Holiday Buyer's Guide 2006, Part 1: PC Components

Motherboards: Rock-Solid And Feature-Rich

Motherboard selection has become a difficult task. There are so many products on the market, the differences among which may not be noticeable unless you have rather specific requirements.

You should start by selecting your desired platform: AMD's Socket AM2 for Athlon 64 processors, or Intel's Socket 775 for Pentium 4, Pentium D or Core 2 Duo chips.

Then you should ask yourself if you want to tune, tweak and overclock your system; if you need lots of interfaces or add-ons; or if you can save some money by going for an "ordinary" product. From a performance standpoint, motherboards with the same chipset and technology will perform alike - differences are primarily in overclocking abilities and reliability under extreme conditions. Should you not be interested in those aspects, simply make your choice by isolating your requirements and by checking prices for brand products. We've selected a few motherboards that we consider good buys.

For Athlon 64 FX: Gigabyte M59SLI-S5

The M59SLI-S5 is a $200 Athlon 64 FX high-end motherboard that utilizes Nvidia's nForce 590 SLI chipset. It accepts the full AMD Socket AM2 processor lineup - all the way from the entry-level Sempron up to the FX-62. It supports three x16 PCI Express graphics cards for up to six displays, or two x16 cards for SLI dual graphics operation.

It comes with four memory slots for DDR2-800 DIMMs, dual Gigabit Ethernet ports, integrated USB 2.0 and Firewire-1394a, 8-channel High Definition audio with DTS and Dolby Digital support (one digital SPDIF connector) and as many as eight Serial ATA/300 ports for storage devices. Be sure that the two 32-bit PCI slots are enough for your legacy add-in cards, however.

Gigabyte has been very aggressive in deploying passive cooling technology, and this motherboard comes with its Silent-Pipe heat pipe design. The pipe links up Northbridge, Southbridge and the voltage regulators. It dissipates heat via a heat sink cooled by the air stream in the back of your computer, and/or by the processor cooler.

For detailed information on this product, please check out our Summer 2006 AM2 Motherboard Roundup.