Last updated: January 2017
Well, here's one article that was just waiting to happen. I was responding to someone on Overclock.net about one of the many annoying things I've discovered about hardware, which is when hardware manufacturers gimp their hardware. They leave a trace of what could have been there, if only you had given more of the thing many people don't have enough of, while others have too much and still think that they don't have enough of; money.
"What the heck is that?", you may ask. Well, just to be sure you know what you're looking at, these are the expansion slots on an old Compaq pre-built PC's motherboard. As you can see, there are three white PCI slots...and one odd-looking area with a bunch of silver-colored dots all over it. Well, that's solder points for an AGP slot!
Do you know what this means? This means that this motherboard was actually built on a template, where either an AGP slot could be placed, or not. In other words, they left a nice little blank area to stare and laugh at you for not giving the manufacturer enough money! Let's have a story.
Hello! My name is Derp Y. Spider, and I've got a computer I bought at Best Buy a while back. It seemed rather expensive, but I finally had what I wanted: a computer! The only problem is, I wanted to play games on it, and it's kind of slow for that. I read on the Internet how to upgrade your PC, and I found a video explaining how to upgrade the video card! That is what I need in order to play games better! I went to Best Buy and bought a nice new and shiny ATI Radeon 9600! Now, let's see here...where do I put it? I looked in the case, and all I saw were three white slots. The video I saw showed a brown slot! Where is it?
Although something like it probably happened, this is not a real story.
Well, Mr. Spider, I'm sorry to tell you this, but you've been ripped off. The PC you bought was classified as a "low-budget" model, despite being pricey as you say. The first thing you're going to have to do is get a refund on that video card because it isn't going to work with your system. After you're done fighting with
Worst Best Buy, you're going to have to look around on NewEgg for a PCI video card. Since it seems like you are limited in terms of funds, you are probably unable to build another computer to replace it, so you will have to opt for the lesser solution, which is buying a video card made to suit your system. See those white slots? Those are PCI slots. The brown slot you saw in that video is an AGP slot, which you could have had if it weren't for the fact that you got ripped off.
See? This is what happens when manufacturers do sick things like this. The unsuspecting people will just go in and buy what they want, not realizing that they've been ripped off, big-time. Yes, it's unintelligent on the buyer's part, but why should everyone have to be out on the watch for missing this slot and that slot?
This isn't the end of the article, I've seen more examples of junk like this. How about another example: missing RAM slots on one of my Dell Dimension 3000 computers?
Keep note, however. My problem isn't with the solder points themselves, that would be silly. My problem is how manufacturers will just leave this stuff out, expecting nobody to notice, and expecting people to believe that it makes no impact on the computer itself. It alienates people who want upgrades for their systems, and forces them to either replace the motherboard or go for a less economical solution, such as replacing the only RAM sticks in there with a denser set (such as going from 2x512MB to 2x1GB) or buying a PCI video card (yuck). It costs less money to get a better motherboard than it does to cheap out on the motherboard and splurge on a PCI video card later!
We're not even done yet. How about a flaw that finds its way into even custom-built PCs, without the builder's knowledge, until it's too late? "You've got to be kidding me!" Nope! This is an issue I find on retail motherboards! Y'know the 4-pin PWM fan headers? Lately, I've been seeing motherboards which look like they have all PWM fan headers, but they don't! First, I'll show you how tricky these things are, and, after that, I'll tell you what makes them different.
Here is a motherboard that I have, it's a Gigabyte GA-Z97X-UD5H. How many fan headers are there? If you look carefully, you'll see that there are five of them...but there's a catch. Want to take a guess how many real PWM fan headers there are on this board?
See that one white fan header? That is the only true PWM header...but it's high time that I explain exactly what this means. What makes it fake?
You may already understand that a three-pin fan header has a wire for each purpose respectively: ground, +12V, and tachometer input. Many Super I/O chips on motherboards are capable of adjusting this voltage to change the speed of any fans connected to this kind of header.
Some people say that the yellow tachometer wire controls the speed of the fan, but this is false. The tachometer input simply exists to allow the motherboard to see the presence of a spinning fan. The speed is adjusted as I said, by tuning the voltage.
You may also already understand that a four-pin PWM fan header is the exact same as a three-pin fan header, except for the fact that there's an additional wire next to the tachometer wire, and it is the PWM wire. On a true PWM fan header, the +12V is always +12V (unless there a possible BIOS setting has changed this), and the PWM wire is what is responsible for controlling the speed.
Now that we've gone over how three- and four-pin fan headers work, it's time to reveal the inner workings of the fake PWM fan header! It's exactly like a three-pin fan header, except that there is a fourth wire, which is solid +5V. This means that the voltage of the +12V pin varies, just like a three-pin header. Additionally, solid +5V to a fan's PWM input says "run at the full speed relative to your voltage". These two factors are what make the PWM fan header a fake PWM fan header since it truly doesn't use PWM at all, despite looking like it does.
Why can't they even be bothered to include real PWM fan headers? I don't know...oh, wait, I know! It's because they want to rip you off! Steer clear, everyone, and welcome to
2015 almost- 2016 2017. Prepare to be RIPPED OFF!
Here's something else to rant about! You may know that PCIe can be rather confusing. Aside from the name being too much like PCI, the slot that you see is not always what you get; just because you see a PCIe x16 connector, doesn't mean that it is actually an x16 slot. It could be x8, x4, or, who knows, maybe even x1! While this doesn't usually affect performance severely, it's still deceptive, and, since it doesn't usually harm the performance so bad, that makes it more sneaky and underhanded.
Things get worse, though: although it is uncommon, there is a special kind of slot that was created in the days of the 9xx-series Intel chipsets (like the 945G). It is a proprietary Intel technology, so you will not see these on an AMD board (I guess that's one advantage to AMD platforms right there). This slot is known as SDVO, or Serial Digital Video Out.
It uses the exact same connector as PCIe x16, but it is not even PCIe at all! This is extremely deceptive, since it looks like there's a PCIe x16 slot, but there really isn't. You can't add a video card, or even a network card: your options are only a few cheap and small cards that add video outputs, and yet you'd only find this out if you look close enough.
At least these slots seem to be uncommon, but they do exist, and, if you're not careful, you could run into one.
Speaking of PCI-Express, ya wanna know something else I dislike about it?
See the piece of plastic at the very end where the arrow is pointing to? Why is that stupid piece of plastic there? Y'know what it does? It prevents you from sticking a PCIe x4, x8, or x16 card in there for no good reason, as x16 cards function in x1 slots.
I can hardly find any sensible proof outside of my own to prove this, so you're just gonna have to take my word for it that this actually works. How'd I do this with the plastic in the way? Well, it's not in the way...anymore. I used a soldering iron to melt the stupid piece of plastic away, and what do you know, the card functions!
Well, that's all for now, folks.