Abstract: Taiwan's motherboard manufacturing industry is so tremendous that it can be deemed a cottage industry itself. I can't begin to count the number of manufacturers of mainboards out there...and I won't even try. All across the web you will find reviews for the big name boys such as Asus, ABit, Transcend, Soltek, etc. In this review, you will see the review for a mainboard made by a relatively unknown (well, at least I never heard of it until my father bought this board) company called Azza.
The Graphics subsystem
810-based motherboard graphics are provided
by an onboard graphics controller dubbed GMCH or Graphics and Memory Controller Hub by
Intel. When judging motherboards with onboard graphics integration, you would have to
decide whether your cup is half empty... or half full. Depending on how you
look at it, it is up to you to make up
your mind whether or not these motherboards will suit your application.
your needs require a cost effective, hassle free motherboard with decent video
quality and sound with no interest in high performance 3D, then 810-based
motherboards will suit you just fine. Of course you can upgrade your video
through the PCI based 3D accelerated solution, but for the most part top end
graphics cards are only available in the AGP flavour (with the exception of
3dfx's Voodoo3 3000 PCI and others, but your options are very limited). The
significance is that 810-based boards do not have an AGP slot. On the other
hand, if you are looking for a full on, mind blowing 3D experience, then you
might want to look elsewhere.
The Azza PT-810DMC does not have a dedicated 4MB display
cache used for graphics like many other 810 motherboards do (equipped with the
810DC100 GMBH). By default, 1MB is reserved for standard legacy VGA output which
is deducted from main system RAM. In my case, my 96MB RAM became 95MB. No big
loss really. How then, can I use applications that require a large amount of
video memory workspace? That's simple.
As and when 3D applications require more memory for
processing textures, the operating system views the 810 graphics driver as an
application which uses the GMCH and request allocation of memory per
requirements. So the more RAM you add to your system, you can be sure that you
will be able to use more memory for graphics as well. Under the 810 driver, the
operating system will allocate a maximum 4MB frame buffer to support resolutions
of up to 1024x768. 2MB can be reserved for a command buffer and 4MB is the
maximum Z-buffer space. For applications that require it, drivers can request
that main memory be used for storing large AGP graphic textures. Once the
application has terminated, the OS re allocates memory from AGP texture use to
use for normal system operations.
Intel's 810 chipset
facilitates for a AC97 CODEC thereby saving the end user the cost of purchasing
a sound card. Naturally, integrated audio was provided on this Azza mainboard.
Unless you are a music composer or are looking for extremely high end quality
audio, the integrated PCI sound should provide you with more than sufficient
audio quality. The problem is that AC97 CODEC's do utilize CPU processing power.
Probably, the biggest complaint is that CPU time is drawn away
when playing 3D-intensive games like Quake 3. But then again, hard core gamers
would probably avoid the 810 chipset in the first place due to its lower levels
of graphic performance. The basic 3 inputs of speaker out, line in and
microphone in are included and cutely colour coded. If you ever decide to
upgrade your sound hardware, you can always purchase a PCI sound card and
disable the integrated sound from the BIOS itself.
This is probably one of
the more significant of characteristics of the motherboard. There are a lot of
viruses out there and several more are being introduced every day. Some of these
viruses (such as the CIH virus) are targeted to hit your BIOS directly. Since
the majority of motherboards on the market are equipped with a flashable BIOS,
this can result in a field day for virus writers. Once any of these BIOS bashing
viruses strike, your system will be rendered absolutely useless. However, in
case of a virus attack the AIR Bus is an excellent solution to recover your PC
by restoring the system BIOS.
AIR Bus, or AZZA Intelligent ROM, is
actually an interface on the motherboard which facilities the use of a
Portable BIOS or Key BIOS device. When such types of devices are used through the
AIR bus, a corrupted PC BIOS can be restored in a matter of a few seconds. With
Key BIOS, the BIOS is actually stored on an external card. Given below is a basic
illustration of how the Key BIOS system works.
In addition to BIOS
recovery, this method of storing the BIOS on an external card can be utilized
for functions such hardware anti virus and hardware security control. By using
it as a hardware anti virus device, viruses can be scanned and cleaned before
the system reaches hard disk level. As for hardware security control, the Azza
website describes booting up a PC whose motherboard has no BIOS (ever seen a
board like that before?). By having the system BIOS on a card, unauthorized
access of a PC can be prevented.