A motherboard (also called mainboard, main circuit board, system board, baseboard, planar board, logic board, and mobo) is the main printed circuit board (PCB) in general-purpose computers and other expandable systems. It holds and allows communication between many of the crucial electronic components of a system, such as the central processing unit (CPU) and memory, and provides connectors for other peripherals. Unlike a backplane, a motherboard usually contains significant sub-systems, such as the central processor, the chipset’s input/output and memory controllers, interface connectors, and other components integrated for general use.

Motherboard means specifically a PCB with expansion capabilities. As the name suggests, this board is often referred to as the “mother” of all components attached to it, which often include peripherals, interface cards, and daughtercards: sound cards, video cards, network cards, hard drives, and other forms of persistent storage; TV tuner cards, cards providing extra USB or FireWire slots; and a variety of other custom components.

Similarly, the term mainboard describes a device with a single board and no additional expansions or capability, such as controlling boards in laser printers, television sets, washing machines, mobile phones, and other embedded systems with limited expansion abilities.

The term Logic board is brand specific, coined by Apple in the early 1980’s for the motherboards in Macintosh computers.

Integrated peripherals

With the steadily declining costs and size of integrated circuits, it is now possible to include support for many peripherals on the motherboard. By combining many functions on one PCB, the physical size and total cost of the system may be reduced; highly integrated motherboards are thus especially popular in small form factor and budget computers.

Disk controllers for a floppy disk drive, PATA drives, and SATA drives
integrated graphics controller supporting 2D and 3D graphics, with VGA, DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort and TV output
integrated sound card supporting 8-channel (7.1) audio and S/PDIF output
Ethernet network controller for connection to a LAN and to receive Internet
USB controller
IrDA controller for infrared data communication (e.g. with an IrDA-enabled cellular phone or printer)
Temperature, voltage, and fan-speed sensors that allow software to monitor the health of computer components.

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