Abstract: Faced with the purchase of dozens of new computers, government agencies, schools and businesses need to find ways to keep costs down while still getting the equipment they require.|
To be considered an integrated motherboard each solution
must have onboard video, audio and LAN. With the recent release of the Intel
i845G and i845GL chipsets integrated motherboards have taken a step up from what
was previously the norm. The motherboards with the i845G/GL chipset have the
benefit of Intel Extreme Graphics (fancy name for onboard video) and thus offer
the sharpest looking text in the golden region of 800x600 to 1280x1024
resolutions. At higher resolutions of 1600x1200 the i845G/GL chipset and its 8MB
of shared memory begins to show its limitations and text becomes fuzzy.
Conversely, the VIA ProSavage offers the next best quality with the Trident 3D
Blade and SiS 650 fighting for the last place. Where the Trident and SiS
integrated video chipsets are concerned, anything above 1024x768 is pushing it.
Most office applications will never see their resolutions above that mark, but
it is important to at least have the flexibility that the i845G/GL and ProSavage
The quality of 3D performance on integrated motherboards
has never taken center stage because it is never really been designed to satisfy
the needs of 3D applications or games. In that sense, this limitation is a
pretty good means of ensuring office workers don't get "distracted" during the course of the day.
In an office environment where integrated motherboards are
more at home, audio is the one feature that will always rank very high on the
list of requirements. Giving users the ability to listen to music over a pair of
headphones, or small desktop speakers, can be a pretty big incentive and is not
something that should be overlooked or taken for granted.
The onboard audio solutions on the integrated motherboards
we tested were all based on the AC'97 codec, which can sap a lot of CPU cycles. The difference between 2.1 and 5.1 channels of audio
did not weigh in too heavily because we assume most users will be using
headphones or small stereo speakers. At low to moderate volumes acoustic
performance was entirely satisfactory and as expected.
The limitation of this software-based audio system
immediately becomes evident when the volume is cranked up and distortion starts
to take place. Users looking for higher quality audio would be best off having
an aftermarket hardware-based soundcard. For day to day personal audio, AC'97 is
Onboard NIC's varied in chipsets from board to board, but
since this is a transparent technology most users and system administrators
won't really care. Each motherboard supported 10/100 ethernet via RJ45 jack.
Some of the motherboards used current PC99 IO port
configurations while others came with their own custom IO shield. For older
cases with non-removeable IO shields this could pose a problem, and is something
worth taking note of before a purchase. With WindowsXP Professional all the
network drivers were already in its database so the installation took care of
Looking to the
Making sure that a computer lasts for a few years to come
means that certain components (memory, processor, hard drive) will need to be
replaced and upgraded. Barring only the few Micro ATX motherboards which did not
have an AGP port all of the motherboards offer users the opportunity to leave
the integrated graphics behind as budgets and computing requirements improve.
System administrators should thus keep one eye towards the future when choosing
a low cost integrated solution in the present.
Failure to pick the right motherboard for the right
application may leave you with a computer which won't scale to meet your needs.
As PCI videocard solutions
are usually no better then the integrated video chipsets, upgrading via AGP
slots is a must if 3D applications are on the horizon.
So what this all boils down to is knowing what the computer
will be used for now, and in the foreseeable future.
Integrated mainboard solutions offer system administrators
an easy way to roll out workstations under a tight budget. Used for common
office applications and internet based work they offer a very good alternative
platform. MSI's Micro ATX MS-6390, MS-6533 and MS-6526 each offer excellent
performance for their price point. Iwill's mP4G offers among the best
performance and features of the boards we tested but is hampered by a its high
cost. If the future points towards uses which will require more intensive 3D
support, the standard sized ATX Epox 4G4A+ and Abit BG7 give a little bit more
It all boils down to what you need, and hopefully this
roundup will give you the information you need to make the right decisions for
your own applications or
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