The Dell Dimension 4600 computer series was introduced in 2003, and all machines were Pentium 4 based. They are known for being reliable, affordable machines, and were replaced by an updated model in 2006. Knowing the specifications of a Dell Dimension 4600 motherboard will allow you flexibility in upgrading--particularly important if you're upgrading your computer to send off with a college student or outfitting it for one of the kids.
Processor Type and Speed
The Dell Dimension 4600 uses an Intel Pentium 4 processor; the earlier models of the Dimension 4600 used central processing units (CPUs) that ran at 2.26, 2.4, 2.533, 2.6, 2.8 and 3.06 GHz (these were models that came out prior to 2005) with a 533 MHz (megahertz) external bus speed. Later models of the Dimension 4600 had Pentium 4s running at 2.4, 2.6, 2.8, 3.0, 3.2 and 3.4 GHz, with an 800 MHz external bus. It's possible to upgrade processors on this motherboard, provided you stay with the same "family." An 800 Mhz outside bus speed CPU can run on an older motherboard, but it will run at a lower clock speed. According to Intel's documentation on CPUs, using a 533 MHz outside bus speed CPU in a newer motherboard has a high likelihood of damaging the processor.
RAM Type and Speed
The motherboard's bus speed will also determine which type of RAM it uses: PC 2700 (533 MHz RAM) or PC 3200 (800 MHz RAM). Both types of RAM are DDR (Double Data Rate) RAM. Note that currently, RAM is making the transition from DDR2 to DDR3; the RAM on the Dell Dimension 4600 is a number of steps behind the current state of the art, so it may be hard to find. The Dimension 4600 motherboard has four RAM slots and can handle RAM chips (called Double Inline Memory Modules, or DIMMS) of up to one GB (gigabyte) apiece, giving a maximum system RAM of four GB.
Ports and Expansion Slots
The Dell Dimension 4600's expansion slots are PCI, running at 33 Mhz for expansion cards (these are cards that plug into slots on the motherboard and provide extra capabilities to the computer, like the ability to access a game controller). There are three PCI slots, each with a 32-bit data connection and 120 pins. In addition, the machine comes with an AGP 8x port for running a video card. AGP video cards can still be found on eBay, but they aren't manufactured and sold any longer. The machine also has onboard video using the Intel Extreme Graphics Controller, which would use system RAM; this onboard video uses a 15-pin VGA (Video Graphics Array) port connector, which will connect to nearly every monitor made between 1989 and the present. The motherboard also has an onboard audio controller and onboard Ethernet networking. The motherboard has eight USB 2.2 compatible ports, two in the front and six in the back, plus a legacy nine-pin serial port connector and a 25-pin parallel port connector.