Battle of the Boards

New Motherboard Tech

An SLI motherboard can use two graphics boards to boost the speed of PC games.
Photograph: John Kuczala
Some incredibly exciting technologies are in place or headed for a motherboard near you. Here are a few of them.

SLI

What it is: SLI, or Scalable Link Interface, is NVidia's interface for hooking up two PCIe x16 graphics cards in tandem.

Why you want it: It gives you exceptional performance at high resolutions in the games that support it.

What supports it: Currently, only motherboards based on NVidia's NForce4 SLI Athlon 64 chip set support SLI, but an Intel-based option should appear later this year. Click here for a list of compatible graphics boards.

Dual-Core/Multi-Core

What it is: Whatever the name, it's like having two processors on the same chip.

Why you want it: These chips provide smoother multitasking performance and promise to accelerate software that supports symmetrical multiprocessing.

What supports it: Intel is already shipping dual-core Pentium D chips designed to work with its coming 955X and 945G chip sets. Later this year AMD will ship its dual-core "Toledo" Athlon 64, which it says will operate without a problem in existing socket 939 boards, following a simple upgrade of the system's BIOS.

64-Bit CPUs

What they are: The 64-bit desktop CPUs, like AMD's Athlon 64 and Intel's impending EM64T Pentiums, add 64-bit-wide data paths and registers to an existing 32-bit architecture, to handle 32-bit and 64-bit software with equal aplomb.

Why you want it: New 64-bit software will allow bigger numbers, larger files, and more addressable memory. It should also run faster when it has been optimized to take advantage of the extra registers and wider data paths on 64-bit CPUs.

What supports it: AMD's 64-bit Athlon 64 CPUs--and motherboards capable of supporting them--have been out on the market for more than a year now. Meanwhile, Intel's EMT64-enabled processors should be shipping by the time you read this. To run 64-bit software, you will also need to have a 64-bit OS such as Linux or Windows XP Professional X64; these OSs should be available in the second quarter of 2005. XP Pro X64 will run on either AMD's or Intel's 64-bit processors.

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