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Key Considerations for AMD Motherboards

Introduction

To find the ideal AMD motherboard for your system build, there are several important considerations that you should factor into your purchasing decision. The motherboard is an integral component that affects many different aspects of a computer, from its size to the amount and type of devices that it can support. If you are assembling a computer using an AMD processor and motherboard, the information below will be of value to you.

CPU Socket

A motherboard’s CPU socket determines what type of processor it supports. Whenever a new generation of processors is released, there is a chance that a new type of CPU socket will be required. Sometimes new CPU sockets are backwards compatible with older processors, but it is not guaranteed.

If you want to upgrade your AMD motherboard to one that utilizes a new type of socket but use the same processor, you will need to ensure that the new socket is backwards compatible.

AM3

Designed as the successor to socket AM2+, it is used by Phenom™ II, Athlon™ II, Sempron™, and Opteron processors™. There is some backwards compatibility, as select socket AM2+ AMD motherboards can utilize socket AM3 processors. In addition, some AM3 AMD motherboards are compatible with newer AM3+ processors.

AM3+

An update to socket AM3, AM3+ motherboards are backwards compatible with AM3 processors. Another benefit is that AM3+ processors support error correction code (ECC) memory.

FM2

Socket FM2 is specialized for use with AMD Accelerated Processing Units (APU). An APU is a processor that integrates both the CPU and graphics processing unit (GPU) into one chip. Though many non-APU processors also have video capabilities, AMD markets their APUs as being lower-budget solutions.

FM2+

AMD motherboards with FM2+ sockets can utilize both FM2+ and FM2 APUs, but an FM2 motherboard does not support FM2+ APUs.

Form Factor

A motherboard's form factor dictates computer case compatibility. A larger motherboard form factor will necessitate a larger case while a smaller motherboard will not. Several common Intel and AMD motherboard form factors include the following.

ATX

A common form factor that is compatible with many mid-size and full-size tower cases. Most ATX motherboards feature up to seven expansion card slots, four memory slots, and dimensions measuring 12 × 9.6 inches.

Extended ATX (E-ATX)

Slightly larger than ATX, it is beneficial for systems that have multiple large expansion cards as well as some servers.

Micro ATX (mATX, µATX, or uATX)

A smaller form factor that is well suited for compact computer cases, micro ATX motherboards can range from 9.6 inches × 9.6 inches to 6.75 inches × 6.75 inches.

Mini-ITX

Even more compact than Micro ATX at 6.7 inches × 6.7 inches, mini-ITX motherboards are often used in digital signage players, embedded computers, and media servers.

Expansion Slots

By adding and upgrading existing system expansion cards, a computer’s functionality can be enhanced. The most common expansion slot standard currently is PCI Express® (PCIe®), of which there are several sizes: x1, x4, x8, and x16. Starting with x1, they gradually increase in size and speed up to x16.

Smaller PCIe cards can be used in larger slots, but larger cards are not compatible with smaller slots. So while an x1 PCIe card can be installed into an x16 slot, an x16 card cannot be installed into an x1 slot.

Support for Multiple Video Cards

If you are assembling a desktop computer and plan to utilize multiple video cards, you will need to find one that supports AMD’s CrossFireX™ technology. CrossFireX can enable up to four discrete video cards to work in conjunction, provided the motherboard has the appropriate PCIe slots. AMD motherboards that support CrossFireX typically cost more than their non-CrossFireX counterparts.

Integrated Graphics

To lower costs, you can utilize an AMD motherboard with integrated graphics rather a dedicated video card. Performance-wise though, onboard video cards are slightly slower than discrete video cards. Select AMD motherboards also feature AMD Radeon™ Dual Graphics support, in which the onboard and dedicated video cards work in conjunction to further increase performance.