GEEKNOTE: Back in February, I wrote about Intel’s decision to drop its line of desktop motherboards and use those resources to grow their Next Unit of Computing (NUC) line of micro sized systems. At the time, they indicated that their next generation of desktop motherboards would be the last ones and that we would need to find replacements by 2016. It seems the future came faster than they thought. The Intel mini-ITX motherboards we had standardized on rapidly became impossible to get.
While I like the NUCs and we’ve sold a number of them, there are times when you really do need a conventional desktop system. The NUCs have a limited number of USB ports and drive capacity is both limited and expensive because they use solid state drives rather than conventional rotating platter drives. Conventional systems, including the mini-ITX systems our customers like, are much more expandable.
We checked out both of the motherboard manufacturers that Intel recommended. The two manufacturers being Asus and Gigabyte.
Asus has an excellent reputation in the marketplace and we built several systems using Asus motherboards. They aren’t bad. The particular models we tried were solid performers, if nothing to get excited about.
We also decided to try out the comparable Gigabyte offerings. The one I decided to check out had some interesting features, including built-in WiFi. Okay. I ordered one. When it arrived, I couldn’t believe what I saw. To say that I was blown away would be an understatement.
The attention to detail on these motherboards is absolutely amazing. The board is from their “Ultra Durable” line. The RF shield for the back panel has both a foam backing AND the port names are lithographed in the outside. The layout of components is well thought out and Gigabyte makes a point of the fact that they build the boards with solid Japanese capacitors instead of the less expensive and less durable ones from China and other sources.
The feature set is no less impressive: Built in Wi-Fi and bluetooth support, USB 3.0 support, 6gb SATA, dual gigabyte LAN ports, DVI and dual HDMI video ports and a whole lot more.
In the last month, I’ve built twelve new systems with the Gigabyte motherboards. Built out with dual core i3 processors they are impressive. With i5 quad core processors, they absolutely scream.
I’m less that impressed with Gigabyte’s warranty policy, which doesn’t hold a candle to Intel’s overnight advance replacement policy, but I’m guessing that I won’t be needing to use it very often.
Quality has always been important to us and we back our systems with three year warranties. That is why we use high end components (eg. Western Digital “Black” drives) even when there are less expensive components available. We’ve used Intel motherboards almost exclusively because of their reliability. Based on my assessment, the Gigabyte motherboards are going to be “keepers” and worthy replacements for the no longer available Intel boards.
I’ve been pretty happy with my home PC, but spending time with the latest stuff certainly adds to the temptation to build a new system for myself.
Rob Marlowe, Senior Geek