A motherboard is undoubtedly the topmost component of any computing system, whether that be a home desktop PC, a workstation or a trendy ultrabook. Physically, it is a printed circuit board (PCB) that accommodates all integral hardware elements which, being interconnected, provide for a smooth functioning of the whole computing environment. The so-called ‘bridges’ between each element are usually created due to dedicated drivers for motherboards, imposing total control over all system parameters.
Modern motherboards are a combination of a chipset, a CPU, various chips, power components, circuits, slots, connectors, and sockets. The three latter elements ensure the connection of expansion adapters, controllers, drives, memory modules, cooling solutions, etc. Such types of boards are called integrated. However, in earlier times the motherboards did not support onboard connecting devices, since they were attached with the help of individual expansion cards. Such models are attributed as non-integrated ones.
The major privilege of up-to-date integrated items lies in ergonomics: space-saving within the PC chassis that allows packing the layout with multiple additional full-sized components (i.e. extended CPU coolers, lengthy video cards). Still, there is one significant disadvantage of integrated solutions: if one of the elements fails, the user will probably have to replace the whole board and download drivers for motherboards anew.
To continue, there exist at least a dozen of different form-factors by which mainboards are manufactured. Nonetheless, the most solicited ones are ATX, mini-ITX, and DTX.
ATX motherboards (aka full-sized ATX) suit all major midi-tower and full-tower PC cases, providing a full range of facilities for configuring a high-end system. E-ATX (Extended) and micro-ATX models are a variety of full-length items; the first ones are targeting hard-core systems, whereas the second ones – small-sized platforms with gaming or overclocking in mind.
Mini-ITX motherboards are intended for compact, usually entry-level systems. They frequently employ passive cooling, featuring low-power consumption architecture. Special motherboards drivers are sure to optimize their operation.
DTX models are also intended for small-sized systems but with a specific-field orientation (i.e. HTCP).
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