Articles: Mainboards

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Integrated solutions are historically considered to be a forced step. For example, if you wanted sound on your PC but had no money for an external add-on sound card. Such unwelcome attitude towards them has quite weighty reasons: the production technologies were less advanced, and the companies had to save on transistors, i.e. actually on quality and features, to make integrated solutions cheaper (otherwise they would make no sense). Besides, some time ago the demand for such solutions wasn’t great: large companies which were the main customers of PC makers didn’t save on PCs and purchased them with external graphics and sound cards. Home PCs were bought mostly by computer fans who were ready to pay through the nose for an aggregation of metal, plastic and silicon.

Soon, however, it occurred to large corporations that it would be a good idea to save on PCs; computers were getting closer to ordinary consumer equipment, and people who would like to save on it were getting more numerous, especially because computers were primarily used as a typewriter. First integrated solutions made their way to the market in mid 90s of the last century. Companies producing mainboards mounted graphics chips right on the boards to cut down the overall production cost. A bit later mainboards were also bundled with sound chips, although their quality and functions were somewhat worse than those of discrete solutions, that was enough for undemanding users. The production technologies kept developing, and soon it became possible to integrate more functions into chipsets or chips mounted on mainboards, so that users could do without external add-on video or sound cards.

Audio codecs were more aggressively entering the market and succeeded in replacing add-on solutions in undemanding users’ computers. As for me, I feel OK with an integrated sound solution because I’m not a great fan of music and I don’t have high-quality audio equipment at home. MP3 files are played fairly well, and there is nothing more I need. As far as I understand, this is a very popular standpoint. Office PCs do not need add-on sound cards at all. At the same time, integrated or simply low-cost sound solutions are almost never installed in serious gaming PCs.

Integrated video cores had a more thorny way. Video is more complicated to output onto the monitor than sound; production of video cores needs more transistors, and it’s more difficult to house them within a chipset North Bridge. That is why the first experiments in this sphere weren’t that successful. Take for example, Intel 810 chipset. We can’t say that the graphics quality provided by i810 chipset was good; it was simply impossible to play any games. But the chipset gained some popularity with corporate users thanks to its attractive price. Then there was i815. It had the same core but it was generally improved and it supported external graphics cards, that is why customers could decided on them with an eye to future acquisition of external graphics cards. The following chipset i845G offered decent graphics quality and it was in much greater demand among corporate users. Computers based on the i845G and the Celeron were pretty inexpensive, and an external graphics card was also supported.

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