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  • A Guru's World #4 - Swiss Army Motherboard...Or Are You Good?
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    I recently bought an RC car from an auctioneer at eBay.

    I thought I knew what I was getting because the description was pretty thorough and there was a picture of "a" car. The car was a Team Associated RC10 B3. These cars come in three varieties: Basic, Sport and Team. The Basic is… well… basic. The Sport includes a motor and a speed controller and the Team replaces all of the bushings with bearings.

    On the side of the box, all three models are shown. In the auction that I bid on, the picture of the car on the auction was that side of the box zoomed in on the Sport model. I found out, after the auction, that the seller chose to do this because the model he was selling was a Basic with a "bonus" motor and the depiction of the Sport showed that car with a motor whereas the depiction of the Basic on that box showed no motor. I guess he didn't count on the winning bidder knowing the difference between a Basic with a motor and a Sport model. I knew, and I wanted my damn speed controller. Sure, it's a petty little thing. But it was the principle of the matter. He showed a picture of a Sport in the auction. That's that.

    I emailed the seller a couple of times asking for my speed controller and was basically told that despite no speed controller, I got a good deal. Take it or leave it. Well, I did get a good deal, but I was still pissed.

    I learned to live with my purchase because I bought it from eBay and I'm an adult and should be held responsible for my buying decisions. I should hold myself responsible for buying product from an individual who is NOT a professional reseller, who does NOT have a storefront and who has to resort to selling things to people on eBay that cannot see or touch the product. Oh well. C'est la vie! Leave negative feedback and move on.

    As a computer technician surfing eBay, however, I can't help but feel that a good number of people are being SCAMMED by certain eBay vendors because of a particular assembly of machine that quite a few of them are selling. There's nothing I can do about it and the poor suckers that are buying these machines simply don't know any better until they try to install a video card or upgrade the sound card. Why is there a problem? They're using PC Chips fully integrated motherboards or as we call them, Swiss Army motherboards.

    PC Chips is likely the largest manufacturer of fully integrated motherboards. It seems to be ALL that they manufacturer. Now, I don't HATE PC Chips. They aren't the best quality motherboard, but the RMA rate on their product is really not that high considering you can buy a motherboard with 1 MB of cache (in the case of a Socket Seven board), on board video, sound, modem and NIC for $75. The RMA rate on these boards is higher than others, but if you take into consideration that the average RMA on any given brand motherboard may be 4%, sound card may be 2%, video card may be another 2%, NIC may be 1% and modem may be 1%; you'll find that those numbers could account for an overall RMA rate of 10%. Fact is, the RMA rate is half of that. Certainly the RETURN RATE is three times that number, but two thirds of those boards are returned for driver issues (easily fixed but customer has no inclination) or user error (easily fixed but customer has no brain). Not too shabby, overall.

    Despite my obvious "support" for the PC Chips line of motherboards, I have to get on my little SystemLogic podium and declare that people using these boards in machines that are sold over the Internet and are not being sold as being encased motherboards that have ALL of their components fully integrated, are misleading! Even the software bundled with the motherboard (currently PC Chips includes Word Perfect and GAMUT with their boards) are often being used as selling points as if the customer is getting a CD for each program as bundled by the seller when in actuality, the "bundled software" is actually on the CD with the motherboard's divers!

    Having a motherboard with a bunch of stuff integrated on it is not necessarily a great idea. Let's break it down:

  • Modem: Well, modems aren't getting much faster than 56K and if you're ISP allows multiple logins, then a "Shotgun" type of modem can improve on that, are easily installed, and don't care about WHAT the currently installed modem is, so we're cool there. Modem dies. Chuck the board? Hopefully that lightning strike doesn't make it past the riser card!
  • LAN: It's a NIC. If there's ONE generic component in my own machine, it's the NIC. No biggie. I think we're OK here too. Unless of course the LAN dies, but that's not very likely.
  • Sound: Hmm…. No surround sound, limited wave table, 3D sucks. Could use some improvement in a few other areas. Upgrade? Sure. Disable the onboard sound, but sometimes the on board modem counts on that sound card to be present to work. Install both sound cards? Hmm…. Have enough resources to go around? Not a huge deal, but kind of a pain.
  • Video: Here's the one that really spikes my punch. It's advertised as AGP. Well, it is AGP. But, you're not getting an AGP slot TOO. You're video RAM is typically limited to 8MB (shared from system RAM) and the 3D is not that great. Want to upgrade? Ha ha! How? A decent PCI video card? Even the best PCI video card is not going to cut it. You're screwed.
  • Essentially what it boils down to is that you better like what you get right off the bat because you are not going to be able to upgrade this thing much and on the off chance that one of these on board components fail, you're pulling that whole board!

    For almost any "web surfer" or "office user", the fully integrated PC is not such a bad idea and can prove to be quite useful for two or three years and the odds are against any kind of failure coming about. They are still more upgradeable than the equally as integrated Compaq, HPs and Packard Bells that are out there that are not only full integrated, but are also so proprietary in the way their motherboards fit their cases.

    So, my issue is not with people knowingly using PC Chips boards. It is with these guys that sell these things on eBay for $500 as PCs with AGP, sound, modem, LAN and bundled software like Word Perfect, without EVER disclosing that the unit uses a fully integrated motherboard. Not disclosing this information is just plain WRONG in my opinion.

    Showing me a picture of an RC 10 B3 Sport because it's picture more closely represents the Basic with bonus motor than the picture that Team Associated uses to represent the RC 10 B3 Basic is WRONG.

    Withholding important information from the customer is misleading the customer, no matter what your perogative is.

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    Author: JonnyGURU
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