Motherboard Design Process - Page 9

..:: Common Problem: Heat - An Enemy of Your Wallet? ::..

The last topic I’ll be covering today deals with two of the most common problems that face today’s motherboard designs. First off, let’s talk about the issue of heat, and how it could potentially have an impact on your wallet. As many of you may know, heat is a problem that has begun to plague modern microprocessors, and isn’t going to be getting much better any time soon. As processors increase in speed and complexity, more and more current must be handled and sent to the processor, which only adds to the problem of heat output. This fact can be seen in the latest “Prescott” core Pentium 4 processors which run at much higher temperatures than their Northwood predecessors. The processor is not alone in its venture into the world of heat, however. The core voltage regulation components such as the MOSFET’s also must be able to handle the added heat that is generated by the processor, and be able to handle the load of supplying the processor with power. We’ve seen manufacturers moving to an increased number of smaller MOSFET’s, as well as mounting them vertically to aid in their cooling. How does this affect your wallet? Simple. The cooler the core voltage area of the board can be kept, the “cheaper” the parts that can be used. I don’t mean garbage components, rather high quality components that do not have to meet high thermal requirements. These components can tend to carry a substantial premium with them, and when components of the motherboard carry a premium, guess who that will then be passed on to?

..:: Common Problem: Voltages Galore ::..

Last, but certainly not least, we have the problem of the number of ever changing voltages that are needed to power the various components of the motherboard. You have your processor core voltage, DDR / DIMM voltage, chipset voltage, AGP / PCI-Express voltage, etc. With all of the voltages comes a need for more complex power schemes for these components, and worse, larger and more expensive regulation chips. The added need for more and more custom voltages only adds to the complexity of the regulation chip designs, and further adds cost to the manufacturer, which is once again passed on to you, the consumer. This need for more voltages also requires that more of the PCB surface be taken up by voltage generation hardware, which can now be prominently seen around the DIMM slots and near the AGP and PCI-Express connections on today’s motherboards.

..:: Conclusion ::..

Well, if you made it all the way to the end in one reading, as always I must applaud you as I’m sure many have either set this article aside to finish later on, or just simply gave up. As you know, the goal coming into this article was to give you an idea as to the complexity of the process of designing motherboards, and I think that even through this brief and simplified explanation I have done so. There are an immense number of other topics that we could go on and on about all day long, as a matter of fact several of the topics have entire books or classes dedicated solely to them! Now, the next time you take a look at that motherboard and wonder how it was designed, just remember those engineers behind the scenes who strive to supply you with high performance, stable, and wonderfully designed motherboards. I’d like to send out a big thanks to George, Rob, and Jeff from Intel for all their help with the original article, and my own lust for knowledge, since it comes in handy from time to time, heh. Thanks for reading, now, go rest your brain.