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Choosing the Motherboard

The motherboard is the soul of your computer. This is one place where you can never skimp on cost. If your motherboard is weak, your entire rig will perform poorly. You also need to look for a motherboard that can support dual-graphics cards using NVIDIA SLI technology.

The ASUS A8N-SLI Premium NF4SLI 939 is a great choice. What is really remarkable about such an advanced board is that it has no chipset fans! This was a big advantage for us, because we are trying to build a quiet machine. Instead, this board uses heat pipe technology and heat sinks to passively cool the chipsets (see Figure 2). This board also includes an SLI selector utility that allows you to toggle between single-GPU and dual-GPU modes by simply clicking on the mouse in the Windows operating system. So, you can point and click to turn SLI off or on. For example, when 3D gaming, you will want to turn on both graphics cards. This should boost performance by 80-90 percent.

The board also has loads of features, including no less than 10 USB 2.0 ports, dual-gigabit LAN, and 8-channel sound support. Note that this motherboard uses the newer, faster PCI-express card format. If you have not built a computer in a couple of years, you should read up on the new PCI-E standard:

  • Number of PCI-Express x1 Slots: 1
  • Number of PCI-Express x4 Slots: 1
  • Number of PCI-Express x16 Slots: 2

A newer, more expensive version of this board is also available: the Asus A8N32-SLI Deluxe A64-939. However, for our purposes that motherboard is too power-hungry; that may be because it uses three chipsets instead of two. (See the extended review at http://www.silentpcreview.com/article299-page1.html). In addition, it uses copper heat sinks. While this is very attractive, it is also very heavy.

The one disadvantage to this board might be a lack of built-in WiFi. However, I do not view this as a disadvantage; I believe that for security reasons, it is actually preferred to leave out the integrated WiFi. (For more information, refer to Maximum Wireless Security from Sams, co-written by the author of this article).

One unique feature of this mainboard is its support for external SATA drives. It has an external SATA port connector, which relays the connection (along with a power adapter) via a modified PCI slot. So your hard drive is no longer tied to the internals of the computer; you can pick it up and go. As more external SATA drives enter the market, this could become a useful feature.

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