The motherboard is undoubtedly one of the most important parts of a computer. It was once a simple chipset with a minimum of features. Gradually, motherboards were overgrown with various chips, and real “Frankenstein” appeared in the portfolio of many vendors.
In this blog, we are going to discuss a dozen interesting motherboards from a technical point of view. Often, such experimental models come out in a limited series, and the flight of engineering imagination does not always delight ordinary people.
Dual-processor motherboards are not uncommon in servers, but this curiosity is almost never found in desktop PCs. Such motherboards are supposed to automatically double the cost of processors and RAM. Moreover, it is unlikely that anyone will put cheap “plugs” in them.
One of the few examples is the 2012 EVGA Classified SR-X for a whopping $ 650 for its time (“Hold my beer!” – say many boards on the top chipset today). In addition to two sockets, the board had seven PCI-E 3.0 slots, 12 slots for RAM, six USB 3.0 ports. To accommodate all this splendor, a Full Tower chassis with support for HPTX motherboards was required.
Dual-processor motherboards have been around much earlier. In the early 2000s, the Acorp 6A815EPD model was released based on the Intel i815EP chipset, in which it was possible to install two Intel Pentium III processors on the 370th socket. Interestingly, this experiment was not one of the industry leaders, but a company primarily engaged in networking equipment.
A motherboard with two sockets is a perfectly justified decision: for double the price, we get double the performance. But what DFI wanted to achieve by installing an additional Intel Atom processor with Nvidia ION on the Hybrid P45-ION-T2A2 board is hard to understand. Maybe the manufacturer was trying to ensure low power consumption during idle time, or maybe to increase the performance of the Core 2 Quad installed in the main socket (which is unlikely). At the same time, the Atom could run a separate system, which required its own SO-DIMM laptop memory. In any case, the idea did not take off due to its stupidity, high price and low performance of the built-in processor.
Budget boards with preinstalled CPUs have found a place in weak systems with simple tasks (media centers, information desks, office PCs). The advantages lie on the surface – low price, compact size, low power consumption.GIGABYTE GA-E6010N 2 899 motherboard *
Experiments with memory
During times of transition, engineers love to experiment with supporting different types of RAM. Since processors usually work with only one type of RAM, to support the second, you need a “crutch” in the form of an additional controller. We won’t go far for an example: ASRock G41C-GS R2.0 on the 775th socket supports two DDR2 or DDR3 bars.ASRock G41C-GS R2.0 motherboard
[LGA 775, Intel G41, 2xDDR3, 2xDDR2-1333 MHz, 1xPCI-Ex16, 5.1 audio, Micro-ATX]
In the shops: in 24 stores
The disadvantage of such cards is the limited number of slots: usually two for each type of memory. This problem was solved by the Taiwanese MSI, who rolled out the P45-8D Memory Lover , which received as many as eight slots – four each for DDR2 and DDR3. The name of the model turned out to be memorable too: against the background of modern “dark heroes”, “masters” and “godlikes” Memory Lover sounds especially romantic.
What about non-expandable 2 GB DDR3 soldered on the board, as ASUS did on the P5K3 Premium / WiFi-AP model ? Back in 2007, this was quite enough, but with the possibility of an upgrade, the user said goodbye right away. The merit of this board is the overclocking of memory up to DDR3-1600 and higher (in the presence of a processor with a 1066 MHz bus). But the $ 900 price tag scared off almost all potential buyers.
Another interesting ASUS experiment is the Marine.Cool project . The main trick was the use of a ceramic substrate to better collect heat dissipation money . There was also an increased number of capacitors, which made it possible to quietly shut down the PC if the electricity was suddenly cut off. The surprise was caused by the SO-DIMM memory soldered on the board. The question of why to use laptop memory on full-size ATX remained open – the motherboards were not included in the series. Assumptions about the convenience of installing the cooling system seem unconvincing, since there are three huge radiators around the socket.
At Computex 2012, ASUS presented an unusual concept of the X79 Zeus motherboard . Attentive users immediately noticed the absence of a PCI-E slot. Even more attentive ones remembered: Sandy Bridge-E processors, for which this board was created, do not have an integrated graphics core. How, then, is the video displayed? It turned out that two Tahiti XT graphics chips (aka Radeon HD 7970) and power for them were hidden under the lower radiator . It’s ridiculous to think that ASUS engineers were going to remove heat from a dual video adapter with a total TDP of more than 500 W with a similar cooling system. Probably, they tried to hide the design features from the gaze of ubiquitous competitors. As you can imagine, this board was not included in the series either.
A more viable product was introduced in 2020 by the Chinese manufacturer Zeal-All. The ZA-SK1050 motherboard received an integrated GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics card, which was cooled by an aluminum radiator with a small fan. As always, users had to pay for the experiments of engineers – they asked for about $ 350 for a fee. Separately, such a set would have cost 200 bucks.
Warm tube sound
Another field of activity for engineering thought was the sound subsystem. Manufacturers competed with each other, equipping motherboards with increasingly expensive and advanced DACs. Against this background, the tube amplifier that was installed on the AOpen AX4B-533 Tube looked all the more amazing . The scope of delivery included a popular among audiophiles Sovtek 6922 lamp of Russian production – it was she who was used by many eminent manufacturers of sound equipment. Not without audiophile wires. The huge capacitors were equally impressive. It is strange that at the same time the developers hesitated to unsolder any decent DAC, and all this luxury was controlled by a simple Realtek ALC650.
Judging by the reviews and reviews, AOpen suffered a fiasco, but, as you know, the first pancake is lumpy. And the company didn’t give up. The next attempt was the AOpen AK86 Tube 3 , where three tubes had already been wired . And again they installed Realtek ALC650 (yes, what are you going to do ?!). As a result – a natural failure. It is expensive for ordinary users, audiophiles did not appreciate it. But the unusual fee deserved its moment of fame for sure.
For dessert, the creation of GIGABYTE’s twilight engineering genius – GA 8I945GMBX . And no, this is not photoshop. Everything about this board is great. Let’s start with the power connector epic located in the middle of the board. Next up is the inverted PCI-E and I / O panel. The apotheosis of this riot was the socket turned 45 degrees. At the same time, the CO mounts are located normally, and therefore the cooler cannot completely cover the processor. To finish off the user completely, the engineers unsoldered the capacitors close to the socket, which means that problems with the cooling installation are guaranteed. The upper memory location in this case is a trifle.
As you can see, the “flight” of engineering can take you very far, and the thirst for profit and fame – even further. Innovation for the sake of innovation is usually not interesting for the common user, so all these creative fancy boards will remain just part of the story. Although, it is quite possible that soon manufacturers will be able to create something both fancy and useful at the same time.