What is a motherboard?
The motherboard is also called the system (System Board) or the main (Main Board). This important node of a computer system combines its basic devices and provides data transfer between components connected to the bus boards. The most important element of the board itself is the so-called chipset. It is this part of the motherboard that must be productive enough to ensure a smooth and high-speed data transfer between components of a computer system. Also, through the motherboard, the power supply supplies all the main devices of the computer. Different boards differ in size or form factor.
Chipset – the main element of the motherboard
System boards were relatively recently – until the mid-80s – equipped with a large number of huge microcircuits responsible for various functions of the motherboard. However, already in 1986, the specialists of Chips & Technologies were among the first to propose the development of a microcircuit that combined the functional logic of a whole set of microcircuits. It was from the mid-80s that the name “chipset” was assigned to this integrated circuit of the motherboard.
All modern chipsets, starting with the 800th version, are built on the basis of the so-called hub-architecture. It is based on two bridges with names historically entrenched in them: South and North. The first is designed to interact with the fastest computer components, as well as with the North Bridge. The second is designed to interact with slow elements of a computer system. Data transfer between devices in the chipset is carried out via buses, which today more closely resemble entire networks of conductors.
The north bridge is designed to control and direct the flow of data from four high-speed buses. This “holy” four includes the memory bus, the main processor bus, the PCI-E16x bus (for the video card) and the bus connecting the North Bridge with the South Bridge. Modern North Bridges are designed to reduce as much device downtime as possible when trying to access memory. This bridge should also provide optimal buffering for those data that are forced to wait for the release of the channel before sending. In addition, it usually becomes a source of large amounts of heat, so it is cooled. Cooling in this case can be both passive (for example, one radiator), and active (with a cooler).
An I / O controller (ICH or Southbridge) enables a variety of slow buses to communicate. Among these, the bus audio codec, bus PCI, ATA, SATA, USB and some others. In addition to them, this bridge controls the operation of the BIOS system module, CMOS memory and input-output controllers. To the buses of this bridge are connected completely different components of a computer system. For example, computer engineers are already accustomed to connecting hard drives to SATA-connectors, but the ATA bus interface is already gradually becoming a thing of the past. Also, USB sticks of various sizes have long been used to connecting USB sticks. Despite the fact that this bridge connects slow computer devices, it also sometimes becomes a source of increased heat generation, and therefore cooling can also be installed on it.
This is not to say that this type of motherboard is a separate type. And to be absolutely accurate, there are none of those in nature. However, it should be said that motherboards designated as “overclocker” allow controlling many functions of the board itself from the BIOS – for example, intermediate frequencies of the processor bus (FSB). In principle, a good motherboard is always an “overclocker” motherboard, as it has an increased tensile strength. At the same time, an overclocker BIOS can be written for any motherboard.
The most common motherboard sizes
Different motherboards differ in form factor. The most common today are five of them: AT, ATX, BTX, LPX, NLX. Moreover, these formats have even smaller “brothers” in the form of micro and mini sizes. ATX also has FlexATX. In addition, motherboards on mobile devices have gained great popularity in modern electronic devices. Examples of the size of such boards can be Mobile-ITX and Pico-ITX. Also, I must say that the AT form factor is already quite outdated today, although it is also found in some PCs.
ATX Form Factor
This is obviously the most popular form factor of the motherboard in the modern world. It has a number of modifications in the form of micro-ATX and FlexATX. It was proposed by Intel in the mid-nineties of a bygone century. This standard size embodied all the best that was in the Baby AT and LPX form factors. With this standard size, more convenient access to memory slots came to us, and access to the connectors of hard disk controllers became more convenient. In it, the processor slot and connectors for expansion cards were spaced into different places on the system board.