Originally published at: http://www.howtogeek.com/190929/building-a-pc-are-integrated-graphics-sound-and-network-hardware-good-enough/
Motherboards include integrated graphics, sound, and network hardware — but is it good enough, or do you need to buy discrete components when building your own PC?
The sound card one is 50/50 for me, and strangely, my desktop computers are probably worse than my laptops.
One of the things I do with my PC is voice chat - a lot of voice chat. I'm on the phone via Skype probably 3-4 hours a day, dealing with company meetings, training, design sessions, etc. When I use my desktop PC, I plug my headset directly in to the jack on the front of the computer, since my motherboard can isolate the front and back as separate outputs. (I can actually have music or game sound go through the back while simultaneously having a voice call on the front jack.).
The biggest problem with on-board PC audio is hiss and what I call "digital" noise; you can actually hear little chirps as the mouse moves and a thumping sound as the hard drive does its thing. It's not really noticeable through the speakers, because they're farther away, but when I've got my headset on, the audio is right there, in my ear.
If you're getting a low frequency hum when you plug your PC into an amplified speaker system, a ground loop isolator may help. That may be necessary, regardless of whether you use onboard or outboard audio.
My solution has been to just get a USB audio interface. On my desktop PC, I"m currently using a Tascam 2 channel interface for most stuff. Moving to the outboard box gets rid of all of that noise.
But just because I can hear annoying noises in my speakers doesn't mean you are. My rule for audio has always been "good enough is good enough." If you don't hear annoying hiss or buzz, and if what comes through meets your needs, then there's really no reason to spend money improving your audio system. But if you do are hearing unwanted noise, an outboard USB sound box is a great way to fix your problems.
Here are some of the devices I've used in the past and had good luck with:
Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Pro - this guy is nice because the software gives you an equalizer that you can use to balance out less than perfect speaker systems
Siig Inc. Virtual 7.1-Channel Surround Sound Usb Audio Adapter - This is what I use for VoIP on my laptop. Its chief benefit is the volume and mute controls on the device. I can mute the mic and headset audio separately from my main speakers, which makes it much easier to adjust the volume during conference calls, when one person is too lound and the other too quiet.
TASCAM US-125M Channel Audio Interface - I use this on the desktop PC I use for gaming. It has extra inputs on the back so I can pass audio through from other devices (like my XBox) to my speakers without using a mixer. It's great for recording, since it has level controls right on the front panel. It's not suitable for VoIP, though, as the mic input routes back out to the headset, so you always hear yourself.
Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 - I got this guy when I was dabbling in DJ work. I've also used it for overdubbing audio in a machiname.
The other important tool to have in your audio toolbox is the aforementioned ground loop isolator. When you connect a PC to a grounded audio amplifier or mixer, you will almost always get a 60Hz hum in the audio signal. This is because PC power supplies are pretty terrible at delivering clean power, and your audio cord ends up carrying some of the power supply's load. This can also happen in the car if you plug your iPod or smartphone into your car stereo and a charger at the same time; you get a completely different set of noises, but the principle is the same: your car's electrical system noise is coming through the charger and then through your audio cord to the stereo's input preamp. (Good stereo systems have transformers on the input preamp, so this isn't a problem. My Kenwood and Pioneer stereos don't have this problem. The Dual I bought, thinking I was getting a good deal, was absolutely terrible about this.)
Good article I just finished building my first PC and I'm using integrated everything I was going to install a graphics card but ended up needing a USB 3.0 card because my board didn't support the 20 pin connect from the front of the case. I went with a mini itx and it only came with one PCIe which sucks but now I learned something for next time. As for the network adapter I bought a dedicated card with dual nic for one of my computers in order to run virtual machines in Hyper-V but besides that almost every board comes with Gigabit Ethernet (which I have at home) but most home users don't even have the networking equipment to utilize nor get the bandwidth from their ISP to need those speeds although it greatly improves network transfers.
Right... my ISP gives me about 30Mbps, but I transfer a lot of data between my PC's at home, so Gigabit Ethernet really helps that. In fact, I recently rebuilt my network and pulled new wiring (I went under the house with all the cables), and I put in 3 gigabit switches, in addition to my router. So now my game consoles, HTPC, gaming PC, and work PC's are all hardwared on Gigabit - no WiFi is in use anywhere, except for portable devices. It really is more solid, and device to device transfers are MUCH faster.
As a snobby audiophile, I wouldn't say that a sound card is crucial, but it can make a difference. The difference will show up if you are listening to music through external speakers - with the headset, not so much difference. I'm using a Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme Gamer card (yeah, I know it says Gamer, but at the time I bought it, it was more highly recommended for music than the music card).
What makes the biggest difference in external speaker musical sound is the format of the music. I downloaded all mine in WAV (uncompressed) instead of MP3. The music is much sharper and distinctive. The WAV format takes up a lot more room on your computer, but for me, it's worth it.
Yeah my father is an electrician and I have cat6 coming out of the basement into almost every room including 100 foot run under our additions crawl space some rooms we even went with the Ethernet wall receptacles. I'm using 2 Linksys wireless ac routers with Gigabit ports 3 Gigabit switches 2 wireless g access points and 2 power line adapters over kill yeah but I just utilized my older access points they sit in front of windows in the front and back of the house giving a strong signal in the yard and out front.
I have built many PCs from a 386SX on. In the 'good old days' the Ethernet adapter was required, but since they became integrated onto the motherboard, I have always considered them good enough.
Sound is a little different. For the most part, the on-board sound systems are fine, but some of them have crappy drivers that often will not install. This is more of an issue with bargain motherboards than top of the line ones. As wilsontp indicated, voice chats may be an issue. One part of this is digital signal processing that is used to allow full duplex audio. It needs a clean signal to know what is coming from this end (suppress) and the other end (play).
For laptops, on-board graphics may be all you can get; however, for any desktop PC I have built, I always include an NVIDIA card. This is just my brand preference, mainly aforementioned driver software, RAEDON are top-notch as well. In fact, for laptops, I avoid Intel Integrated Graphics whenever possible, but the on-board AMD/ATI are probably the best I have seen/used.
I have never built with the new integrated CPU/GPU chip, and probably will not until I am forced to, kicking and screaming, when non-integrated chips are no longer made. That said, I like Tegra4 ARM processors, and probably for laptops the integrated chips will provide better performance of both graphics and power.
Good Advice from a sister website - The Tech Report
TR's May 2014 System Guide
Hi, I build PC's for friends and myself and I agree with most of the writers ideas but even though I am 68 years old I can still hear the difference between my old top of the range Audigy card and the built-in sound on modern motherboards even very expensive ones, being a pedant I carried out an experiment recently and did double blind comparisons with both younger ears and some ears of a similar age attached to some guys whose opinion I value and the vast majority of opinions supported my preferences, I did this because I am old and bored and wondered if I had become so used to my card and breakout box sound that anything new sounded wrong, seems not, the Audigy even running on a Vista 64 system that gave me several warnings about 'known issues' must have been a rather good card, I wonder if Creatives modern cards would beat it.
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