Building a custom computer is a great way to get exactly the right specification for your needs. You can carefully pick and choose all the components you need to build your dream machine. The most important part in any computer is the motherboard as this will affect the processor, type of RAM and even the hard drive that you can use. This review will look at the Gigabyte GA-G31M-ES2L motherboard and the reasons you might want to consider using this board to build your computer.
Gigabyte GA-G31M-ES2L Board Design
The GA-G31M-ES2L is a micro ATX motherboard. This means that it will fit in virtually any computer case which follows the ATX standards, including most of the small form factor cases. It is also compatible with modern ATX compatible PSU’s. The layout of the board is quite nice, although the RAM slots are located quite close to the main PCI-express slot which could create heat problems if you’re using a demanding graphics card.
If you do decide to use this motherboard to build your computer, then you will need to make sure the other components you are choosing are compatible. The board accepts CPU’s in the LGA775 package, which includes Intel Core 2, Intel Core 2 Duo, Intel Pentium, and Intel Celeron processors. Just check that the CPU is LGA775 and it will fit and work properly. The board supports a maximum of 4GB DDR2 RAM.
- Supports Intel LGA775 CPU’s Including Intel Core 2, and Intel Core 2 Duo
- Supports DDR2 RAM
- Integrated Intel Graphics (Part of North Bridge Chipset)
- Integrated LAN
- Integrated 7.1 Surround Sound Card
The specs make this a decent entry to mid level board. It’s important to note that while the chipset is capable of 7.1 surround sound playback, the board itself is lacking the necessary ports. It only provides a stereo 3.5mm jack for speakers. If you want to connect surround sound speakers then you will need to connect the HD Header on the board to suitable jacks on the case.
On Board Ports
The ports on the board itself include:
- Headers for an extra 4 USB Ports which can be connected to the front or rear of the case
- 4 SATA 3Gbps Ports
- 1 IDE Connector for older drives
- 1 Floppy Drive Connector – This will probably never be used
- 2 x PCI Express Slots – 1 Full x16 PCI Express, and the other x1 PCI Express
- 2 x PCI Slots
The nice thing about this motherboard is that it has plenty of ports for hard drives and optical drives. These can be connected using either the 4 SATA ports, or the IDE Port. While most new drives will be SATA, it’s nice to be able to use IDE if you ever wanted to use an older drive. The USB headers use standard pins which make it easy to connect to the front ports on certain cases.
Ports on the Back
This board has plenty of ports on the back to connect everything you need without using lots of expansion cards. The ports on the back of the board include:
- 2 x PS/2 Ports – One Dedicated Mouse and one Dedicated Keyboard port – nice to have, even if you are connecting USB keyboards and mice
- 1 x Serial Port – an unusual finds these days and could be a nice feature if you have serial devices and don’t get on with USB-RS232 adapters
- 4 x USB Ports – a further 4 ports are available via on board header pins
- 1 x RJ45 LAN Port
- 1 x LPT Parallel printer port – again, these are becoming rare these days
- 3 x Audio Jack – Microphone, Line Out and Line In.
- VGA Port
What is this Motherboard Good for?
The GA-G31M- won’t win any contests for being the most advanced motherboard currently available. That said, it’s a great value entry level board which is ideal for anyone wanting to build a computer for office work or as an HTPC in your lounge. As it’s compatible with Intel Core 2 and Intel Celeron processors, it’s possible to build quite a budget machine without needing to shop around too much. The built in graphics and sound also mean that you can use this motherboard without needing to add a single expansion card.
One of these boards’ main selling features is the inclusion of serial and parallel ports which are quite quickly disappearing from motherboards. While rare, if you want to connect legacy hardware, including thermal printers then the ports can be very valuable.