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Chapter 3. Getting Your Hardware and Sof... > Slots, RAM, and Hard Drives

Slots, RAM, and Hard Drives

When you're scoping out a motherboard, think about how many slots you will need for plug-in boards. More and more hardware is built onto the main boards now because very large-scale integration chips make it possible (VSLI); therefore, you'll tend to have fewer needs for slots. Often network support, audio, and even AGP video are built into the motherboard. If you want to use your own sound card and special super-duper video adapter, you can save a few bucks by getting the bare-bones version of the same motherboard. However, if you want to avoid the hassle and keep slots open, buy the motherboard with this stuff integrated on it (such as on-board audio, which provides lower-cost—and lower-performance—audio capability that should suit your needs, unless you're a hard-core gamer or audiophile). For one thing, all the parts are guaranteed to work together. If you think you'll want to add your own boards for the motherboard-included functions, make sure you can turn them off (usually with jumpers or software settings in the BIOS).

As of this writing, most motherboards were strong in PCI slots and weak in the quickly aging ISA slots. Most have only one ISA slot. And most motherboards now have an AGP (accelerated graphics port) for plugging in a fast video card. AGP is based on the PCI bus but fine-tuned for the needs of high-performance 3D graphics. Because I like to be ready for most anything, I recently opted for five PCI slots, one AGP, and one ISA, which seem to be enough for my needs.


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