The latest generation of mainboards is more diverse than ever before. In addition to the extremely wide array of now-standard chipset functions, manufacturers like to throw in additional mass storage and network controllers, FireWire components, wireless LAN chips, and high-quality audio solutions. Naturally, not all users take advantage of all of that equipment. The question also arises as to whether the increasing complexity of some mainboards doesn't sometimes lead to problems in operation.
In the first part of our comparison test we looked at seven motherboards, focusing on some slightly lesser-known makers. We found the boards to have greatly differing features, ranging from a 4 port switch to LAN party accessories and WLAN functionality. And fortunately, none of the manufacturers' products showed any really serious faults.
Now we want to know whether the more prominent, bigger-selling manufacturers are living up to their names. Thus, we deliberately looked for high-priced boards to take back to our test lab.
Intel only recently introduced the new Pentium 4 600 series , which is furnished with 2 MB L2 cache and robust energy management. Despite its hefty cost premium, the new CPU is faster than the 500 series with 1 MB cache in only a handful of applications. Nevertheless, we would recommend the new processor, even with a slightly lower clock speed. But in practice the differences aren't very large anyway.