held with
immediate access. RAM can vary in size, speed and configuration. A
32 bit operating system can only access about 3.2 to 3.5GB of RAM,
64 bit operating systems can utilise far more. Many 939 Motherboards
accept a maximum of 2GB (on mini-ATX boards) or 4GB (on full ATX boards).
Pin configurations must match the motherboard RAM bays and speeds
(in MHz) should be compatible. In addition, many boards utilise dual
channel RAM which requires sticks of RAM to be paired in identical
pairs for optimum operation. Please note that often the RAM bays are
colour-coded to indicate how the sticks are paired, sometimes they
are paired adjacently, sometimes staggered. Some boards also require
you to place sticks of RAM in a particular sequence - please refer
to your motherboard manual for more information.
SLi [Scalable Link Interface]
- Technology available on some motherboards allowing two or more graphics
cards to be linked together. Two graphics cards (preferably identical)
are fitted into PCIe slots on the SLi Motherboard, these two cards
then 'share' tasks. Normally the upper board is the 'master', the
lower is the 'slave'. There is not always a benefit to this configuration,
but it is popular with gamers for fast rendering of 3D graphics. In
cases where the cards are not identical, a faster card or the one
with more memory will match the specifications of the slower/lesser
one, but generally only 'similar' cards will run in this configuration.
There have been a number of developments towards triple and quad card
arrangements, but these are not generally regarded as being stable
or widely used.
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