- What the North Bridge and South Bridge Do
- Mobo Integration Madness
- What We Look for When Testing Motherboards
- How We Test Motherboards
- Careful Considerations for New Mobos
- Our Top Pentium 4 Chipsets: Intel's 875P and 865PE
- Also Solid: ATI's Radeon 9100 IGP
- Pentium 4 Chipset Pretenders
- Our P4 Mobo Recommendations
- The Back Story: Summer of Athlon XP
- Enter the 64-bit Chipset
- Why Hasn't Intel Integrated the Memory Controller?
- Looking to Overclock?
- Looking Ahead: Future Chipsets & Mobos
- VIA Makes Its Move
- Prepare for BTX
- New Sockets Forthcoming
New Sockets Forthcoming
Both Intel and AMD plan on new socket releases during the second half of 2004. Each should be available by the time you read this. Here's a breakdown on each:
Intel's Socket LGA-775: Intel's upcoming new socket is an interesting one because in it, the pins are actually on the socket and not on the CPU! This should make for easier installation; the old method required so much force to lock the CPU into the socket that it occasionally would warp mobos. With Socket 775 CPUs, you only have to lightly push the clamp down.
AMD's Socket 939: AMD's introduction of 939-pin Athlon 64 and Athlon 64 FX CPUs in the early portion of the summer of 2004 means you'll likely be able to purchase variations of this faster socket by the end of the summer. It's so fast that new Socket 939 Athlon 64 CPUs will have only 512KB of cachesocket 754 Athlon 64s had 1MB of cache. We anticipate that ASUS's A8V will be the first Socket 939 motherboard. The A8V will also feature a 1,000MHz HyperTransport Link.
Mobo Chipset Fun Facts
What are the throughput speeds of all the major data buses in a PC?
Frontside (Memory) Bus: The frontside (memory) bus carries the data flowing between the CPU and the memory controller. Throughput depends on the speed of the bus; for example, the 800MHz bus on a high-end Pentium 4 system serves up 6.4GB/sec of bandwidth, while the 2.2GHz bus of an Athlon 64 FX-51 delivers a whopping 17.6GB/sec. Don't confuse the speed of the memory bus with the speed of the memory itself, which may be faster or slower.
Chip-to-chip Interconnect: Every core logic chipset uses a "backside" bus to transmit data between various components on the motherboardfor instance, between the north and south bridges, or the PCI bus and the south bridge. Throughput on this bus depends on the interconnect technology in use; AMD's HyperTransport technology (found in nVidia's nForce2 chipset and several Athlon 64 chipsets) offers up to 12.8GB/sec.
AGP Bus: The AGP bus is your video card's private data pipe to the north bridge. The latest implementation (AGP 8x) offers 2.1GB/sec of throughput.
PCI Bus: All of your PCI expansion cards share the 133MB/sec of bandwidth delivered by the PCI bus. On some motherboards, integrated components such as a network chip are wired to dip into the PCI bandwidth pool as well.
Parallel ATA (IDE) Bus: Most of today's hard drives and optical drives operate on the parallel ATA bus. The latest ATA spec, ATA/133, boasts 133MB/sec of theoretical bandwidth on each channel, while the more common ATA/100 spec offers 100MB/sec.
Serial ATA Bus: Set to replace parallel ATA as the preferred data link between your hard drives and motherboard, the Serial ATA bus can transfer data at up to 150MB/sec per channel in its current iteration. Future generations of Serial ATA will deliver up to 300MB/sec.
How are motherboards designed?
The process begins when a team of unwashed engineers hunkers down in a dimly-lit basement to brainstorm over the features they want in their next motherboard. Once they come up with a design, the engineers use CAD software to draw electrical schematics depicting where each and every component will be placed on the motherboard. Since not all the required circuitry can fit on just one board, modern mobos are designed in multiple interconnected layers. Complex calculations are performed to ensure that everything will play nicely together, and then logic verification software is used to double-check all the calculations.
After a tentative layout is created, the motherboard design is sent off to the manufacturing plant where a prototype is built. The completed prototype is sent back to the engineers, who then test it extensively to make sure it works. On the first attempt, it often doesn't, in which case the design is tweaked and sent back to the factory for another go. Once everything checks out, the motherboard is cleared for mass production!