Talking Heads: Motherboard Manager Edition, Q4'10, Part 2

From The Desk Of Andrew Ku

If you haven’t read our Graphics Card Survey or the first half of the Motherboard Survey, here is a quick recap of what we've discussed so far:

  • Nvidia is back in the graphics fight, but, at the moment, it’s an uphill battle.
  • Nvidia needs more aggressive pricing on its low-end boards to keep Intel and AMD on their toes once CPU-based graphics becomes more prevalent.
  • Intel is purportedly going to give AMD and Nvidia some stiff competition in today’s $75-and-under discrete graphics market.
  • Mainstream market acceptance of hybrid IGP performance is a bit murky.
  • Hybrid IGPs are going to see stiff competition in the mainstream market, and will be outclassed in the high-end space. Add-in graphics cards aren’t going out of style anytime soon.
  • We should still expect excellent add-in card vendor board designs.
  • Nvidia is still going to fight for its chipset business, if the latest lawsuit is any indication.
  • There are more and more multi-core CPU designs on the horizon.

Our motherboard contacts were nice enough to pull a double shift. We already have their thoughts on the upcoming graphics landscape, but there are other topics that remain untouched--topics that are purely motherboard-related. After all, today's motherboard industry is almost unrecognizable compared to what we were seeing five years ago. Unfortunately, you need two hands to count the number of motherboard companies that are effectively defunct in the consumer market.

The participants are the same, but we changed up the questions.

  • Over the past 10 years, Intel and AMD have gone back and forth in the server market. Most recently, Intel demonstrated the benefits of its Nehalem microarchitecture with Nehalem-EX in the MP space. Before that, Nehalem-EP and Westmere-EP showcased the architecture's benefits in 1P and 2P configurations. AMD recently told us it was no longer focusing on the workstation space. Has AMD lost the momentum it generated with Opteron back when Intel relied on NetBurst for driving Xeon, or are motherboard vendors still seeing new AMD Opteron offerings as a competitive (profitable) architecture in the server space?
  • A few motherboard manufacturers have exited the industry. We are continually seeing profit margins on components drop. As consumers, how will we see motherboard manufacturers continue to drive their brand?
  • In previous years, we saw many motherboard manufacturers diversify into non-traditional market spaces. Is your company’s current business strategy focusing on diversification or the core products?
  • Small form factors were extremely popular five years ago because they provided a diminutive footprint and similar performance attributes as any other desktop machine. Largely due to the economic climate, price-conscious buyers have shifted towards ultra-low-voltage configurations like nettops and netbooks. Do you see this as another temporary trend?
  • As Intel and AMD integrate more functionality into their host processors, what opportunities remain for motherboard vendors to add value?
  • pandemonium_ctp
    Excellent read. I love seeing you guys get real world answers from companies willing to participate. It really shows where the industry is heading.

    This means having a small budget can’t stop you from building a reasonably heavy-duty computer. If you don’t believe us, look at our latest $400 System Builder Marathon configuration.
    Absolutely agree. This is basically where I've been placing my builds for the last 10 years; at the bottom of the price curve where performance hits the sweet spot for price. I alone typify that logic.

    The industry has always been on a smaller, faster, cheaper trend, and that's never going to change. Netbooks are here to stay, until something smaller, faster, and cheaper replaces them.
    Smartphones/PDA? They've existed for a long time now. The problem is the technology wasn't around to give them the power they needed to do everything a Netbook can do. That is rapidly changing. I hate to say it, but I disagree with Netbooks being a long-term investment. The consumer now is driven by convenience. If my smartphone can be my multimedia outlet, document editor, day planner, browser, camera, accessory portal (ear pieces/headsets, printers, scanners, etc...) and telephone, they why would I want to lug around seperate devices for each of those?

    If you can play 720p and 480p with decent bit-rates for $100 to $200 less, why not? This type of buying decision is naturally going to be a short term phenomenon.
    Very short-term. At the way things are going, that will be one to two years worth of earnings at the most. Hardly worth the R&D IMHO.

    I think the most valuable feature for future motherboards is saving power and enhanced performance.
    This is the bottom line for everything, basically. This motto can not falter.

    The fact that hybrids migrate graphic functionality to the processor might not actually change that much. As one person noted, the construction of the motherboard hasn’t gotten any simpler. Quite the opposite, in fact. We are now looking at motherboards that are more complex than ever before.
    Complexity is definitely the direction the industry has taken. However, I would think if a manufacturer wanted to baseline a board with IGPs, they would do so in terms of finding a way to allow additional discrete GPU and/or CPU installments for those that tinker. I know this has been tried in the past, but I'm not talking about simple onboard graphics processors.

    The baseline board would be for the general consumer and could handle day-to-day tasks found in every household. While additional GPU and CPU configurations that would work in conjuction with the onboard processors appeals to the specializing category. We just need a manufacturer to take that step to allow them to co-exist in the same environment and provide that extra benefit of accessorizing.
  • dennisburke
    The Future Of Motherboads And Their Makers
    The P55 is a great middle of the road platform, and if one graphics card (even two) is enough to wet your whistle, you could'nt ask for more.

    I think brand loyalty comes about by great customer support and innovation, and it doesn't hurt to have a well used and supportive attached forum.

    I've hide my eggs with Intel, WD, Corsair, ASUS, and EVGA for many years now, and they are safe.
  • Onus
    I agree with everything the first poster said, except for one STRONG disagreement; that he is the only one who typifies that logic. "How low can you go" is a recurring theme in every build I do, especially for myself. If I want more future resistance, I'll go a step or three above that, but the base thinking still tends to be at the bottom in terms of cost (including power usage).
    In an economy where it is more important that things last, what I want to see is a focus on durability. Gigabyte advertises this very well, but I find that ASRock has many of the same elements (e.g. all-solid, Japanese caps, ferrite chokes) and costs a lot less.
  • nutriment6464
    fix the manfucaturer graph ;)
  • Th-z
    I am surprised MB makers didn't talk about speeding up the boot process, or UEFI, if it can speed up the boot time. I think really fast boot up is what everybody really wants. Now we can get SSD to speed up the loading for the OS part, but the very first thing when you turn on the computer, you still have to wait couple seconds for the slow BIOS to finish its tests, etc. That's probably the one thing that hasn't improved a lot when comparing to the speed improvement in other components.
  • WarraWarra
    Wow extremely confusing heading for this article.
    Thought it is some software that does what with motherboards ?
    And talking heads music band has got what to do with this ?

    If not for the weird article name the rest is very nice.

    Good to see Toms getting serious about hardware and reality from a users point of view.

  • Stardude82
    I don't know if competition in motherboards has decreased that much.. Zotac and EVGA are new. It's not like the CPU market which went from 4 competitors to 2.
  • palladin9479
    Hm might want to look at that ULV comment in reference to Intel. With such small and highly integrated parts you can't just use a processors wattage requirements but instead use the platforms requirements. In this case I believe Via's Nano processor wins.
  • chumly
    I am impatiently waiting for UEFI as well. I think it would be amazing to have a 4TB single hard drive. BIOS is ancient, it needs an update. I also don't believe that the competition in the market of GPUs is reflected at all in the Motherboard market, especially on the AMD side. Nforce boards are terrible in both price and features. It seriously affects my decision on which new GPU to purchase.
  • dEAne
    I can count on this, thanks tom - more to do.