SPONSORED BY Intel - Intel Inside, Including the Motherboard?

The market is brimming with motherboard options, and businesses of all sizes face the unenviable task of trying to decide which vendor to place at the heart of their productivity desktops. One vendor will offer more features. Another might offer better power efficiency while a third touts superior performance.

To some degree, these factors are all icing on the cake. At the end of the day, a work system only must do one thing: work. Stability is king. Once that has been assured, then it makes sense to consider secondary concerns, such as features, form factors, and (in business settings) manageability.

The key to a motherboard’s stability and performance lies in its processor and chipset. Intel has led the market in both of these components for many years. According to Mercury Research, Intel held 81% of the processor field at the end of this year’s first quarter, a position the company retains in large part from its unmatched R&D, which allows it to stay ahead of competitors. This R&D not only helps Intel to create the most advanced product architectures, it also gives the company more time to dovetail those architectures with complementary products, especially motherboards.

This only makes sense: when you need to test a new processor and chipset, you need a motherboard on which to test them. The longer and more thorough learning gained in this process gives Intel an immediate advantage on motherboard quality and reliability as well as the ability to refine motherboard architectures to better mesh with the latest chip developments. An example of this is the new LGA1155 socket designed for the latest generation of “Sandy Bridge” 2nd generation Intel Core processors. Another might be the new Smart Response Technology (SRT) method of using an SSD (such as the newly launched 20 GB SLC Intel 311 drive) as hard drive cache under an Intel Z68 chipset.

The end result of this cooperative development cycle is that businesses and consumers alike get the most stable, reliable motherboards available when they buy Intel. In the following pages, we’ll get a closer look at why this is the case along with some of the secondary benefits Intel offers.

Intel In The Motherboard Business

Back in March 2009, Tom’s Hardware ran an article showcasing 16 years of Intel motherboard development. In it, you can see Intel’s first commercial motherboard, the “Batman” model from 1993, designed for Pentium 60 and 66 processors. Prior to this, the company had only produced reference boards for manufacturing partners. By the mid-‘90s, though, Intel had cemented its place in the commercial motherboard market. This may have had something to do with the rise of Intel’s 430FX chipset as the most popular core logic of its day.

Another Intel makes sure that its motherboards are at the forefront of innovation and reliability is through helping to pioneer and ratify industry standards. Today, Intel works with over 250 standards and industry groups across a wide range of computing-related fields. Sometimes, Intel develops technologies internally and then turns them over to industry bodies. For instance, Intel started development on the Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) bus in 1990 within its own Architecture Development Lab. Two years later, the PCI specification migrated to the newly formed Peripheral Component Interconnect Special Interest Group (PCI-SIG). Intel still sits on the PCI-SIG’s Board of Directors, but the non-profit now boasts more than 800 member companies. In a similar way, Intel was one of seven companies, principally led by Intel’s Ajay Bhatt, that started work on the Universal Serial Bus (USB) in 1994. Now, USB is governed by the USB Implementers Forum. Intel did much the same with AGP and PCI Express. To drop just a few more names, Intel is deeply involved with the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA), DVD Forum, The Linux Foundation, Serial ATA International Organization, and the UPnP Forum.

All of this industry involvement and innovation translates into a wealth of new technologies for Intel to tie into its motherboard efforts. But exactly how these technologies become productized depends on a wide array of considerations. For starters, there are form factor concerns. How big should a motherboard be, and how much expansion capability should it offer? Options range from the slot-loaded Extended ATX down to the almost fully integrated Mini-ITX. Intel has been instrumental in helping design many of the industry’s form factor standards, as you can see at the company’s FormFactors.org site.

Then there’s the issue of target audience and application. Intel now offers six desktop motherboard families, never mind server, workstation, or embedded platform models. These start with the entry-level Essential Series SKUs (mostly based on G41chipset and integrated Atom processor models) and move all the way up to the top-end Extreme Series, supporting the latest LGA1366 processors alongside the X58 chipset. Businesses often opt for the Executive Series, preferring the management features found in Intel’s Q-series core logic.

Get the latest updates on Intel Desktop Boards here.

Create a new thread in the US Reviews comments forum about this subject
This thread is closed for comments
Comment from the forums
    Your comment
  • joex444
    Guess you can buy press. But we already knew that.
  • Anonymous
    The 3 years guarantee is fake! They send you back the mobo lying about imaginary corrosions!
  • Benihana
    I happen to be a grade-A idiot and now want to buy an Intel motherboard because this article presents data so well. Who else wants some free money?
  • trauquen
    someone said intel motherboard now is not designed by self, they are ODM products, not OEM products. is that truth?
  • Lutfij
    seriously, i'm beggingin to doubt my 2+ years membership at Tom's cos of this so called "article"

    I thought Tom's was engaged in bringing us groundbreaking reviews - not things to read when we need to go to sleep.

    Face it intel - manufacturers are able to reverse engineer your boards and come out with tonnes of goodies with a slight bump in prices! Period!
  • hurfburf
    What kind of dumbass falls for these bullshit advertorials?
  • Lutfij
    Anonymous said:
    What kind of dumbass falls for these bullshit advertorials?

    people who aren't enlisted on pc/tech forums and swindlers :P with this rubbish report even intel can fool its CEO into buying their crap :D
  • CoolnQuiet
    Ahem, Mini-ITX was developed by VIA in 2002. Not by Intel! Who writes this nonsense?
  • Anonymous
    My first and last intel board was purchased with my i3 core (gen1). Pure garbage after 6 months. Slow POSTs became non boots unless I started the machine and hit the reset button. Stick it sideways intel.
  • Anonymous
    Well, it's good that it says SPONSORED on the first page, as this could just as well have been written by Intel...
  • cec8992
    So is there anything good about Intel boards?
  • justjc
    I guess we now know why the Intel was favoured, with a way more expensive chip and a lot of tests that we all knew would favour a more powerful CPU with Quicksync, in the AMD A8-3500M APU Review
  • joe_bloggs
    For shame! Makes one long for the days of Dr Thomas Pabst. Yes, he's the one who founded this site but hasn't been associated with it for a long time now. Here's an example of how he took on the mighty Intel years ago:
  • leonardo
    I had just started coming around to viewing THG as a legitimate tech site...until this sleazy Intel infomercial. 1. Are your readers so stupid as to view this as an a real article - even if you did cover yourself with the lead-in, "Sponsored." 2. This is the type of tripe one views on a nameless, triple digit cable channel with about 12 viewers, late at night. 3. The marketing maroons at THG now trump the tech writers?
    OOOOPS, I thought this was about CUDA
  • Anonymous
    Cool down. Life is not for free. Intel paid toms to post this article as a commercial. You should not be mad at toms for posting it, if you like the site as a whole you must accept that they need the commercials to survive. As seen from all these comments you are smart enough not to be fooled by such things.
  • marraco
    I owned or managed motherboards from Intel, PCCHIPS, ASUS, Gigabyte, MSI, QDI, and other trademarks. Only PCCHIPS was worse than Intel.

    Bar PCCHIPS, Intel makes the worst motherboards I ever suffered.

    The list of Intel troubles I had include:

    -SATA ports don’t working without an IDE disk installed. It made impossible to install windows on a mother with single SATA disk.
    -Obsolete ICHx drivers non working on Windows XP SP2 or SP3. The new ones were NOT available as download from Intel, because they “were included” on windows (SP0). I was forced to extract drivers from Asus motherboard files, edit text files, and install the updated drivers. Had the same problem with ICH9, and ICH10 Intel mothers. In other words, updated Intel drivers are frequently only available for non Intel motherboards.
    Like the cake, Support is a lie.

    -Memory module incompatibility. They worked OK on Gigabyte, Asus, and MSI with same chipset and processors, but Intel mobos don’t even boot, because they were “not registered”.

    -Multiple memory modules with different timings non working on Intel. They were working without problem on other mothers, but Intel doesn’t know how to manage it.
    Like the cake, Stability is a lie.

    -Frequently USB dispositives don’t work on Intel, but they work on non Intel mothers. I had a large pile of pen drives.

    -Pooooor BIOS. Intel have the worst BIOS ever.

    -Poorly featured motherboards.

    -Trouble booting with more than one video card installed.

    -Disgusting integrated video. Both ATI and nVidia had far better integrated video than Intel (and better chipsets features). The only “fix” Intel found was to forbade third party chipsets… and Intel video still suxks, and his drivers are plain disgusting.
    -Far overpriced. Intel mothers cost too much, and just for entry level features.

    -The Rambus fiasco. Rambus memory was not available on my city, and it was cheaper to replace the entire motherboard with an MSI one with DDR than buying the Rambus memories…. AND the DDR was faster.
  • Anonymous
    Well, at least they admitted, that this article is bought. I guess, they had to, because everyone would suspect a late April-Fool, if THG suddenly recommends Intel-Mobos...
  • Avro Arrow
    Heh, I think that this article should have had"(take this with a grain of salt)" at the end of the title. Intel made a BAD mistake with this crap because most of us here on tomshardware are experts, enthusiasts, technicians and hardcore gamers who do NOT buy "brand-in-a-box" desktops with Foxconn motherboards branded as Intel. That's right folks, Intel doesn't actually make their own motherboards. They contract out to Foxconn (who we know makes crap) and I'd take pretty much any motherboard make over Foxconn. Intel's motherboards are reliable? I used to be a sales rep for Tiger Direct and I'll tell you that Intel mobos are absolute garbage unless you're using the system for business apps that need all the power of a P1 with Win95! Motherboard brands have tier levels according to quality and features. Here is how they rank:

    Tier 1 - Legendary features, performance, reliability and reputation. These boards appeal to enthusiasts and generally are beyond reproach. These makers have legendary board series names that are recognised as the pinnacle of motherboard design. They demand a price premium for their products and still tend to outsell the Tier 2 and 3 levels at the consumer level:
    ASUS - Crosshair, Sabertooth, Rampage, EVO
    Gigabyte - Assassin, Sniper, UD5, UD7
    MSI - Platinum, Big Bang, GDxx Series

    ASUS, Gigabyte and MSI are generally recognised as the finest desktop motherboard makers in the world. Tyan and Supermicro are Tier 1 as well but in the server category.

    Tier 2 - Lesser-known names that are making a name for themselves by offering great performance and reliability at great prices. Generally these brands are younger than Tier 1 and don't make no-holds-barred overclocking performance boards (yet). Tier 2 also includes makers that were previously Tier 3 but have worked hard to improve their reliability, feature sets and performance:

    ASRock, Biostar, ECS, Zotac

    Tier 3 - Names that are generally unknown or have dubious reliability reputations. They have a limited selection and pander more to the OEMs (Acer, Dell, HP & Lenovo) than they do to the consumer market. They are generally dirt cheap (with one glaring exception) and offer decent value for users who know little to nothing about computers (people who buy brand-in-a-box desktops). Generally any attempts at production of high-end boards results in fiascos due to their generally inept (or crack-smoking) designers and bad corporate philosophies (low wages, high employee suicide rates, refusal to pay for quality components, greed, arrogance):

    Foxconn - Possibly the worst tech company ever but possibly the largest because of their massive production capacity and huge contracts with desktop and laptop OEMs.
    Intel - Made by Foxconn and priced like Tier 1 but have very good corporate customer support. If you have any expertise at all, Intel boards are just not worth it. If you're a tech-moron and don't know anyone with expertise, an Intel board would be an attractive idea for a first-built because you could be on the phone with them as they walk you through the installation. Personally, I'd just watch a YouTube video and use a Tier 1 or 2 depending on the build's purpose.
    JetWay - Young, small and relatively poor. I expect that they will one day become Tier 2 if they can ever stop tripping over their own feet.