From being a relatively low-profile component resting inside a PC, the motherboard has emerged as a leading element when deciding the configuration of a PC. Whether you want a PC for entry-level work, or need the latest and the greatest one for graphics-intensive work, the motherboard decides your PC’s capabilities. There are a lot of motherboard brands in the race to enter your PC. To help you decide which one to bet on, we raced 27 different motherboards against our benchmarks. They were divided into two categories based on their capabilities. So, we had a category each for boards with onboard graphics and external graphics capabilities. The second category was sub divided to include boards for the PIII and Athlon. Read the pages that follow to see which motherboard should race in your PC.
Anil Chopra, Ashish Sharma, Neelima Vaid, Sachin Makhija, and Sanjay Majumder at PCQ Labs
Motherboards with onboard graphics
PIII-based motherboards with external graphics
Athlon-based motherboards with external graphics
Entry - level Boards
Motherboards with onboard graphics
Covering motherboards with an external AGP slot
Though the Asus A7V and A7Pro scored over the Azza KT133TX in performance and features, they lost out because of their high price.
Two Socket 7 motherboards, which were not part of the shootout
A fully-configurable, application-centric and tiny distribution
muLinux installs on the Windows or DOS partition and requires a minimum of a 386 processor with 8 MB of RAM. It bundles many packages including those for console, networking, and X-Window.
Let’s get straight into setting it up. Copy the directory mulinux from the /os directory on the CD to C:\\. Unzip ‘DOS TOOLS.ZIP’ in the same directory. Now restart the computer in full DOS mode. Change to the directory C:\\MULINUX and type ‘INSTALL’. In the first screen, select the second option, which would install muLinux in the directory C:\\LINUX. The compressed archive is uncompressed and then the system reboots. After the reboot, go to full-DOS by using the F8 key. Change to the directory C:\\LINUX and type ‘LINUX’. This will start up an interactive setup where you’ll go through a massive (but very helpful because the configuration files need not be edited later) question and answer session that covers the entire range from setting up your keyboard to setting up networking.
You are asked to create a swap space, which can be skipped if you have enough RAM say more than 128 MB. Otherwise leave swap file name as /SWAP/LINUX.SWP. The swap file size can be selected to 64 MB.
You are asked to configure keyboard and also some add-ons including X-Windows. Select Skip when you are asked to upgrade, as these add-ons have already been setup. Specify the serial and parallel ports to which your mouse, modem, and printer are connected. Remember ttys0 is COM1 and lp0 is LPT1. Let mouse protocol be the default.
For networking, you are asked for the model of your Ethernet card and only six network card models of EtherLink, Intel, RealTek, and AMD are supported. Then though a series of questions, which are well explained, you can configure your network, NFS services for Linux—Linux sharing and SAMBA for Windows-Linux sharing. If you choose to have PPP support, you can configure your dial-up connection. Subsequently you can configure Fetchmail for retrieving mail from a POP3 account. muLinux auto detects your IDE CD-ROM drive. Finally you can decide what daemons or background processes you need to run at startup.
You are now given the login prompt. Login, start up X-Windows using the startx command and you are ready to swing!
FreeDOS BETA5 ("LARA")
Full distributionIf you are a DOS lover, you’ll love this
This is a free and fully MS-DOS compatible OS. System requirements are minimal and it installs on a x486 with as little as 8 MB RAM.
The distribution on the CD has zipped files and you need ‘UNZIP’ (included) to extract the installation disks. Keep a pack of formatted 3½" floppies at hand. Through the DOS prompt, Unzip ‘BASE1. ZIP’ using the command UNZIP BASE1. ZIP –d A: (note the lowercase -d). This is the only floppy you need for the Mini FreeDOS distribution. For the full version, repeat the unzip process with rest of the install disks. Now you need to install the Boot floppy image. Use ‘RAWRITE’ (included in the package). Run RAWRITE from DOS prompt, read the .BIN image file (MINI.BIN for Mini version and FULL.BIN for Full version) and write to a preformatted floppy in A: drive. Now you are ready to install FreeDOS.
Reboot and start your PC with the boot floppy you created. You are left at the DOS prompt. You can install FreeDOS in a folder in the existing partition or work purely on FreeDOS. Use FDISK and FOR MAT at the prompt in the latter case. Then run INSTALL at the prompt. Give the location from where you’ll install as A: and the destination can be C:\\FDOS. Pop in the install floppies you created one after the other. The process is a bit slow due to slow FDD access. Alternatively you can install from the hard disk directly. Note, however, that in this case you’ll have to unzip all the install floppies in one single directory say C:\\FDINSTALL and give the source path accordingly after booting up.
The package also includes the Seal GUI for FreeDOS.
A small, free UNIX clone for those who want to peep into Unix
Unlike Linux which requires at least a 386 processor to run, Minix can be run even on an 8088 or 80286. Basic memory requirements are as low as 3 MB.
On our CD we have the 386 precompiled binaries (i386.tar). The procedure for Minix installation is outlined in readme.txt and install.txt. Unzip the i386.tar using Winzip to get the three files Root, Usr, and Usr.taz. Then you create the Minix bootable floppies using FDVOL utility. This is also included on the CD. These floppies are then used to boot the machine and install the OS. We have also included zipped files for the compiler, debugger, networking utilities, etc, in the package. DOSUTILS come in handy to prepare your hard disk for the installation.
Shekhar Govindarajan and Ashish Sharma