These component posts
should be fairly short since I’m really just going to be familiarizing my reader with components in a PC and discussing how to get the best gaming experience out of these components. (Also, I wanted to at least write something, somewhere today because I probably won’t get to otherwise.)
I want to start with the motherboard (or “mobo” as I found someone cheesily calling it) because its the heart that pumps blood to all the other components. It’s also a small brain (the processor is the big brain) that makes sure the computer not only runs, but runs right and doesn’t swing its arms at inappropriate times knocking shit everywhere. Everything – all the processors, hard drives, mouse/keyboard, graphics cards, mics, speakers and even RAM – connect to the motherboard. Since it’s such a workhorse, it gets hot, especially when playing games or running very RAM-consuming programs. This is the reason for a fan on the motherboard and heat sinks for the rest of the components because without them, everything would overheat and nothing with the word “overheat” can mean good things.
The motherboard provides the electrical connections by which all other components and peripheral attachments communicate. Without RAM attached to the motherboard and my mouse and keyboard plugged in, I would be having a pretty hard time writing this blog. I really wouldn’t be writing this blog at all because once RAM goes, it all goes.
Next, let’s talk about “integrated” and “dedicated” components. I believe I have mentioned before that components can either be integrated meaning that it’s soldered into the motherboard and cannot be upgraded, or dedicated meaning the parts are removable and when the day comes for a new part, just take out the old one and push the new one in. This is why laptops are such a pain in the ass and wallet to repair. Because of a laptop’s compact size and ease of use, its components are usually soldered into the motherboard. So, if something in that shiny Macbook Pro breaks, that’s why it’s 20 quadrillion dollars to replace. Without diverting too much from the topic of motherboards, I just want to say to all the people using laptops as their main mode of Interweb transportation, this is why every four years or so you need a new one. Laptops weren’t build for steady, heavy use. They were built – and are built – for on-the-go, light use. For those careers that are heavily computer – and ’bout every single one this day and age are – do your wallet a favor and build a computer with dedicated components. My current one is probably around 5 years old, but because I can just update its parts when I feel like it’s time, I’m not spending thousands on an entirely new machine and technically it’s still “running like new.” Fuck if I don’t need a new mouse, though. It sounds like a looming task, but here I am learning about the stuff through patient web searches, and yes, sometimes Wikipedia, and can put it all down in plain English ten minutes later.
And now, the moment of the hour – motherboards for gaming. First, the chipset support on the motherboard determines the amount of expansion slots on that motherboard – the newer the better. Then, motherboards with two or more PCI-E x16 slots can be used for more graphics cards. Up to four slots for four cards for those really serious about a pretty game. This chipset information is important to understanding something like the Nvidia Shield using the “Tegra 4 chipset.” The better the chipset, the better things are gonna look on that new $500 gaming device. For the computer building process, PCI-E x16 slots are not only for graphics cards, but if the idea of two monitors sends shivers down your spine, that’s also something it can support, usually without additional software.
For information on the best motherboards on the market right now, I used Newegg.com user reviews and picked three different “mobos” at varying prices. The good thing about Newegg’s review system is that it allows people to put in serial numbers and verify that they’re an actual user of the product.
ASRock Z77: Four out of five “eggs,” $124.99 (average).
- User “mike” says: “I like the power button and the reset button right on the board. The bios is so user friendly that i was not sure if it was the bios or not. I am new to building and the instructions were clear and i had no problems installing it. The one thing i didn’t like is that some components on the board made it hard for the CPU cooler to clip in the mount.” (BIOS are what happens when you turn your computer on and see all that funky text scrolling down the screen for a split second. It tests everything to make sure things work good.)
- User “Hohlraum” says: “Packs a lot of functionality for a very low price. Boots fast. But inconsistent function, SLI compatibility poor.” (SLI is for connecting two graphics cards, made by Nvidia.)
- User “N/A” says: “I’ve had this board since december and I have no complaints It works great. ever since I installed it It has worked fine. But there is a lot of bloatware programs on the disk. the problem is you have to use the disk to at least get the LAN driver. not really a con since you can just uninstall it all.” (bloatware are pre-installed items.)
ASUS Rampage IV Extreme: four out of five “eggs,” $499.99 (expensive).
- User “WhatHappenedAsus?” says: If it worked, the Pros would be what the motherboard is supposed to do… I never been this consistently disappointed with a motherboard. The first motherboard I received had a bent CPU socket pin, not on the edge but in the middle of an area of pins. So I had it replaced rather easily so I figured, oh well things happen. The second board refuses to post or function beyond turning on and lighting up.”
- User “formerasusfan” says: “First let me say I’m an ASUS fanatic, and that I’ve been building PCs since 1982 and I know what I’m doing – and this board has been a HUGE disappointment. I’ve never had a worse experience with any motherboard since probably the early 90s. This MB has been nothing but a nightmare. First board was defective; no biggie, it happens and I replaced it. The second board, won’t recognize both of my GTX580′s at the same time, it’s either one or the other. Then discovered that the 1st PCIe x16 slot was completely dead. I then discovered that this board does not support actually support 4-way PCIe x16 even though that all product marketing states that it does. Even the system manual indicates that it will only do 2 x X16, or 4x X8, and my experience trying to get my GTX580s to work confirms this.”
- User “N/A” says: “It wasn’t defective :) Lots of options for OCing, nicely designed software the suite, when minimized disappears to the side of your monitor and reappears when you move your mouse so it’s out of the way. Great manual in my opinion, provides everything most people will need to know. All the connectors and accessories were in anti-static bags. Not much else to say, I had the Rampage III in my previous computer and it worked perfectly as does this one, will buy an Asus board in the future. Can’t think of any cons that personally bothered me even if I try to be picky.”
BIOSTAR H61 LGA 1155: four out of five “eggs,” $54.99 (holy shit that’s cheap).
- User “Adedamola A.” says: “I was looking for a $50-75 M-ATX LGA1155 board for the next build I was going to be making and I decided to pick up this one. For what it is priced at and does for me, I am happy. Has a modest amount of USB ports on the back and has 2 USB 2.0 headers on the board, supports legacy D-Sub and DVI, has 4 SATA ports, more than enough for the drives I use and has support for Ivy Bridge CPUs so if I ever feel like upgrading from my i3 2100, I have the option to. Overall, a nice board. I’m a little disappointed that this board does not support DDR3 1600 without overclocking.”
- User “Old Clocker” says: “ Very-Fast, even on XP 32-bit! Complete drivers for XP 32bit. I’ve had 4 BioStar boards and they always seem fast, compared to others. Scores out well, except memory is a little below average. Will only run memory at 1067 (Auto). Won’t boot if set at 1333 (13.33). Hence, the lower memory score. I tried 3 pairs of memory, so it’s not that. Glad bios is now current. Read 2 other users having same memory 1067 issue.”
- User “N/A” says: A great board for a budget build that doesn’t compromise on performance. Has all the basics you’ll need to make a single GPU gaming system on the 1155 platform. But I’d rather the PCIe 1x slots be above the 16x slot, with it like it is now the GPU will either block the slot, or be smothered by whatever you put into it needlessly. Four memory slots would also have been nice, but for a micro ATX board two is the standard. A couple more USB ports would also have been nice, or at least include a bracket to use one of the USB headers. Not every case, especially some tiny cases these boards usually go in, have USB on their aux panels. There’s plenty of room on the back of the board, so the only reason it would be left at just four ports would be cost. I guess it can slide seeing as it’s such a cheap board with scant other flaws.”
Classic case of expensive isn’t always better. I didn’t even mean for it to work out that way, I just picked three boards at random based on price. I didn’t even know there were $500 or $50 motherboards. I’d pay an average of $120 – 150. The current computer my boyfriend has, he says he paid between $150 and $200, but he believes the average gamer could be content with one under $100 and this is coming from my go-to component guy because he’s been doing all of this way longer than I have.
Didn’t realize talking about motherboards would take 1600+ words. What component should I talk about next, reader? Thanks!