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View Full Version : Expansion slots - are they a dying requirement?



trjp
06-03-2013, 03:54 PM
I've been looking for an upgrade for someone today and I noticed that more and more people are plumping for mAtx boards and their scary lack of expansion.

Once upon a time they were the cheap option and avoidable due to their components likely being cheaper but I'm suspecting that's less the case now (tho they are, generally, still a bit cheaper)

I don't need or plan to ever need Crossfire/SLI but I am aware that most GPUs are pretty hefty these days and will overlap everything anyway. My own PC has a PCI slot which is near-useless thanks to my puny 5670's fan overlapping it (you can actually get a card in but I fear little ventilation as a result). There's a shorter (PCI-e?) slot I could use if I were desperate for a soundcard perhaps but that's about it.

Thing is - with decent onboard sound, loads of onboard USBs, onboard Gigbyte network and Wifi etc - does anyone actually USE any of the expansion slots on their boards these days?

Don't really care about the size - the casing it's going into is ATX anyway - but am I right to be less deterred by limited expansion slots than I am by bizarre shit like only offering 2 memory slots??

One board I looked at had 'only' 4 SATA ports - thing is I've never connected more than 4 devices to a board anyway??

Is mATX a useful way of saving a few bob?

Heliocentric
06-03-2013, 04:13 PM
Sound card(low end xfi for eax and to avoid the crackle of the mobo output) , extra usb port card, graphics card.

I nearly got a 'killer' brand network interface card at one point when I was into Planetside (1) and Battlefield 2, but then I got older and slower and the 10ms the windows network stack contributes doesn't seem so much.

Sakkura
06-03-2013, 04:25 PM
Is mATX a useful way of saving a few bob?
Yes. If you don't need the ports, you don't need them. They're not ridiculously expensive, but you can save a bit of money by ditching them. And if you're really not going to be using it, that's money saved for no loss.

Just be aware that high-end mATX boards aren't such a good deal. They tend to cost as much or more than comparable ATX boards, presumably because it's difficult to fit all the VRMs and stuff on a smaller board. Or maybe it's just because they know they've got a crowd who don't mind paying a bit extra to get a smaller computer with the same high-end specs.

soldant
07-03-2013, 04:42 AM
Thing is - with decent onboard sound, loads of onboard USBs, onboard Gigbyte network and Wifi etc - does anyone actually USE any of the expansion slots on their boards these days?
Not really. As you say, most things are on the mobo. The only expansion card I have (save for the GPU of course) is a sound card, because most onboard sound cards aren't all that great. They're a long way from how they used to be, but you can do better without much more expense.

Only thing about mATX apart from what Sakkura said is that some of them are poorly designed and GPUs that take up two slots can either occlude a slot or go so close to it that the slot is absolutely useless. I have an Asus mATX board that suffers from this problem - if I put a card next to the GPU, the cooling assembly practically touches it, making it one big hot spot.

Sakkura
07-03-2013, 07:19 AM
Onboard sound codecs are more than fine as long as you're not doing professional audio work. Especially if you avoid the most low-end codecs around, like Realtek ALC 662.

mashakos
07-03-2013, 11:05 AM
Onboard sound codecs are more than fine as long as you're not doing professional audio work. Especially if you avoid the most low-end codecs around, like Realtek ALC 662.

you don't like dolby surround in games? Since only a few motherboards support surround (in games, not dvd movies) over optical out. It's a crap shoot and has nothing to do with the quality of the board. All the Asus ROG motherboards for example don't support dolby digital live or dts connect (except for that one Maximus Extreme I got a few years back).

Sakkura
07-03-2013, 11:08 AM
you don't like dolby surround in games? Since only a few motherboards support surround (in games, not dvd movies) over optical out. It's a crap shoot and has nothing to do with the quality of the board. All the Asus ROG motherboards for example don't support dolby digital live or dts connect (except for that one Maximus Extreme I got a few years back).
Most people use headsets or stereo speakers.

mashakos
07-03-2013, 11:10 AM
Most people use headsets or stereo speakers.

yeah, but without an expansion slot you would need to get a new motherboard if you move up to a home theater system or THX speakers.

Jesus_Phish
07-03-2013, 11:10 AM
you don't like dolby surround in games? Since only a few motherboards support surround (in games, not dvd movies) over optical out. It's a crap shoot and has nothing to do with the quality of the board. All the Asus ROG motherboards for example don't support dolby digital live or dts connect (except for that one Maximus Extreme I got a few years back).

The last 3 motherboards I've had all support surround sound in games, none of which were anything special.

mashakos
07-03-2013, 11:12 AM
The last 3 motherboards I've had all support surround sound in games, none of which were anything special.

digital surround? I am guessing that you're using analogue speakers with 6 2.5mm jacks.

Jesus_Phish
07-03-2013, 11:16 AM
3 3.5mm jacks although they also had an optical output, I just didn't have the speaker system for it.

mashakos
07-03-2013, 11:23 AM
3 3.5mm jacks although they also had an optical output, I just didn't have the speaker system for it.

ok then, your motherboard doesn't support digital dolby surround in games. Having optical out is not a guarantee that it does, the mobo's audio codecs needs to include ddl and dtsc.

Sakkura
07-03-2013, 11:24 AM
yeah, but without an expansion slot you would need to get a new motherboard if you move up to a home theater system or THX speakers.
Unless you go analog, which will probably be better than digital pretend-surround anyway.

Besides which, this thread is about the people who DON'T NEED an expansion slot, such as people who DON'T NEED digital surround, or any surround. Yes, there are some people who will need this, but there are also people who won't.

mashakos
07-03-2013, 11:29 AM
Unless you go analog, which will probably be better than digital pretend-surround anyway.

pretend-surround is when your motherboard doesn't support digital surround. The board outputs stereo which is then "expanded" by your speaker system into somthing that doesn't sound very good. Dolby's mediocre pretend-surround is called Prologic II.
How about getting a USB 3.0 card or Sata 6G card for an older motherboard? Requiring a motherboard upgrade just for these extra connections is ridiculous.
I'd rather have the slots and not need them than get something without slots. Otherwise I'd just use a laptop.

Jesus_Phish
07-03-2013, 11:46 AM
Mash, what is it with you and not understanding other peoples needs? You know not everyone has to have what you consider the best of the best or minimum requirements of Dolby Digital Ultra Surround Sound?

You can get mATX boards with USB 3.0 and Sata 6g built into them. The OP is talking about buy a new mobo, so if he desires these features he can look for one that has them.

And since USB 3.0 and Sata 6G isn't some kind of bare minimum that you absolutely must have or your pc wont work, you hardly need to upgrade unless you wanted to?

In all my years I've never filled out all the PCI slots I've been given, the most I've ever used is 3, 1 for a network card (had xbox issues and had to route my xbox through my pc to use the internet on it), 1 for graphics and 1 for sound (one of the jacks in the mobo broke). With my current PC I use one PCI slot and I don't see myself using any of the other 5 in the thing. Everything I need is built into the mobo already.

mashakos
07-03-2013, 11:50 AM
Mash, what is it with you and not understanding other peoples needs? You know not everyone has to have what you consider the best of the best or minimum requirements of Dolby Digital Ultra Surround Sound?

You can get mATX boards with USB 3.0 and Sata 6g built into them. The OP is talking about buy a new mobo, so if he desires these features he can look for one that has them.

And since USB 3.0 and Sata 6G isn't some kind of bare minimum that you absolutely must have or your pc wont work, you hardly need to upgrade unless you wanted to?

In all my years I've never filled out all the PCI slots I've been given, the most I've ever used is 3, 1 for a network card (had xbox issues and had to route my xbox through my pc to use the internet on it), 1 for graphics and 1 for sound (one of the jacks in the mobo broke). With my current PC I use one PCI slot and I don't see myself using any of the other 5 in the thing. Everything I need is built into the mobo already.sure, usb 3.0 is built into most motherboards nowadays, but what if you got your motherboard in '09? Upgrade the whole thing? Expansion ports are about flexibility and not what you need right at the moment. New connections are introduced every few years, better to have an option of an add-on card than not.

Jesus_Phish
07-03-2013, 12:01 PM
You can get mATX boards with USB 3.0 and Sata 6g built into them. The OP is talking about buy a new mobo, so if he desires these features he can look for one that has them.

And since USB 3.0 and Sata 6G isn't some kind of bare minimum that you absolutely must have or your pc wont work, you hardly need to upgrade unless you wanted to?


It was 8 years between 2.0 and 3.0 when it comes to USB. SATA is moving a bit faster than that, but it's only going to affect you if you want new hdds.

Most mATX's come with at least 2 if not 3 PCI slots. So there's one for your graphics card and at least one or two more for your other cards, lets say a USB 4.0 because in 2020 you're still using the same computer and you still care about USB. Or a sound card because you want digital surround.

Next you'll mention that that's probably not enough for SLI or Crossfire to which I'll respond that for the user in question they might not want to SLI or Crossfire ever.

mashakos
07-03-2013, 12:11 PM
It was 8 years between 2.0 and 3.0 when it comes to USB. SATA is moving a bit faster than that, but it's only going to affect you if you want new hdds.

Most mATX's come with at least 2 if not 3 PCI slots. So there's one for your graphics card and at least one or two more for your other cards
so, you're saying that expansion slots aren't dead? I'm sure a few people out there are interested in SSDs and want them to run at their highest performance level.

mATX is fine on the expansion slot front, I personally prefer atx because I usually have two cards in addition to the gpu and like them to be spaced out for cooling purposes.


Next you'll mention that that's probably not enough for SLI or Crossfire to which I'll respond that for the user in question they might not want to SLI or Crossfire ever. sli / xfire is a scam.

Jesus_Phish
07-03-2013, 12:16 PM
Nobody is saying their dead. Most of us are saying they aren't a requirement in the way they used to be because motherboards now contain most of what you'll ever need.

Would I buy a mobo with just one pci slot? No. I'd probably set a minimum of two to have one as a backup in case something goes wrong with my sound or network adaptor or I decide that 6 internal HDDS just isn't enough.

Sparkasaurusmex
07-03-2013, 04:10 PM
I'd rather have the slots and not need them than get something without slots.
I agree with this. (weird!)
But yeah, you might never need it if you are only gaming with your PC.

I have one slot filled with a sound card, but I game over HDMI to the TV in stereo or at the desk with 5.1 analog or cans. The mobo supports 5.1 itself, but I had this card prior to getting it, and when I put this build together I got a few points higher in 3Dmark using the soundcard... don't really know if it matters for, especially since I usually use HDMI or USB phones that bypass the soundcard altogether. The HDMI goes to a 2.1 soundbar/woofer and it is sufficient sound for me.

I think even the gpu slot will disappear on a lot of mobos soon. I kind of hope to always have gadgets like video cards to tinker with, though.

I guess another reason for a spare slot is in case some new standard shows up and you don't have the ports...you would probably be able to get a card for it. But yeah, they hardly even use USB 3.0 right? So a new standard port out of the blue probably won't happen for a while.