Computers are taken so much for granted in the last couple of decades that even engineers occasionally fail to appreciate the factors that affect its product design. This interview should give you some insight into how motherboards and graphics cards are designed.
Jackson Hsu, product management director, GIGABYTE Technology Co., Ltd speaks with Dilin Anand from EFY.
Q. What are the design elements used to improve performance in a overclocked enthusiast motherboard?
A. Engineers have been using glass fabric printed circuit board (PCB) to help protect against electrical shorts due to humidity. It works by reducing the gaps in spacing between PCB filaments. They also use “2x Copper” PCBs in their designs. These provide sufficient power trace paths between components to handle greater than normal power loads and to remove heat from the critical CPU power delivery area. This is essential to ensure the motherboard is able to handle the increased power loading that is necessary when overclocking. All Digital Power delivery is another improvement where digital controllers offer better precision in delivering power to the motherboard’s most power hungry and energy-sensitive components, allowing users to get the absolute maximum performance from their CPU. You may also see additional CPU fan pin headers located in various locations on the motherboard to connect a water pump and configured for continuous full speed operation.
Q. What are the design improvements that have been made to improve motherboard reliability?
A. Motherboards integrate the best quality solid state capacitors (we use Long Lifespan Durable Black™ Solid Capacitors) that are rated to perform at maximum efficiency for a guaranteed minimum of 10K hours and provide ultra-low ESR no matter how high the CPU loading. They come in customised jet black from Nippon Chemi-Con and Nichicon. 6x (30μ) Gold plated CPU sockets are also used to improve the longevity for the CPU socket overtime, without having any concerns about corroded pins and bad contacts. The thickness here is 15 times more plating than the industry standard.
Q. How do you improve ESD protection in modern motherboards?
A. High Resistance integrated circuits (ICs) help to protect the motherboard against electrostatic discharge. Moreover, each local area network (LAN) and universal serial bus (USB) port is paired with a dedicated protection filter that can withstand high electrostatic discharges, protecting your system from common electrical surges and even direct lighting strikes.
Q. What are the top three things a design engineer should know about designing graphics cards using GPUs?
A. It has been always a challenge to balance the heat dissipation, temperature and performance. That’s why we put so much effort on this part. TGP (Total Graphics Power) refers to the maximum amount of power that a graphics card can supply, which is the most significant element when designing a printed circuit board (PCB). Its design can affect the efficiency of dissipation, thus the clock performance. Balancing the system around the noise is another important yet complex design element. Creating the best solution with a balance of noise, temperature and performance requires thorough evaluation of the demands of end users to provide the best solution.
Q. What would be your advice for someone trying to balance noise and temperature on a card that they have tried to build?
A. Try to get the balance between noise and temperature without sacrificing the graphics card performance is the most difficult task. As mentioned in the previous question, we know that the performance, total graphics power (TGP) and GPU temperature are very high related. In order to provide the best performance to the end users, we provide high performance cooling solutions. Powerful cooling capacity lets GPUs maintain a low operating temperature with lower acoustics when the fan spins, and without sacrificing the performance. And we believe this is what user wants in real life.
Q. Over the last five years, what are the biggest technological shifts that have helped drive card performance forward?
A. In order to ensure that only the best chips are used for those aimed at overclockers, stringent graphics processing unit (GPU) Gaunlet Sorting ensures that only the strongest GPU surviving these tests are qualified for the G1 Gaming graphics cards for maximum overclocking capability. This reduced the chances of failures in GPUs under the stress of heavy computing requirements. The thermal design is yet another important technology that differentiates high performance graphics cards from the rest. To qualify for a high performance line, a cooling solution must be equipped with anti-turbulence inclined fans/fins, ultra-quiet pulse width modulation (PWM) fan and pure copper heat pipe. Inclined fins help to reduce excessive heat and turbulence. There are also systems
Q. What are the things to be taken care while overclocking a graphics card?
A. Overclocking could easily reduce the product lifecycle. Therefore, the quality of product (the material and components) will be extreme critical for overclockers. For high-end series graphics cards, we use UDV material to ensure the quality and durability. So overclockers and gamers can enjoy their games.
Q. For the hardcore builder, what tools would you recommend for temperature and acoustic measurement?
A. For the temperature measurement, builder can use GPU-Z, or they can check it with GIGABYTE OC GURU software easily. For the acoustic part, the best way is to build an anechoic chamber with professional device; however, it’s quite difficult to create such condition in real life. From what we heard, users can now simply download some specific apps on mobile devices and do the measurement. Nevertheless, please note that the environmental/background noise might be included, and the actual numbers might be different from the official numbers.