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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [03.07.05]
Manufactured by: Soltek

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Audio Quality

To test audio quality, we used Rightmark Audio Analyzer 5.4. Using the analog output on each integrated controller, and a Philips Ultimate Edge as the input device, on a common host PC. The Ultimate Edge uses a VIA Envy24GT, and a high quality audio codec.

RMAA uses words such as "poor" and "very good" to describe performance. For simplicity, we translated the six possible results to numbers. 1 being "very poor" and 6 being "excellent".

Although the boards we tested with have different audio controllers, the codec chips were the same (Realtek ALC850) so quality results should be very close.

As expected, quality results are the same - they are both quite poor. There is no doubt that if you care at all about audio quality, you will want to buy a soundcard to use on either one of these motherboards (and most motherboards in general, especially those using AC'97 specifications).

3D Audio Performance

Rightmark 3DSound was used to test peak CPU utilization under several scenarios. Both sound controllers peak at 25 buffers, so we only test up to 24. High end cards such as those using VIA's Envy24 or Audigy cards usually support around 60 buffers.

With 16 buffers, the Soltek performs quite well, especially in 2D scenarios.

Crank up the buffers to 24 however, and things are more even. This time, the NF4 sound fares a little better.

Real World Audio Performance

To see how each sound controller affects real world gaming performance, we ran several tests using UT2K4's various audio settings. First a control was run with no sound, then each test was run, using 640x480 and the lowest detail settings. Consider any performance loss to be 'worst case scenario' because nobody would ever play with these settings.

In the end, it's a tie. Again, if you want the best in performance and sound quality, you will definitely want to upgrade to a better soundcard. Of course when paired up with the new Southbridge, the VIA boards should do quite well.

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