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  Daily Column, August 15th 
  Aug 15, 2001, 07:00am EDT 
By: Dan Mepham

Morning, everyone! I hope you all have had a chance to take a look at my review of Iwillís KK266Plus, and Sanderís look at ATiís new part. We would have loved to spend more time with the Radeon, however a few hours was the best we could do this time around. As always, be sure to leave any thoughts or constructive criticisms, if you have any!

Speaking of feedback, I actually wanted some opinions on an issue, and thought this would be a good way to get some discussion started. I read a motherboard review a short while back, and the board in question used a new chipset, and performed on average about 1-3% faster than boards using the older chipsets. The author arrived at the conclusion that since the board was the fastest, it was the smartest buy. My question to you is, does that extra 1-3% really matter to you?

There are several issues here. The first relates to boards that use different chipsets. Would you use an alternative chipset that happened to be 3% faster, or would you rather stick to a proven chipset? For example, would you buy an ALi-based board that was 3% faster than an Intel board, or stick to the Intel chipset? What about a VIA board that was 3% faster?

The second issue is that even boards using the same chipset can have performance deltas (although usually smaller ones). In that case, would you take the faster board, for example, or the more reliable one? Or the one with more features? For example, if you could have a KT133A board that had on-board sound, or one that was 3% faster, which would you choose? Is on-board sound worth 3% less performance? What about on-board RAID? Is it worth a board thatís perhaps a little more quirky?

Personally, Iím becoming increasingly indifferent toward motherboard performance. Iíd choose an Intel 815-based board over a VIA Apollo Pro266-based board any day. I know the Pro266 is faster in most cases, but frankly, I donít think 3% more performance is worth dealing with VIA for (this entire discussion is not considering pricing, which is a whole other can of worms). Iíd take a reliable KT133A board over a slightly faster KT133A board, no question. To me, 3% more performance isn't worth any headaches. However I understand that some of you may feel otherwise, and Iíd like to hear why, and to what degree. Please bear in mind that Iím talking about small performance differences, in other words, chipsets in the same league.

The reason I ask is that Iím considering strongly de-emphasizing performance when we review individual motherboards from now on. My opinion is, so long as itís within 5% of the performance norm for that type of board (which weíd establish in a review of the chipset), then who cares? Yes, if two boards were exactly identical, save that one was 3% faster, then youíd take the faster one. However we all know that doesnít happen often. Iíd far sooner give a recommendation based on quality, usability, reliability, and even tech support, than on a board scoring 189.7 fps instead of 189.1 fps in Quake 3.

However, before going any further, Iíd like your input on whatís most important to you (remember weíre talking about motherboards only here, and weíll ignore pricing for the moment). Would you rather have something perhaps a little more stable, in lieu of a bit of performance? Something with an extra feature or two? Even something with a better Userís Manual or Tech Support? Does motherboard performance even matter to you (so long as itís close to average)?

I realize this is all rather hypothetical, but Iíd like to get a general idea of what you all look for in a new motherboard, and in particular, how important or unimportant every last percentage point of performance is to you.

Dan Mepham


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Choosing a motherboard - Daily Column, August 15th Darren Krape 1 replies Aug 15, 2001, 03:39am EDT


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