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Motherboard Guide

Overclocking

Since I started making overclocking to a kind of mass movement, everyone seems to be doing it and quite a few are simply overclocking their system for the sake of it, putting any sensibility aside. I certainly don't have a problem with this, as long as people don't generate false expectations by publishing astronomical overclocking results all over the web, stating how reliable it is.

This is a pain for anybody who is doing business with hardware, sometimes even software products, because a lot of people think that overclocking is the most natural thing in the world and they come to completely wrong conclusions.

I would like giving you a quick example. I recently received a mail, where the sender asked me for help in an interesting matter. He had bought a Diamond Monster II add-on 3D card and after installation of the drivers the system crashed and wouldn't run properly anymore until he removed these drivers. He concluded that the drivers from Diamond are the source of all evil, screwing up his Windows registry. He had already contacted Diamonds support, complaining about this 'ridiculous product'. Diamond didn't understand what was wrong and so he came to me for help.

When I asked him about his system it turned out that he had an overclocked CPU. Now I have never come across any 3D card driver that would screw up the registry and lead to crashes unless there was something wrong with the hardware of the system. Thus I asked him to switch the clock of his CPU back to what it is supposed to and try installing the drivers again. He got back to me letting me know that everything was running fine now.

I hope that this shows you that overclocking isn't just a 'cool thing' which is simply supposed to work. It's fine if people have to publish their 500+ MHz PII systems, maybe they get something out of it, but please don't think that running one software on an overclocked system without problems means that any software will do that. If you run into problems, please set your clock back before trying anything else. If this fixes the problem, you know that you simply cannot overclock to this speed. Basta!

Summary

So I do admit, the situation if a board offers overclocking or not is certainly also something to look at, but I guess that the majority of people want stable systems, so that systems without bus speeds above spec will also have a chance.

I'd like to mention something about this too. I am indeed a friend of overclocking, but I'm not a friend of bus speeds that get the PCI and AGP clock too much out of spec anymore. We have now got the advantage of 100 MHz bus clock, leaving the PCI bus at 33 MHz and the AGP clock at 66 MHz as it should be. I can't help it that I simply can't see a reason for 83 MHz bus speed anymore, at least not in Pentium II AGP systems. 92 MHz are completely crazy, since hardly any AGP card will do this properly. The same applies to bus clocks beyond 112 MHz.

Finally, the features of a board should be pointed out as well. I already mentioned onboard SCSI, network adapter and sound, but there are other things too. System monitoring can be an issue for people and it's certainly not wrong if a board is equipped with it. It can tell you if your fan stopped working, if your power supply fails or if your CPU gets too hot.

The new wake up features maybe worth a look at too, because it can save you from leaving your system running permanently, thus saving energy. Wake up on ring, on LAN and also on clock are features that I do appreciate. These features are used best in combination with the 'suspend to disk' feature, as well known from notebooks. AOpen is one of the few manufacturers who have this feature implememted into their boards for more than a year now. It starts your system exactly the same way you left it. The same programs are running, the same data is still there.

The long term reliability of a motherboard can unfortunately not be tested by me or any other hardware reviewer, it's up to you giving me input on this topic. The same applies to the product support and in some way also to manufacturer's warrantry. The length of the warrantry is not neccesarily what's mainly important, what counts is how much use you can make of it after running into problems.

The above said leads to the following new evaluation scheme for motherboards in exactly this order:

  1. Compatibility and Reliability (AGP, PCI, ISA cards, BIOS, RAM)
  2. Features (onboard features and overclocking abilities)
  3. Performance (office performance and gaming performance)