If you’ve ever looked into quality power supplies, you know the importance of power rails and the loads placed on them. This image shows another test station measuring system power draw across each rail, and you can see when the system went from active into standby. Obviously, a flatline is good. With no flatline, it would mean that the BIOS or drivers were pinging the CPU with unnecessary signals and not allowing it to remain idle. This test also reveals if a platform has any significant power leaks.
This Tektronix oscilloscope is measuring voltage stepping, emulating a transient load placed on the CPU by software activity. As you add a load step, the voltage comes down to the low line, and when you do a load release (a low current condition), the voltage should spring back up to where it’s supposed to be. Overshooting this level to near or above the top of the screen could cause CPU reliability issues. Signal drooping below this level often causes blue screen crashes. This screen shows a 100 amp load being placed on the CPU 1,000 times per second, and the readout shows plenty of margin for increasing power levels for overclocking. This particular oscilloscope costs roughly $12,000—not bad in the scope world because CPU frequencies aren’t that high. For data buses, you need scopes like those a few aisles over, with much higher speed thresholds and price tags up to $50,000.
The End Of A Long Day
Perhaps you’ve already spotted Intel’s promo branding on ads for the upcoming 3D animated movie, Monsters vs. Aliens. This wasn’t the time to grill our guides on exactly what facets of Intel technology (as opposed to a marketing deal) make InTru 3D special or different. Honestly, we’re looking forward more to the upcoming InTru 3D episode of NBC’s Chuck. Even more honestly, we don’t know why all of these Intel electrical engineers need 3D glasses. Perhaps it places a different sort of system load than the gaming normally conducted on this luscious Samsung LCD. Or perhaps PR set us up with an irresistible shot to help promote the InTru 3D angle. Hmm.
In any case, we walked out of Hawthorn Farms with a new appreciation for the R&D work that goes into Intel products. We now have a much better idea of why Intel has its reputation for owning some of the most stable boards and processors in the business. Does all of this engineering mean Intel has the fastest products? Not always. But as one guide told us, remember that Intel has only sanctioned overclocking for a couple of years. The company is still getting comfortable with loosening the performance reins. All in all, what we saw gives us hope that the best from Intel is yet to come.
Do other manufacturers have similar R&D facilities? Probably. But we haven’t been invited behind their curtains, and therein is perhaps one of the biggest points. Some Intel products may be manufactured overseas, but a staggering amount of brain power and creativity sits right here in the U.S. We walked among hundreds of Intel employees during this shoot, and this was in just one of Intel’s many buildings scattered across Hillsboro, Oregon. If all other things were equal when deciding on a motherboard, having seen what we’ve now seen, we’d feel good knowing that the foundation of our rig was dreamed up, modified, tested, and unleashed right here at home.