Business apps, games, Internet applications; none of them care much about RAM speed. In their basic specifications, these two boards are similar. As well as plain bass and treble adjust, there are karaoke features – three reverb modes, a vocal deleter that does the job without totally submerging the tune in funny underwater distortion effects, and also up to four tones of pitch shift, up or down. It’s roughly as fast as a MHz Celeron – the slowest one commonly available nowadays – and it’s likely to lose by a significant margin to a cheaper MHz Duron. They deliver impressive raw-memory-bandwidth speed increases, pretty much right in line with the RAM bus speed.

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So I fired up Q2 in byno sound, and had at the industry standard Demo2, Massive1 and Crusher demos. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the thing that looks like a sixth PCI slot at the end of the board, but is out of step with the others and the wrong way around, is actually an Audio Communication Riser ACR slot, which is one of those things that only computer assembly companies need worry about.

Fast RAM can help noticeably for games, but most of the RAM-flogging that happens while you’re playing a 3D game is on your graphics card, not on the computer’s main memory. But it’s perfectly adequate for comparison purposes. Why the huge price difference? The Asus board’s thoroughly unremarkable header block, and pair of extra USB port headers they’re the white ones. It all pretty much costs the same for a given capacity. Unfortunately, it’s one of those annoying boards that puts one retaining clip of the slot nearest the CPU slightly too close to the AGP slot, which can make it hard to do anything with that RAM slot without removing the video card.


But then you’ve spent money on video hardware you don’t need. The floppy connector’s down past the BIOS chip. It runs a low-resolution version of the two 3D game tests that 3DMark uses, seeing how fast a system can crank through them. Each of the Asus board’s memory slots can accept a one gigabyte DDR memory module. You can change FSB and voltages using jumpers and DIP switches, as well, but you get access to more settings by using the default “jumperless” mode.

You can also change the CPU core voltage; again, you have to use manual jumpers to do it.


Overclocking If you want to run your CPU faster than stock, both of these boards can do it, but the Asus is better. It’s pretty much exactly as useless as ACR, from the retail buyer’s point of view. First up, that mainstay of scientific computing, Quake 2. When Australian DDR memory costs the same as SDR – or near enough as makes no difference – then these boards will be a p6iss-ii choice; if the CUV is available then without its pricey RAM, or just at a more sensible price, then it’ll be a sensible option.

By almost eight per cent. In software mode, everything you see on the screen is p6isa-il there by the CPU, flogging away at main memory and using the graphics card as nothing but a dumb frame buffer. Well, a P-III with double speed memory looks like a good idea, doesn’t it?

The CUV This is a funny lookin’ motherboard. But the test results are far from uncoloured by the rest of the system, unlike those from pure CPU benchmarks.

Asus’ page for the CUV You can push past MHz with an overclock-friendly motherboard and a processor that happens to have some speed headroom, and you can crank up the RAM speed to match.


But it doesn’t matter what kind of memory the Pro boards use. Business apps, games, Internet applications; none of them care much about RAM ece. If you’re not a 3D game enthusiast then the standard adapter is likely to be fine, and EP boards also come with a normal AGP slot so you can install your own graphics card if you like.

I ran a couple of benchmarks on the two boards myself, to see if I could find something the Tom’s Hardware reviewers missed. The audio hardware on the P6IPA is almost completely unremarkable – it gets the job done, and it’s all most people are likely to need.

ECS P6ISA-II(V1.1) instruction manual and user guide

A stunning advance in PC sound this is not, but better than the usual pack-in utilities it is. If you’re reading p6isa-i some time after I wrote it then you’ll no doubt be laughing now at how much memory used to cost, as you peel the free Mb PC module off the front of your favourite computer magazine and fling it into the wastepaper basket.

In case you haven’t been paying attention to RAM prices lately – yes, you read that right. Quantity of RAM certainly matters; you need enough memory to stop your operating system, or any heavyweight applications you run, from having to pound away at hard disk virtual memory. Even if you go for a more expensive EP board like the Black Pearl, you’re still only paying two thirds as much as the DDR board costs.