Are More Expensive Motherboards Better Motherboards? - [H]

MyNameIsAlex

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Tommrow on [H]ardOcp --- are girls that are more expensive to date worth it, or is the entry level model that wants to go to the cafe down the street once a week 'good enough'?

Review by Kyle Bennit
 

Dan_D

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The more features the more likely they fail.

Bottom line is, you dont know if it fulfills your wishes and demands until you run it as intended.
On some technical level that seems true, but I've seen fewer failures on the higher end motherboards for things like failing NICs etc. They are certainly more prone to driver issues and configuration problems due to the added hardware. But as the budget goes up on those motherboards with additional features, so does the attention to detail and the money the board makers are allowed to put into the design. That's not to say this is 100% true in all cases and there is a point of diminishing returns, but it generally holds true in my experience.
 

cyklondx

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I think the sweetspot is around $120-$150 for desktop mobo's (They typically do not offer too many useless gimmick features, while still offering same components as ones for $200) . Most common failures overtime on mobo's are usually result of poor psu's, heavy overclocking, or in general the mobo having issues from-get-go (while user may not notice it.) like having faulty resistors, or caps, that will grind down on its life quickly.
 

Niner21

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I usually go for the tier two or three motherboards from a manufacturer. Getting the top of the line usually means features I'll usually never use. I was impressed with an Asrock Z370 Pro4 mother board I used recently for a build and it was around a $100.
 

Dan_D

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I think the sweetspot is around $120-$150 for desktop mobo's (They typically do not offer too many useless gimmick features, while still offering same components as ones for $200) . Most common failures overtime on mobo's are usually result of poor psu's, heavy overclocking, or in general the mobo having issues from-get-go (while user may not notice it.) like having faulty resistors, or caps, that will grind down on its life quickly.
I think the sweet spot is actually a bit over $200 for mainstream models. Going south of that often means taking a less premium audio solution or a Realtek network controller. Not everyone cares about those things, but its something to consider.
 

IdiotInCharge

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I think the sweet spot is actually a bit over $200 for mainstream models. Going south of that often means taking a less premium audio solution or a Realtek network controller. Not everyone cares about those things, but its something to consider.
With ASRock, I've been able to avoid those compromises at around the US$150 mark, however I get that it's not always that simple. I pay more to get 10Gbase-T controllers on what are essentially $150 boards, and those are still replete with Intel NICs and decent audio (on the spec sheet).
 

ChRoNo16

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No, for example. Expensive Asus gaming boards have failed me, while basic intel desktop boards have run years and years of abuse and never even flinched.

It's about components, and some even expensive boards still use cheap chinese crap
 

cyklondx

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No, for example. Expensive Asus gaming boards have failed me, while basic intel desktop boards have run years and years of abuse and never even flinched.

It's about components, and some even expensive boards still use cheap chinese crap
basically more crap on mobo, more things that could fail.
 

x509

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Stepping back a bit, what are the "essential" components of a motherboard for which we should want to get a better or best chip component. In one recent post, it sounds like Realtek doens't make the best audio chips. (I don't know, and I may be completely misreading the post.) Same with Intel for Ethernet.

We could extend this question a bit to include add-on cards. For example, which chipset is better/best for SATA ports? For Ethernet, for sound, etc. I was just on the PCPartsPicker website and i didn't see search options based on chips or chipsets, just saying.

I think the answer to this question could provide us all with a basis for deciding how much we need to spend for a quality board, bling like RGB lighting excepted.

x509
 

mda

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Stepping back a bit, what are the "essential" components of a motherboard for which we should want to get a better or best chip component. In one recent post, it sounds like Realtek doens't make the best audio chips. (I don't know, and I may be completely misreading the post.) Same with Intel for Ethernet.

We could extend this question a bit to include add-on cards. For example, which chipset is better/best for SATA ports? For Ethernet, for sound, etc. I was just on the PCPartsPicker website and i didn't see search options based on chips or chipsets, just saying.

I think the answer to this question could provide us all with a basis for deciding how much we need to spend for a quality board, bling like RGB lighting excepted.

x509
Audio chips - I'm no audiophile but I can't hear the difference between the entry level Realtek audio and the higher end realteks which people say are quite good. You probably need very good equipment and a good ear to notice. Otherwise, probably no difference. The higher end boards do have the optical out, which some people want though.

Chipset SATA ports - I think based on all previous reviews, ones that are linked directly to the CPU tend to do the best. These are the Intel/AMD ones, and not the ones that need to pass through the ASMedia chips.

For Ethernet - They say Intel > Realtek, but I've used realtek ethernet for years for our cheapo office computers and haven't had a problem except for the odd Linux driver issue on the Realtek 8111F chips.

Past a certain featureset, I'm more concerned with the quality of components and quality of manufacturing/design which you can only indirectly derive from how long the board lasts under non-extreme use. (Since your sample size with that board is probably = 1, I admit this is more anecdotal as opposed to scientific)

My Gigabyte X38 died very early but out of warranty, and I wasn't very happy about it. When I buy a 300$ board, I expect it to last me until I throw out the system. I wasn't running it in extreme conditions, had a Q6600 at 3.2ghz at close to stock voltage (1.275-1.35V, where the highest VIDs on Q6600s was 1.325 IIRC) and in a mesh case with lots of fans, with an HEC Power supply (best I could find in my country at that time) that is still alive today in another machine.

I haven't bought an ultra high-end board since, with the exception of this Crosshair 7 which I got used from an [H] forumer at midrange price.
 
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IdiotInCharge

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it sounds like Realtek doens't make the best audio chips
Basic point is this: it's up to the board's implementation. A good implementation can be fairly unimpeachable. As to the parts themselves- they punch so far above their weight that no one else tries.

Same with Intel for Ethernet.
Doesn't get better. That's what's shipping on all the new Ryzen 3000 boards too ;).

better/best for SATA ports
Intel, but these don't matter much for consumers, spinners being spinners and NVMe being straight to the bus.

bling like RGB lighting excepted.
Tasteful, well implemented RGB is appreciated; I'm a fan of white lighting myself, if anything. Having solid control points and software is also useful.
 

x509

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Audio chips - I'm no audiophile but I can't hear the difference between the entry level Realtek audio and the higher end realteks which people say are quite good. You probably need very good equipment and a good ear to notice. Otherwise, probably no difference. The higher end boards do have the optical out, which some people want though.

Chipset SATA ports - I think based on all previous reviews, ones that are linked directly to the CPU tend to do the best. These are the Intel/AMD ones, and not the ones that need to pass through the ASMedia chips.
What do you think of Marvell SATA chips?

Issue is that on my current motherboard at least, ASUS used a Marvell SATA chip to add 2 more SATA ports in addition to the 6 directly supported by Intel.

x509
 

Dan_D

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basically more crap on mobo, more things that could fail.
I work with a crap ton of motherboards and I just don't see this very often. Even as a PC service tech I didn't see it too much. Sure, it happens. I've even had it happen on high end motherboards, but I've actually seen no correlation between the cost of the motherboard and the failure rate of onboard components. I have however seen failure rates which are higher on cheaper motherboards. While hardly a scientific study, I have a larger sampling size than most. I've reviewed close to 200 motherboards and I've personally had more around 40 that I've personally owned. If not more. I've lost count.

Stepping back a bit, what are the "essential" components of a motherboard for which we should want to get a better or best chip component. In one recent post, it sounds like Realtek doens't make the best audio chips. (I don't know, and I may be completely misreading the post.) Same with Intel for Ethernet.

We could extend this question a bit to include add-on cards. For example, which chipset is better/best for SATA ports? For Ethernet, for sound, etc. I was just on the PCPartsPicker website and i didn't see search options based on chips or chipsets, just saying.

I think the answer to this question could provide us all with a basis for deciding how much we need to spend for a quality board, bling like RGB lighting excepted.

x509
Honestly, very little of what's on a motherboard qualifies as being essential. You don't technically need the audio, drive controllers, or LAN ports. The drive controller has damn near become essential as the high level of integration over such a long period of time has virtually eliminated the add-in card market for all but the highest end applications requiring a SAS controller which happens to be SATA compatible. What you are looking for are robust and well built VRMs and a cooling solution to match. You want a thicker PCB for a number of reasons, not the least of which is durability. Finally, you want your integrated features to be of good quality. Understand that almost nothing that's integrated is close to top of the line.

Audio chips - I'm no audiophile but I can't hear the difference between the entry level Realtek audio and the higher end realteks which people say are quite good. You probably need very good equipment and a good ear to notice. Otherwise, probably no difference. The higher end boards do have the optical out, which some people want though.
It isn't the audio chip that sets them apart so much in terms of sound quality. The difference between an ALC892 or an ALC1220, S1220A, etc. is features. It's all in the quality of the implementation. These days they are all pretty good in that they have isolated electrical and separate PCB layers for left and right audio channels, etc. If you do hear a difference, nine times out of ten its because of the OP-AMP. Even more confusing is when boards have multiple DACs onboard. One typically services the front panel while the other the back panel. So how you use it makes a difference too. Optical output is desirable because its digital. If you take that to a receiver then its all about your reciever or other input device. At that point your computer's onboard audio can be the most basic crap ever and it won't matter.

Chipset SATA ports - I think based on all previous reviews, ones that are linked directly to the CPU tend to do the best. These are the Intel/AMD ones, and not the ones that need to pass through the ASMedia chips.
The SATA controllers aren't linked to the CPU. They are linked to the PCH. Technically, on AMD's platform they could be if a manufacturer wanted to sacrifice the dedicated M.2 slot or reallocate lanes to a SATA controller or ports. I've never seen this done even though the platform diagram states its an option. Essentially, the third party controllers are generally using inferior ASICs and they lack the robust feature set and capabilities of the native controllers. Not only that, but they typically have fewer PCIe lanes etc. Note that its been awhile since we've really seen third party controllers on motherboards so the way they were handled is a little different than they would be today.

For Ethernet - They say Intel > Realtek, but I've used realtek ethernet for years for our cheapo office computers and haven't had a problem except for the odd Linux driver issue on the Realtek 8111F chips.
Oh its absolutely true. Realtek controllers are not only slower than Intel controllers, but they tend to have greater CPU utilization and quirks Intel controllers don't. For example, I tested one recently where it was unable to force a Realtek controller to 1GbE speeds while connected to another controller. It would only operate on auto negotiate and it wouldn't connect at all with jumbo frames enabled. Intel controllers just work. Killer NIC, Broadcomm, Realtek, and Marvel controllers all have their quirks, compatibility issues and problems.

Past a certain featureset, I'm more concerned with the quality of components and quality of manufacturing/design which you can only indirectly derive from how long the board lasts under non-extreme use. (Since your sample size with that board is probably = 1, I admit this is more anecdotal as opposed to scientific)



My Gigabyte X38 died very early but out of warranty, and I wasn't very happy about it. When I buy a 300$ board, I expect it to last me until I throw out the system. I wasn't running it in extreme conditions, had a Q6600 at 3.2ghz at close to stock voltage (1.275-1.35V, where the highest VIDs on Q6600s was 1.325 IIRC) and in a mesh case with lots of fans, with an HEC Power supply (best I could find in my country at that time) that is still alive today in another machine.

I haven't bought an ultra high-end board since, with the exception of this Crosshair 7 which I got used from an [H] forumer at midrange price.
Well, failures happen with even the best hardware. That's just luck of the draw unless it dies due to external damage from power surges etc.

Basic point is this: it's up to the board's implementation. A good implementation can be fairly unimpeachable. As to the parts themselves- they punch so far above their weight that no one else tries.
Indeed.

What do you think of Marvell SATA chips?

Issue is that on my current motherboard at least, ASUS used a Marvell SATA chip to add 2 more SATA ports in addition to the 6 directly supported by Intel.

x509
The add in Marvel controllers basically suck. They are very basic and cheap.
 

Autochthon

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I've reviewed close to 200 motherboards and I've personally had more around 40 that I've personally owned. If not more. I've lost count.
Dan, I'm curious. With that kind of volume have you kept any single system under constant use for an extended period of time? I tend to use a MB for 5-10 years of daily use.
 

Dan_D

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Dan, I'm curious. With that kind of volume have you kept any single system under constant use for an extended period of time? I tend to use a MB for 5-10 years of daily use.
That would depend on your definition of a single system. My system configurations change almost constantly with nothing remaining untouched for more than six months to a year with a few rare exceptions. Laptops being the biggest one. Those tend to have a 7+ year cycle for me. My main gaming rig gets changed allot and then that hardware often gets moved down to my server or to my girlfriend's machine. I also tend to keep a spare gaming rig at home and that gets parts handed down to it fairly often. So, in a single configuration, not long. Over the course of that piece of hardware migrating down and into different configurations, it could be anywhere from 3-7 years. My dual Pentium Pro system ran for ten years, my Skulltrail for 7. My last setup was one of my longest lived with minor changes. I did switch out the motherboard about half way through, but it was largely unchanged for nearly five years. It had my Titan X's in it for 3 years and then my 1080Ti's for 2.
 

LuxTerra

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Some features are mind boggling and make you wonder if the designers were just trying to fill a bullet list. For example, my last board, a Gigabyte z170 Gaming 7, has both Intel Gbe and Killer e2400 onboard, but makes it clear in all documentation that teaming is not supported. Did they just have some spare chips lying around?
This always annoys me. One of the most interesting (to me) X570 boards is the Asus Pro WS X570-ACE, but it has a few oddities. I'm interested for the claimed 3x 8lane PCIe slots (haven't seen the block diagram showing how this all works yet). However, the two NICs are a good Intel and a Realtek. Why would you bother to put a Reaktek on this board? Teaming isn't supported. It's not faster or better in any way. Either put a second Intel GbE NIC on it or put M-Gig or 10G; at least a AQ107 or X550 would be great.

It's like there's a checkbox that Asus WS boards must have dual NICs, but no thought into why workstation users might actually want dual NICs.
 

Autochthon

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I'm surprised. But maybe I shouldn't be. That isn't radically different from my recent history. I can afford the hardware but if current gear does the job I just don't seem to care about upgrading. It may be I don't game much anymore or that the relative productivity gains don't seem worth the time or I'm just getting old ;p
 

YeuEmMaiMai

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I have used nothing but Gigabyte for the last 11 years 3 boards in total

a Core 2 board GA-EG450M-US2H (2008) Core 2 Duo e8400
a 6th gen board GAH97M-3DH (2015) i5 4690K
a 9th gen board Gigabyte Z390 M (2019) with a i5 9400F
20190601_094037.jpg
20190601_094046.jpg
Gigabyte-Z390-M-GAMING_2-740x740.png


not super expensive but they sure do last
 

rudy

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What makes judging motherboard value so hard is our inability to know how things will pan out in the future. For instance, if I had known that my z68 motherboards would last nearly 10 years I would have invested more to get more PCI-X slots and probably some other options.

Right now we are in a similar boat. If you are looking at a motherboard you might end up spending an extra hundred dollars to get more M.2 ultra slots. This would be under the assumption that CPUs are very stagnant but NAND flash is getting cheap fast. And over time you will need more space and want to be able to put more drives in a motherboard.
 

Dan_D

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What makes judging motherboard value so hard is our inability to know how things will pan out in the future. For instance, if I had known that my z68 motherboards would last nearly 10 years I would have invested more to get more PCIe slots and probably some other options.

Right now we are in a similar boat. If you are looking at a motherboard you might end up spending an extra hundred dollars to get more M.2 ultra slots. This would be under the assumption that CPUs are very stagnant but NAND flash is getting cheap fast. And over time you will need more space and want to be able to put more drives in a motherboard.
I fixed that for you. PCI-X is something different than PCI-Express (PCIe) and never was available on Z68 chipset based motherboards. Motherboard longevity and "future proof" feature sets are really hard to gauge. Especially going forward now. We are finally in a place where Intel and AMD are actively competing against one another again so things are getting interesting. We've seen utter stagnation over the last several years. I had my Core i7 5960X for nearly five years. I've NEVER run a CPU that long in my main gaming machine. While the Broadwell-E based Core i7 6950X and X299 chipset and subsequent CPU's came out, none of them were worth the price of admission as far gaming went so I felt no compulsion to upgrade which is a new experience for me. One I do not wish to repeat.
 

Thevoid230

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Motherboard longevity and "future proof" feature sets are really hard to gauge. Especially going forward now.
Speaking of future proof, anyone remember SATA Express?
SATA_Express_connectors_on_a_computer_motherboard.jpg


Did any drives ever get released for this standard?
 

cjcox

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"Are more Expensive Motherboards Better Motherboards?" Easiest question to answer. The answer is "yes" and "no".

(moving on)
 

Dan_D

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I believe I saw one or two models out there. They were insanely expensive and no one bought them. M.2's popularity always surprised me. Its' not an ideal format for desktop use. It's gravy for the SSD manufacturers, whom I believe are primarily responsible for it's success. They can build one model for desktop and mobile. For us, it isn't great as it limits capacity and physical size. It creates layout issues on motherboards and drives are prone to getting baked by GPU's.
 

IdiotInCharge

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SATA Express / U.2 was used by the first Optane drives. I have at least one board with it and considered using it until I realized that I had no real use case for Optane at its price.

The reason to use U.2 is that Optane didn't fit onto M.2 at time of release, so to get full performance you either had to use a PCIe slot or use U.2 to a 2.5" drive.
 

SOAREVERSOR

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SATA Express / U.2 was used by the first Optane drives. I have at least one board with it and considered using it until I realized that I had no real use case for Optane at its price.

The reason to use U.2 is that Optane didn't fit onto M.2 at time of release, so to get full performance you either had to use a PCIe slot or use U.2 to a 2.5" drive.
U.2 is still used for the good optane drives, the m.2 ones are shit. Also this is wrong, the first optane drives were m.2, and they sucked, the u.2 drives came later. U.2 is still around and still good. In fact the highest end NVME SSDs only come in U.2 or PCI-E add-in card format, they do not come in m.2 format. U.2 is still widely around in workstation and server class boards.

There is a catch though. u.2 drives aren't really consumer in most cases, ditto for PCI-E card SSDs. So there is no need for u.2 ports on gaming or consumer boards for the most part as you can't really get the full use out of them and these products are expensive. Furthermore you can adapt an m.2 to slot into u.2 and you can adapt a u.2 port into an m.2 port. Step up to workstation class boards or server class boards and the SSD game changes completely, hell even the m.2 drives for those are typically in a form factor you can't use on a consumer or gaming board.

See my sig, I'm using a u.2 drive now, my other rig has an intel 905p (optane) u.2 drive that holds teh entire OS.
 

westrock2000

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In my personal experience there is a sweet spot in the middle somewhere.
I agree, though I would say the "middle" is far closer to a $50 bargain bin board than it is a to $400 flag ship board ^_^

~$100-$150 is my sweet spot for main computers, $50-$80 for secondary computers.
 

Keljian

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I agree, though I would say the "middle" is far closer to a $50 bargain bin board than it is a to $400 flag ship board ^_^
I used to think the same. But find me a $150~ USD board with good VRM support for a 9900k ..
 

Nenu

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Never skimp on a motherboard. (They are a pain to replace if they go bad)
Gigabyte was simple, Asus refused.
Same fault on both (bent pins in socket).
But it was still a few weeks to resolution, so yes, a pita.
The motherboard price had no effect on this, nor whether there was any help.
 

Gamer X

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Gigabyte was simple, Asus refused.
Same fault on both (bent pins in socket).
But it was still a few weeks to resolution, so yes, a pita.
The motherboard price had no effect on this, nor whether there was any help.

I agree, bcz any board can have a defect. But in general, skimping on the mainboard is recommended. Been building since the IBM compatible days. ~ DFI LanParty ~ SFF etc.

The extra $25 ~ $50 bucks (if you do your due diligence) in a better motherboard, will net you an overall better ownership experience.
 

Niner21

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Nice article. I have used mid tier boards for some time with great results. My Aorus Gaming 5 is a great example of that. It has everything I want and didn't pay the higher price of the Gaming 7 on up at the time Z370's were popular.
 
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AMD isn't some champion of the working class who cares deeply for the plight of the budget gamer. AMD charges as much as Intel (or more) when it believes it can get away with it.
You're killing me, Dan. The big smiley was there to imply sarcasm.
 

Zarathustra[H]

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AMD isn't some champion of the working class who cares deeply for the plight of the budget gamer. AMD charges as much as Intel (or more) when it believes it can get away with it.
Yeah, it's funny how quickly people forget AMD's $1000+ Socket 939 Athlon 64 X2's from 2005...

When their 90nm Toledo parts came out, I remember thinking "Holy Toledo that's expensive".

(*And yes, I realize it was sarcastic in this case, but I have heard people who really should know better wax poetic about AMD sticking it to the man, and being a champion for reasonable prices)
 
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OFaceSIG

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I am an unabashed bargain shopper, cobbling together my systems from used (usually) parts that are at least one generation old. That being said I always try to buy the top end parts, albeit just a couple of generations behind the current role outs of CPUs. I pretty happy with the last few AMD FM2+ systems I've built (usually 860K and A88 chipset based) that perform really well (on a dollars/performance basis) with a quality board that overclocks well.
#metoo... All the machines in my sig have copious amounts of used parts. The only parts I consistently buy new are power supplies and cases.

I think the sweet spot is actually a bit over $200 for mainstream models. Going south of that often means taking a less premium audio solution or a Realtek network controller. Not everyone cares about those things, but its something to consider.
Few counterpoints for me. I always use a sound card on a build for games. I have never had an issue with throughput on realteks.

AMD isn't some champion of the working class who cares deeply for the plight of the budget gamer. AMD charges as much as Intel (or more) when it believes it can get away with it.
This is 100% true. I waiting for months for the first Athlon dual cores to drop from $1000 to $600 to buy one. AMD will indeed charge whatever it can.
 

Dan_D

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#metoo... All the machines in my sig have copious amounts of used parts. The only parts I consistently buy new are power supplies and cases.



Few counterpoints for me. I always use a sound card on a build for games. I have never had an issue with throughput on realteks.



This is 100% true. I waiting for months for the first Athlon dual cores to drop from $1000 to $600 to buy one. AMD will indeed charge whatever it can.
I test them all the time. The Realtek's usually work, but they are slower than everything else. I don't use audio cards these days. I just use an optical output to a receiver.
 
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