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AMD AM4 Ryzen Motherboard Buyer's Guide

By: Steven Bassiri | Guides | Posted: Jul 3, 2017 12:50 pm

Network Considerations


The AMD chipset provides x8 PCI-E 2.0 lanes on X370 and x6 PCI-E 2.0 on B350. Networking requires a standalone controller, and on the AM4 platform, we have seen a broad range of controllers.




The Aquantia AQC108 is found on one X370 motherboard, but we could see it on others in the future. It supports 5Gbit, 2.5Gbit, 1Gbit, and 100Mbit speeds, which means it goes above almost all other NICs we find on X370 motherboards. It uses many PCI-E lanes, so that should be taken into consideration, and not many routers support NBase-T as of yet. Just like in the rest of this guide, I will show off all your options, but I do tend to start with the best.





Next up we have Intel's i211AT (1Gbit), which is one of Intel's more recent consumer standalone NICs (more recent than i210AT). Killer's e2500 (1Gbit) can be seen on the right. It succeeds the e2100 and e2400 and is one of the latest in Killer's lineup. Killer is owned by Qualcomm, so it's essentially a Qualcomm Atheros NIC rebranded/repackaged for gamers.




Next up we have two Realtek NICs (RTL8118 and RTL8111), both are Gbit NICs like the Intel and Killer. We find these on less expensive motherboards, but they aren't bad options these days since 1Gbit is everywhere. Producing a decent 1Gbit NIC isn't rocket-science, as 1Gbit has become pretty commonplace and performance on wired NICs is quite similar no matter the brand when it comes to raw throughput.


Audio Considerations


Motherboards have come a long way when it comes to improving audio, but there is a diverse marketplace when it comes to motherboard audio. The chipset they use is a codec that changes the digital audio signals from the built-in audio processor (inside the SoC) to analog ones and then outputs it through the rear IO and internal HD audio header.




What I would consider basic would be the Realtek ALC892 audio chipset. I have seen the ALC892, ALC1150, and the ALC1220 Realtek audio chipsets on X370 and B350 motherboards. These codec's sound quality increases with the model number. The ALC892 offers 95dB SNR while the ALC1150 offers 115dB (requires a differential on the output, like an amplifier), and the ALC1220 offers 120dB SNR with a single integrated headphone amplifier. As you can see above in both pictures, vendors add in audio capacitors and a physical PCB divide. The circuit on the right also uses a sense amplifier to help amplify the output.




We also get some really interesting designs. The ALC1220 is used in the circuit on the left under an EMI shield. That vendor also decided to add in a secondary ESS Sabre DAC, some audio capacitors, and another amplifier to spice things up. The vendor who implemented the circuit on the right uses two ALC1220 codecs, one for the rear IO and one for the front headers so that both the front and rear get an amplified 120dB output.

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