Booster Boards

Published Date
01 - Nov - 2005
| Last Updated
01 - Nov - 2005
 
Booster Boards
A few months ago, we carried a comparison test of entry-level motherboards, which were meant for the budget-conscious consumer. This time round, we have a line-up of the choicest and best motherboards available in the Indian market-if you're ready to break your budget shackles in order to get the best.

In this comparison test of high-end motherboards, we're talking about top-of-the-line motherboards. Targeted primarily at PC enthusiasts, gamers, graphic designers and those who need to work with high-end applications such as video editing, these motherboards promise you performance to the core. Integrated with technologies such as infrared, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, overclocking features, dual-core processor support and more, these motherboards carry a premium price tag.

The prices seem more justified because of the inclusion of high-end features such as SATA II, SLI, high-end audio, and advanced overclocking features in these motherboards. The inclusion of SATA II will support better storage capacities and performance. SLI dramatically improves graphics perormance, which gamers will love. High-end audio means you can now really use your computer in your home theatre setup. Overclocking, again, is a gamer's delight-PC enthusiasts, too, will be able to play around with systems based on these boards and attain maxed-out performance.

To reiterate, systems in regular offices would not find a use for motherboards of this kind; the market here would be gamers and other enthusiasts. Built to cater to processors from market leaders Intel and AMD, these motherboards are a real joy to work upon.

We received a total of 20 motherboards-from ASUS, DFI, ECS, Foxconn, Gigabyte and MSI. Almost all these boards came with goodies (read lots of cables and accessories) and packed boxes so attractive we wished we could have a separate photo shoot for these! As always, we gauged the motherboards based on features, performance and price, and zeroed in on the best of the best.

The boards were naturally divided into two categories-mobos for AMD and those for Intel. We talk about these in entirely different sections, as is appropriate.

Motherboards (AMD)
In this comparison test, there were eight motherboards that supported AMD processors. Two of them were from ASUS, two were from Gigabyte, two were from MSI, and there was one each from DFI and ECS.

There happen to be four vendors who manufacture chipsets for AMD Athlon64 processors- ATi, nVidia, Via, SiS and ULi.

The various chipsets available for AMD motherboards are ATi's Radeon Xpress 200, nVidia's nForce4 Ultra and nForce4 SLI, SiS' SiS756, Via's K8T890, and ULi's M1573.

Technically speaking, the ATi Radeon Xpress 200 has the highest number of PCI-Express lanes-22-but two of these are utilised to connect the Northbridge with the Southbridge. nVidia and Via have 20 each, while SiS has only 16. This means all chipsets except SiS can support an x16 PCI-Express graphics card in addition to x4 slots.

While SiS756 supports an x16 PCIe graphics card, it has to rely on the Southbridge for additional PCIe slots. A thing worth noting is that of all the chipsets, only the nForce4 is a single-chip implementation, that is, there is no separate Northbridge and Southbridge.

Since the memory controllers for the Athlon64 class of processors reside on the CPU, the Northbridge does not have much to do, and the focus is more on the Southbridge, which has the storage, networking and audio controllers.

The boards we've reviewed are based on the most feature-rich of all the chipsets-the nForce4 Ultra and nForce4 SLI, since the other chipsets, even with the good performance and features they may be offering, are priced lower, and hence are confined to the budget or mid-range segment. The only extra feature the nForce4 SLI has over the nForce4 Ultra is support for two PCIe x16 graphics card in SLI mode.

Features
Like we said, all the motherboards we received were based on either nForce4 Ultra or nForce4 SLI. Hence, every board supported the AMD Athlon64 X2, which was what we used to test the motherboards with.

There is no variation in the type and speed of memory in this segment: the supported memory was DDR 400 MHz. All the motherboards supported SATA II, since the nForce4 chipset supports this standard. Similarly, most of the motherboards supported the SATA hot-plug function, which enables you to remove or plug in a SATA drive without powering off the computer!

The motherboards from DFI and Gigabyte, as well as the ASUS A8N-SLI, all had eight SATA ports, so that up to eight SATA drives can be added to the system. To complement the number of SATA ports, the Gigabyte GA-K8NXP-SLI and the ASUS A8N-SLI came bundled with eight SATA cables.

The MSI K8N SLI Platinum sports an on-board Creative SoundBlaster Live! 24-bit audio solution, which is the best in this class. The DFI LanParty UT NF4 SLI-D features the 'Karajan' module, which is a detachable audio module that isolates audio signals so as to produce the best quality audio. Some cabinets, however, might not be able to accommodate the board with this module.



Dual LAN-a feature likely to appeal to gamers-was available on most of the motherboards. Computers on a LAN can connect to each other via one LAN port, while the other LAN ports are all connected to the Internet. A team of gamers on a LAN can thus play online with gamers around the world!

A Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g card was bundled with the Gigabyte 8S Series GA-K8NXP-SLI to facilitate wireless connectivity with access points at hotspots. A U-Plus DPS (Dual Power System) card was also bundled with this board. This card aids in stability of the system in the face of power fluctuations. It also has LEDs that indicate the power and load status.

The DFI LanParty motherboard had UV reactive slots and round cables. The cables and slots emit a lovely glow when UV light falls on them. This might not be visible if ordinary cabinets are used, but will be very visible if a modded cabinet with transparent panels is used. Of course, you're going to need to buy yourself a UV cold-cathode light for the glow to happen.

The ECS motherboard came with an accessory called Top-Hat flash. If for some reason the BIOS gets corrupted, all you need to do is place the Top-Hat flash tool on top of the BIOS chip, and you'll be able to boot and re-flash the BIOS and restore it. Similarly, Gigabyte, MSI and ASUS have a backup redundant BIOS facility on the motherboard so in case the BIOS gets corrupt, you may still be able to boot and restore the BIOS.

DFI has a unique feature known as CMOS Reloaded, in which you can set, name and save up to four different BIOS settings from within the CMOS setup. Then there is the Genie BIOS, which allows you to overclock to the max. Overclocking was standard on all the motherboards, where CPU core speed and memory voltage, along with HyperTransport Technology speed and DRAM speed, could be tweaked.
How We Tested 
Our benchmarks and tests were chosen after careful consideration so as to stress the boards to the maximum. As many as five test-bench setups had to be used because of the various types of processor sockets available on the motherboards we tested.
Intel motherboard setups featured the Pentium IV 3.6 GHz processor, while AMD motherboard setups featured the Athlon 64 X2 dual-core processor. Other than that, the test setups consisted of Corsair 1 GB DDR 400 MHz RAM or Micron 1 GB DDR2 533 MHz RAM, according to the RAM supported by the motherboard; a 120 GB 7200 rpm SATA Maxtor hard drive; and an XFX nVidia GeForce 7800 GT PCI-Express display card. The systems were powered by Antec Neopower 480 Watts power supply.
Windows XP Pro with SP1 was freshly loaded along with DirectX 9.0c, and the drivers from the driver CDs provided with the motherboards were loaded.
Our tests and benchmarks consisted of the following:
FarCry: This is a Direct3D game that accurately measures the Direct3D gaming subsystem. This game was chosen because it uses a fairly modern graphics engine, especially for rendering water, and represents how most games will play on your system in
the future.
Doom 3: This OpenGL game is used to test the strength of the OpenGL graphics subsystem. We chose this game because it's very heavy on resources.
3DMark05: This is an industry-standard Direct3D synthetic benchmark from FutureMark, and it measures the graphics performance and capabilities of the system. This test gives you an indication about the graphics performance you can expect from the system.
PC Mark 2004: This is another industry-standard benchmark from FutureMark; it measures the CPU, memory, graphics and hard disk performance of the system-and hence is a good system-wide benchmark.
SiSoft Sandra 2005: This consists of benchmark modules that measure CPU, filesystem and memory performance.
Ziff-Davis Business Winstone 2004: This benchmark suite runs various applications such as MS Office 2002's Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook, and other programs such as WinZip, to measure the real-world performance of the system.
Dr. DivX 1.06: This is a video encoding application used to encode DivX video files. A 100 MB DVD file was encoded to DivX, and we noted the time taken to encode.
We ran all the above benchmarks and logged all the scores. After applying the proper weightage to each of the logged scores, the aggregate performance score was calculated. Similarly, the various features of the motherboards, along with their prices, were noted to calculate the features and price scores. These, along with the performance scores, were taken into consideration to decide the winners.

Performance


Gaming
The ECS KN1 Extreme, along with the DFI LanParty, were the best when it came to gaming performance. The other boards, though, were not far behind, and lagged by a maximum of five fps. The above two are the motherboards you might consider grabbing if you're a big-time gamer. The Gigabyte K8 Triton GA-K8N Pro-SLI posted disappointing scores here.

Synthetic benchmarks
In 3DMark05, there was no clear winner as such, because all the motherboards scored almost the same. This test is a general indicator of what kind of a gaming experience you'll get using a PC based on this motherboard.

In this test, the Gigabyte K8 Triton again lagged way behind the others, especially in CPU marks.

In the PCMark 2004 test, the ASUS Proactive A8N-SLI and the Gigabyte 8S Series GA-K8NXP-SLI scored the highest-and almost the same-points, which reflects the fact that these motherboards will give overall better performance in daily use. The Gigabyte K8 Triton's woes continued: it failed to even complete this test after repeated attempts!
SiSoft Sandra 2005 saw the DFI and ECS motherboards score high in the memory benchmark, with the other boards not even coming close. However, in the CPU and file system benchmarks, almost all the boards scored equally.

Real-World Benchmarks
The ASUS A8N-SLI was the fastest in the video file encoding test at 110 seconds, followed by the ECS and the Gigabyte 8S Series at 111 seconds-practically no difference. These three boards are therefore better at utilising the power of the X2 to the maximum, so you can expect better performance in multimedia applications such as video editing programs.

The DFI LanParty UT NF4 SLI-D board performed better than the others in ZDBench Business Winstone 2004, scoring 31.1. Very close on its heels was the Gigabyte 8S Series GA-K8NXP-SLI with 30.9. This indicates that these two boards can rip through daily-use applications such as word processors, spreadsheets, presentations, file compression and anti-virus programs.

Download High-End AMD Motherboards PDF file

The Conclusion (AMD Motherboards)
The ECS KN1 Extreme was the best performer, with high scores in all the benchmarks, and was followed closely by the Gigabyte 8S Series GA-K8NXP-SLI.

With accessories such as the Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g card and the U-Plus DPS power system card, and lots of cables and almost all high-end features to boot, the Gigabyte 8S Series GA-K8NXP-SLI was the clear winner in the features department. The ASUS Proactive A8N-SLI, which also had good features and accessories, came in second.

The DFI LanParty UT NF4 was the highest-priced motherboard at Rs 15,950 which is a bit over the top, because it does not offer enough premium features or performance to justify the price tag. The nForce4 Ultra-based ASUS A8N-E was the lowest-priced-at Rs 6,750-and is actually a good value-for-money board.

After careful consideration (and calculations!), the Gigabyte 8S Series GA-K8NXP-SLI turned out the clear winner of the Digit Best Buy Gold award. The Digit Best Buy Silver was awarded to the ASUS Proactive A8N-SLI: it had good overall feature and performance scores, and a moderate price tag.
Motherboards (Intel)
Twelve motherboards that supported Intel processors were reviewed in this comparison test. Three were from ASUS, there was one each from ECS and Foxconn, two were from Gigabyte, and MSI sent in five boards.

We saw a variety of chipsets in this category. Some had Intel chipsets such as Intel 915G, 915P, 925 XE, 945G and 955X, whereas nVidia's offerings were the nForce4 Ultra and nForce4 SLI.

Over the years, Intel has reigned as the undisputed leader in chipsets for Intel processors, providing the best performance and features, and it has continued to raise the bar with each new chipset beating its predecessor. Some chipset manufacturers-Apollo, for example-have tried to beat Intel chipsets in terms of performance, but none actually did. Until now!

nVidia's nForce4 SLI Intel Edition chipsets offer better performance and features than any of the Intel chipsets out there, and as our benchmarks will show, have finally dethroned the king and have assumed top position amongst chipsets for Intel processors.

Though we did receive motherboards based on the Intel 915 and 925 chipsets, these chipsets are fast aging, and so do not stand anywhere near the newer ones-Intel's 955X, which supports dual-core processors, and the Intel 945.

The above chipsets, along with the nForce4 SLI, support an FSB of 1066 MHz. This FSB is available only with the Extreme Edition type of processors, and will truly harness the high bandwidth of DDR2 memory.
Intel 955X utilises a new standard in its memory controller known as MPT or Memory Pipeline Technology, which uses each memory channel optimally-resulting in a bandwidth higher than that of the 945.

Both chipset makers have come up with their own versions of RAID implementations in the Southbridge. Intel has what it calls Matrix RAID, which can combine RAID 0 and 1 arrays using only two drives. nVidia has nVraid, which, amazingly, is capable of spanning arrays across both ATA and SATA drives. This means, for example, that you can have partitions that span two drives, one of them SATA and the other ATA.

nVidia's hardware-accelerated Gigabit Ethernet controller and firewall are unchallenged by Intel ICH7R, because the latter lacks a network controller.

Support for high-definition sampling rates (24-bit at 196 Kbps) audio is the bone of contention for Intel on the audio front, which nVidia's AC'97 solution is incapable of providing. But neither of these support hardware-accelerated 3D audio.

Download High-End Intel Motherboards PDF File

Features
Dual-core processor support was available in the boards that sported the Intel 945G and 955X and the nVidia nForce4 SLI Intel Edition chipsets. Even if you have only a regular (single-core) processor, a board that supports dual-core should be preferred, keeping upgradeability in mind.

One thing to note here is that nForce4 SLI-based motherboards still do not enjoy full compatibility with dual-core processors from Intel. An example of this is that the Pentium D 820, which is a dual-core processor, runs as a single-core on these boards.

Though all the boards supported DDR2, except for the MSI 915G Neo3-FIR, which supported DDR 400MHz, the speeds varied. Some boards supported DDR2 at 533 MHz, while others supported 667 MHz. The ASUS P5AD2-E Premium supported an odd 711 MHz, while the Gigabyte i-DNA GA-8I955X Royal supported an equally odd 888 MHz.

Higher memory speeds are advantageous when you are into multimedia applications and gaming, where that little extra bandwidth can make a lot of difference.

The motherboards based on Intel 945G and 955X as well as those based on nVidia's nForce4 SLI supported the faster and emerging SATA II standard, while being backward compatible with SATA I drives. The ASUS P5AD2-E Premium, P5ND2-E Deluxe and Foxconn 955X7AA sported eight SATA ports, which allow you to add up to eight SATA devices-which is great from the upgradeability point of view.

The ASUS Proactive P5AD2-E Premium Wireless Edition board had IEEE 802.11g-compliant Wi-Fi on-board, which allows data transmission of up to 54 Mbps. The MSI P4N Diamond goes even further by bundling a Bluetooth and IEEE 802.11g combo PCI card which, if purchased separately, retails at Rs 2,900. If you have a Bluetooth-enabled phone, it is very convenient to transfer files from the phone to the PC. The Gigabyte i-DNA GA-8I955X Royal also shipped with a Bluetooth USB dongle-you just plug in the dongle to a USB port, install the drivers, and your PC is Bluetooth-enabled.

An external SATA port was present on the ASUS P5ND2-SLI Deluxe, known as SATA-On-The-Go, which has hot-plug support. Up to 16 devices can be connected with port multiplier functions.

SPDIF-Out was a feature common on all the boards, with some even providing SPDIF-In and coaxial Out. The Intel 945G-based boards also had integrated Intel graphics, though if you're purchasing this board, you're expected to purchase a separate PCIe graphics card to fully utilise the power of the system.

The Gigabyte i-DNA GA-8I955X Royal came with a U-Plus DPS (Dual Power System), which is a revolutionary circuit built to withstand varying AC power levels for system protection and stability.

Several boards featured excellent audio solutions, one of which was the Intel HDA (high-definition audio), which produces high-fidelity audio output. The MSI P4N Diamond had a hardware Creative SoundBlaster Live! 24-bit chip as the audio solution. (Most onboard sound solutions involve the CPU; this 24-bit chip takes the load off the CPU.) This is no doubt one of the best on-board audio solutions.

The Gigabyte i-DNA GA-8I955X Royal sported dual BIOS, where there's a backup BIOS on the motherboard. If the main BIOS gets corrupted, the backup BIOS takes over and the main BIOS can be flashed to restore it. The MSI motherboards also featured similar functionality. ECS featured Top-Hat Flash. (Refer the AMD section for more on Top-Hat Flash.)

In addition to this, all the boards had overclocking of some sort. MSI featured the 'Cell menu' in the BIOS, while ASUS has'AI overclocking' and 'non-delay overclocking'. In all these cases, there were options to tweak the FSB, memory frequency, timings and CPU core and memory voltages in order to overclock the system.

What Should You Look For In A High-End Motherboard? 
Dual-core processor support: The motherboard must support dual-core processors of the highest speed available at the time of purchase, even if you plan to use a single-core processor. This is to ensure your computer will be future-proof-you will probably move on to a dual-core processor at some point.
High-speed memory support: The motherboard must support dual-channel memory of as high a speed as possible. Currently, motherboards support DDR memory of speeds as high 400 MHz and DDR2 memory of speeds up to 888 MHz, such as the Gigabyte i-DNA GA-8I955X Royal.
Number of SATA ports: A higher number of SATA ports is preferred, especially since a SATA port supports one SATA device- unlike an IDE port, which can support two devices. Generally, four SATA ports are found on most motherboards. Some may come with as many as 10.
SATA II support: The SATA standard, in which the data transfer rate goes up to 150 MBps, is slowly being replaced by SATA II, which boasts if 300 MBps. Motherboards that support SATA II also support the older SATA standard in case you have a SATA drive.
SLI: Even if you have or plan to buy a single PCI-Express graphics card, for future-proofing the graphics capabilities, a motherboard that supports SLI should be preferred. It provides the option to add another PCI-Express card to improve graphics performance in the future, in case a single card is not enough.
FireWire: A FireWire port is used to connect FireWire devices such as DV cams, usually to capture high-resolution digital video.
Dual Gigabit: Dual Gigabit ports allow you to be on two networks at the same time, so you can be connected to the Internet using one of the ports while the other port can be used to connect other computers on a home network or LAN.
Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi offers you the convenience of wireless networking and Internet access.
Bluetooth: Bluetooth is useful in situations such as when you wish to listen to music via your Bluetooth headset or when you want to transfer files between your PC and your Bluetooth mobile phone or PDA.
Overclocking features: A good premium-quality motherboard should come with advanced overclocking features. This is a feature much sought after by hardcore gamers, who would like to squeeze out all that the system is capable of.
Performance

Gaming
In FarCry, while the Gigabyte i-DNA GA-8I955X Royal topped the table with 134.79 fps at 1024 x 768, the MSI P4N SLI topped with 107.47 fps at the higher resolution of 1600 x 1200. Not far behind was the MSI P4N Diamond, which scored 107.25 fps at 1600 x 1200. In the Doom 3 benchmark, the MSI P4N SLI was the top scorer with the P4N Diamond following closely at both resolutions. Hence these are better motherboards for gamers.

Synthetic Benchmarks
In 3DMark05, the MSI P4N SLI was again the top scorer, with 7037 marks-so, along with gaming, this board is good for multimedia applications such as Maya and 3D Studio Max.

PCMark 2004 is a system-wide test. The top scorer here was yet again the MSI P4N SLI, again closely followed by the MSI P4N Diamond. In almost all the sub-tests here, the P4N SLI fared well, and so can be considered a board around which a system with good overall performance can be built.

In SiSoft Sandra 2005, the memory bandwidth scores were almost the same for most of the boards, and so there was no clear winner. In the CPU benchmarks, the ASUS P5AD2-E Premium, Gigabyte i-DNA GA-8I945G Pro and MSI P4N SLI were the better performers, and there wasn't much difference between these three.

Real-World benchmarks
In video encoding, again, there wasn't much difference between the boards. The encoding time ranged from 118 to 121 seconds, which is not sufficient to make a decision about which board is better. Hence, for video encoding applications, any of these boards would be as good as the other.

In the ZDBench Business Winstone 2004 test, the ASUS P5ND2-SLI Deluxe scored 26.6, followed very closely by the MSI P4N SLI with 26.3. Since this is a real-world test-it reflects real-world performance-the high-scoring motherboards are the ones which will perform better in office and similar applications.

The Conclusion (Intel Motherboards)
When we're talking about features, the MSI P4N Diamond was the best, with nice bundled accessories such as the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi combo card and the on-board Creative SoundBlaster Live! 24-bit sound chip. Also good on the features front was the ASUS Proactive P5ND2-SLI Deluxe, which bundled some good accessories and an external SATA port.

Performance-wise, the ASUS P5ND2-SLI Deluxe, Gigabyte GA-8I955X, MSI P4N Diamond and MSI P4N SLI were almost neck-and-neck. But the Gigabyte GA-8I955X was the highest-priced motherboard at Rs 17,950, and the MSI P4N Diamond is at Rs 17,500. The ASUS P5LD2-VM was the least expensive at Rs 7,200, but this board was also the one with the lowest feature points.

We took features, performance and price into account, as always, and the Digit Best Buy Gold winner was the MSI P4N Diamond.

Deciding the Silver winner was a problem because two boards scored almost the same in the final tally. So a tie it was to be, and the Digit Best Buy Silver goes jointly to the ASUS Proactive P5ND2-SLI Deluxe and the MSI P4N SLI.

The Overall Conclusion
A motherboard is as important a component of a computer as the CPU, and is a major contributing factor to the general performance and features you can access on a PC. After all, it is the mother-board.

We tested twenty high-end, cutting-edge motherboards on which you can really enjoy gaming as well as entertainment, and on which you get rich high- definition audio. These boards are all made to perfectly compl ment high-end processors such as dual-cores, and high-end peripherals such as PCIe grap ics cards, low-latency RAM and high-speed SATA II hard drives–delivering the best performance any enthusiast could hope for.

Some motherboards such as the DFI LanParty are specifically targeted at, as the name suggests, avid gamers. If you're wondering, a LAN party is when a group of gamers come together–usually over the weekend–with their gaming rigs which they hook up to a LAN, and play as long as they possibly can. Because it is a party, (junk) food and drink is always involved, along with lots of multiplayer games.

Several of the boards we've tested featured nVidia's SLI interface, which is sure to become the norm of the future. Similarly, ATi's CrossFire (which is similar to nVidia's SLI, but which is more flexible and which supports only ATi's PCIe graphics cards) is expected to arrive soon, and time will tell whether SLI and CrossFire will happily coexist–or whether there will be an all-out battle.

Jargon Buster
The BIOS: The Basic Input-Output System is a program located on the CMOS chip on the motherboard. The BIOS controls the primary functions of the hardware and facilitates low-level communication between the OS and the hardware. The BIOS can be upgraded to provide additional functionality.
Bluetooth: A wireless radio standard, primarily developed for lower power consumption. It has a short range of
10 cm, 10 m, 100 m or 400 m, depending on the power class. It has certain advantages over prevailing radio standards: Bluetooth-enabled devices can communicate with each other even if they are of different types-for example, MP3 players, mobile phones, laptops, headsets, printers, and more.
DDR RAM: Double Data Rate SD RAM is a type of memory that handles data at twice the speed of the older SD RAM. DDR SD RAM typically operates at 266 MHz, 333 MHz or 400 MHz effective speeds, while the actual speeds are 133, 166 and 200 MHz respectively.
DDR2 RAM: Double Data Rate 2 RAM is a memory type based on chips designed to run at speeds higher than that of DDR RAM, such as 533MHz and 667 MHz.
Few motherboards support DDR2 RAM right now.
Dual-Channel: When two RAM modules are plugged into two slots marked for two different memory channels, then, theoretically, the data flows at twice the normal rate through the RAM. This is known as a dual-channel memory configuration.
FSB: The Front Side Bus speed is the speed at which the different components of the computer speak to the CPU. The CPU's FSB is the most important, and changing it can dramatically affect the overall performance of the computer.
IDE: Integrated Drive Electronics is a standard interface for hard drives, optical drives and other physical storage devices. It is also known as ATA, which stands for Advanced Technology Attachment, and Parallel ATA. Various types are ATA33, ATA66, ATA100 and ATA133, based on transfer speeds. It uses a 40-pin connector cable that may consist of 40 or 80 conductors.
JBOD: Just a Bunch Of  Disks is a disk configuration which, in the true sense, is not RAID at all. When two or more hard drives are in JBOD configuration, the entire space of all the disks can be combined into a single volume, or can be split into separate logical volumes. This does not provide fault tolerance, but there are certain advantages, such as no wastage of drive space and easier disaster recovery.
Matrix RAID: A technology developed by Intel, it achieves what RAID 0 and 1 achieve, using only two hard drives. It does so by creating two separate volumes in an array of two hard disks. It enables you to separate a two-disk array into two volumes, as if there were two separate sets of hard disks.
Multiplier: This is a number for a CPU that determines how fast the CPU operates. The CPU speed equals the FSB multiplied by the multiplier.
Northbridge: A chip on the motherboard that controls the FSB and memory. This is the largest chip on the motherboard and is normally covered by a heat sink, and sometimes actively cooled by a fan.
PCI: Peripheral Component Interconnect is a standard used on all current- generation motherboards and expansion cards used to connect the two devices. The data transfer rate of PCI bus can be up to 133 MBps.
PCI-Express (PCIe): Peripheral Component Interconnect Express is a new PCI standard that can transfer data at speeds equivalent to AGP 16x, which is roughly 4.3 GB/s.
RAID: Redundant Array of Independent Disks is a software or hardware configuration that employs two or more drives in combination for fault tolerance and performance. RAID 0, 1 and 0 1 are the commonly used types.
RAID 0: This involves only striping, and there is no data redundancy. It has the best performance but no fault tolerance. (Striping is a technique in which the drive's storage space is partitioned into units ranging from 512 bytes to several megabytes.) The stripes are interleaved and addressed in order.   
RAID 1: This type of RAID implementation is also known as disk mirroring, which involves at least two drives to duplicate data. Striping is not involved here. This offers the best ratio of performance to fault tolerance.
RAID 0 1: This combines the best features of RAID 0 and 1. In this type of RAID, two pairs of striped drives are mirrored together to provide fault tolerance. Thus, it requires four hard drives to implement.
SATA: Also abbreviated as S-ATA, is short for Serial ATA, which is an interface for physical storage devices such as hard drives. It is a serial link and consists of a single cable with a minimum of four wires creating a point-to-point connection between devices. The transfer rates for SATA begin at 150 MBps, and for SATA II it is 300 MBps.
SLI: Short for Scalable Link Interface, which is a graphics standard in which the motherboard has two PCIe graphics slots so that two cards can be plugged in simultaneously and connected via a bridge. This setup offers a huge performance leap in graphics applications such as gaming.
Southbridge: This is a chip on the motherboard that controls all the onboard devices including the IDE bus and the PCI bus. This is the second-largest chip on the motherboard, and is sometimes covered by a heat sink.
Wi-Fi: An abbreviation for Wireless Fidelity, Wi-Fi is a wireless radio standard that was developed for communication between mobile devices such as laptops, PDAs, and LANs, but is now even being used in desktop computers.


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