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Solid Capacitor Motherboards Introduced

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the charge-it dept.

Hardware Hacking 264

jckrbbt writes with news that Gigabyte has introduced solid capacitor motherboards in its Intel 945 chipset products. From the article: "[S]olid capacitors have a higher tolerance for higher temperatures and they also perform better with higher frequencies and higher current than electrolytic capacitors. The superior heat resistance and better electric conductivity will allow PC enthusiasts to tweak the highest levels of performance from their system without fear of excessive capacitor wear or exploding capacitors."

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264 comments

Average (4, Insightful)

sporkme (983186) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519088)

Solid capacitors also last longer with an average lifetime of 23 years compared to only three for electrolytic capacitors, according to Gigabyte.
I have seen popped caps on motherboards, but 3 years seems a little short as an "average."
Additionally, solid capacitors have a higher tolerance for higher temperatures and they also perform better with higher frequencies and higher current than electrolytic capacitors.
Yay for overclockers and NASA.

Re:Average (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17519128)

I have seen them last less than a year. All you have to do is check where the capacitor is from. If it is from China (which is likely), then it has a high probability of failing very quickly. This is due to their stealing the formula from a Japanese company who became aware of the attempted theft and fed the women a recipe from the early 60's (and well known to hold up for only a year).

Re:Average (3, Funny)

Phleg (523632) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519620)

and fed the women a recipe from the early 60's

That doesn't seem so bad. My mom still has some of her cookbooks from the 60s...

Re:Average (2, Interesting)

thedarknite (1031380) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519166)

I'm curious as to how they calculate these numbers, I've never had a capacitor fail and I play with a fair number of boxes that are beyond their 3 year "average". Then again I've never used a Gigabyte board, so they may well have had a shoddy supplier at one point.

Re:Average (1)

Tingler (56229) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519350)

I have had to replace a couple of power supplies due to leaking capacitors. I also suspect my previous computer was becoming less stable over time due to some faulty capacitors. (No proof, just my suspicion.)

Re:Average (3, Insightful)

multipartmixed (163409) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519372)

I suspect your version of "fail" and "3 years" is different from theirs.

I'm guessing by "fail", they mean that N percent of them are Y percent out of spec, and by "3 years" they mean "3 years run-time", not "3 calendar years".

That said, I seem to recall electrolytic caps on digikey typically being rated for around 2,000 of use.... and their definitions of "fail" are exactly as I've said above.

Caps can (and often do) work in their intended application well after they have ceased to behave as the spec sheet says they should. Sometimes, they are not that critical; other times, the design engineers know how to derate parts to get a reaonable lifetime out of whatever it is they are building.

Re:Average (1)

thedarknite (1031380) | more than 7 years ago | (#17520026)

Then I guess I have been lucky enough to have good parts, because most of the systems I play with run pretty much 24/7 with only the occasional power down. The only things that I've had stop working properly are drives and fans.

Re:Average (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17519202)

The standard life test for an electrolytic capacitor is 1000hr at rated temperature. For most consumer equipment, this is 85C oe 105C depending on which electrolyte is used (and price paid). The life of electronic components doubles for every 10C reduction in temperature. At end of life, an electrolytic caacitor is allowed a 50% loss of capacitance and doubled ESR. For most cases these caps work fine (provided the designer included margin). In a PC application, it is reasonable to expect operating temperatures of about 45C to 55C. This would mean lives between 8000hr and 32,000hr.

I find it interesting that the solid electrolyte caps have finally found a home. These have been around fo about 20 years in one form or another. Maybe now the price will start falling and the small wet electrolytics will go the way of the vacuum tube.

Dell GX270's (2, Interesting)

Gates82 (706573) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519432)

Dell should start using these for their GX-270 line. I (1 out of 5 at the site I worked) have replaced a good 30 270 Motherbo--- (sorry per dell, system boards) that have video problems. All stem from bulgin and leaky capacitors. Most of these systems where between 1-2 years old (none over three).

--
so who is hotter? Ali or Ali's sister.

Re:Dell GX270's (1)

Curien (267780) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519514)

It was a known manufacturing error. Dell issued a recall, and they repaired ours for free.

YAWN! Capacitor FUD (4, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519922)

You basically get three major types of caps on motherboards, each of which have different properties:

Ceramics. Small and fast. Typically used for decoupling (small charge storage).

Electrolytic: Larger and slower. They are slower because they are highly inductive. They don't like working at very high frequencies which can make them fail.

Tantalum: Medium/large and fast. They are less inductive than electrolytics. They can dump current far faster than electolytic which can cause undesirable current rushes.

Of course I have not RTFA because that's not the point of /., but I suspect they're swapping tantalums in to replace electrolytics. With proper usage electrolytics will not typically fail, so this is perhaps FUD. Particularly the "overclocker" bit. It sounds like FUD to try generate a new "feature" to sell their motherboards.

Re:Average (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17520010)

> I have seen popped caps on motherboards, but 3 years seems a little short as an "average."

Three years is such an absurd statement that it can be only called a lie. Elcos would not be used in /anything/ if they had a 3 year average life.

The story here is why Gigabyte is saying such garbage, not the press release that ExtremeTech "writer" Bryan Gardiner has repeated with his brain turned off.

AFAIK, Gigabyte did not fare notably worse than other MB manufactures during the bad cap epsiode a few years ago, but possibly this nonsense is related to that?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capacitor_plague [wikipedia.org]

I've got gear spanning forty years of electonics addiction here. Excluding the pile of bum parts due to said plague, only one unit has dried-out caps, my Osborne 1. Everything else still works fine. I'm listening to my 30-year-old Technics amp, and have my 21-year-old Amiga 1080 displaying my Atari 2600 and PS1. Three years is complete crock.

FUD (1)

macadamia_harold (947445) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519094)

The superior heat resistance and better electric conductivity will allow PC enthusiasts to tweak the highest levels of performance from their system without fear of excessive capacitor wear or exploding capacitors.

Yeah, you know, because that's *the* biggest complaint you see on enthusiast/overclocker message boards. Exploding capacitors.

Re:FUD (-1, Troll)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519102)

Yeah, you know, because that's *the* biggest complaint you see on enthusiast/overclocker message boards. Exploding capacitors.

        Run one of the more demanding versions of Vista, and good luck NOT seeing crap explode.

Re:FUD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17519120)

It is for people who work in IT who have to replace boards with bad caps

Re:FUD (5, Funny)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519130)

Yeah, you know, because that's *the* biggest complaint you see on enthusiast/overclocker message boards. Exploding capacitors.

It could be worse... they could be a company selling a network card to reduce network lag... lol.

Re:FUD (1)

sporkme (983186) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519174)

HA! Thanks for that. Maybe this is one of the "sucker born every minute" deals and maybe not, but there has not exactly been a demand.

Re:FUD (1)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519834)

I kind of doubt at this time that it's a "sucker born every minute" sort of thing at this time. I'm sure that people introducing "electrical vacuum-tubes" might have had a bit of a hill to climb as people thought they were trying to sucker them into something, but fortunately for us, transistors actually did catch on.

So, while my first instinct is "how do you make a solid capacitor? Doesn't it work by keeping a charged capacitance between two nearby electrical circuits seperated by a vacuum?" But hey, I'm sure I would have wondered the same thing about transistors.

Of course, for every sucess (transistors) there's about a hojillion other hoaxes and snake-oils out there... so, I would recommend cautious-optimism. I certainly know a batch of Apple Airports went bad because one or two capacitors were underrated and eventually burst. If this would have extended the life-time from 3 months to 3 years, then it might have been a good trade-off. As for me, I was able to buy it for really cheap (I think like $10 or so) and then after some searching on the net, replaced the capacitors ($2 including solder and iron) and had a nice wireless base point for awhile. (My cat chewed through the power cable, and replacing it hasn't been worth the effort.)

So, anyways, back on point, anything that increases the reliability of my computer, I'll be happy to see it, as long as it doesn't cost me significantly more. (After all, 3 years is about the standard useful lifetime of a computer, even if the capacitors stay good.)

Re:FUD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17519524)

"It could be worse... they could be a company selling a network card to reduce network lag... lol."

I've seen it! right here! [killernic.com]

Actually, I first say it HERE! [slashdot.org]

Re:FUD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17519168)

It's fairly common for top end overclockers to replace the caps on their boards to allow them to run higher voltages on the CPU and memory. Heat has also been a real issue for motherboard components for quite some time now.

Reverse the polarity (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519188)

That's when you see exploding capacitors - loud enough that everyone near you knows you've let the smoke out.

Re:Reverse the polarity (1)

Walt Dismal (534799) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519248)

I expect that for security reasons TSA will ban exploding capacitors from motherboards, iPods, cell phones, shoes, and Japanese anal probes. Not that I know anything about the last category... It's only a rumor I heard. A rumor.

Re:Reverse the polarity (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519908)

And I thought it was embarrassing enough to admit exploding a capacitor by reversing the polarity!

Re:FUD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17519268)

Yeah, that is definitely FUD. But a little extra to ensure a board will last a few years is a worthy investment IMO. There's lots people out there still using Pentium 3s and such. A Core 2 Duo board (like the Gigabyte DS3 with solid caps) should have a very long useful life. If the extra 10$ on a 150$ motherboard (not even 10% extra) makes that the board's caps won't leak in a year i.e. extend its lifetime significantly, then why not?

And this is new how? (1)

tlhf (312423) | more than 7 years ago | (#17520124)

Yeah, you know, because that's *the* biggest complaint you see on enthusiast/overclocker message boards.

I guess the common complaint about this article is that... I've already got a Gigabyte motherboard with solid state capacitors!

Link [gigabyte.com.tw], note point 7.

finally (3, Interesting)

Swimport (1034164) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519112)

Capacitors having the shortest lifespan of most electrical components means if this catches on there will be less electronic waste, and more reliable machines. Although I bet these cost twice as much....

Amount of waste not reduced (1)

jlaiho (125907) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519362)

It would be great if the amount of waste would be reduced by this.

However, for me at least, it's quite a long since I discarded any electronic equipment because of a failure. More often, things just become obsolete in one way or another. Obsolete enough that I can't even get them sold to anyone (at any price - even 1 is too much).

I did have bad caps on one motherboard, three to four years ago, I think (at which time the board had been in use for one year). I replaced the caps, and still have the motherboard in use.

Doesn't really do any good for a computer though (4, Interesting)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519508)

I see VERY few computers failed due to a cap problem before they are retired on account of being too old to be useful anymore. The most common component I see fail is the HD, which is no surprise given that it's mechanical. This could be useful for devices that are good for 25 years, but comptuers tend to get thrown out after 5.

Re:Doesn't really do any good for a computer thoug (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519708)

no, in 15 years as a computer tech i've seen as many pc's m/b's die from bad caps as i have bad hd's. this is a good thing.

Capacitors are a big problem (1)

coder111 (912060) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519796)

Agreed that hard drivers fail more often, but over last 3-4 years, we had to replace/repair a lot motherboards because of busted capacitors. For office work, computers are useful for ~5 years now, and a lot of capacitors do fail during that time. A lot of motherboard manufacturers are using cheaper, lower-spec capacitors these days, and they don't last long.

--Coder

Re:Doesn't really do any good for a computer thoug (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17519860)

How many of those hard drives failed due to unreliable power?

Re:Doesn't really do any good for a computer thoug (1)

Bottlemaster (449635) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519940)

see VERY few computers failed due to a cap problem before they are retired on account of being too old to be useful anymore. The most common component I see fail is the HD, which is no surprise given that it's mechanical.
I know this makes me a bonafide exception to the rules, but I have never in my 21 years (16 of which were blessed with computer use) had a hard drive fail on me. I have 100M drives in my closet that still work. My motherboards, on the other hand, break all the time - on average, every couple of years.

I certainly can't complain, because although motherboards usually cost me ~$150, my data is priceless. I would still appreciate a mobo that lasts longer.

Five Years is not Enough. (1)

twitter (104583) | more than 7 years ago | (#17520050)

... computers tend to get thrown out after 5.

Sooner, rather than later, the upgrade train is going end. There's no other "durable" good that gets trashed as often as computers do. Automobiles, appliances, TV's, stereos and other items that cost less than a PC are all expected to last much longer than five years. There's been way too much turnover and there will be much less of it as people realize that their hardware does what they want it to.

The PC churn is wasteful, environmentally harmful and mostly intentional [wikipedia.org]. Going from Win3.1 to 95 and then 95 to 98, and then from 98 to XP and now from XP to Vista put a lot of computers in the trash. Outside the Windoze world, the same computers remained useful much longer. Last year I retired the Debian GNU/Linux, 486, fileserver that originally came with Windows 3.1. It was 13 years old, still running and stands ready as a backup. The laptop I'm writing this on is from 1998. It came with Windoze 95 but now runs Etch like a champ. I've got better machines, of course, because the trash is full of 1 GHz corporate cast offs. While I'm happy to have the hardware for myself and my family, I know that I pay for it everytime I buy something from any company still in the Windoze world. A select few at telco and software companies can get rich this way but the rest of us are being being poisoned [islandpress.org].

Re:finally (2, Insightful)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519548)

...more reliable machines.

Don't count on it. Planned obsolescence isn't going away anytime soon. Make the machine "too reliable" and the industry will be crying about lousy sales.

Re:finally (1)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519572)

"Although I bet these cost twice as much...."

Not really. As the capacity desired goes up 1, 2.2, 4.7uF etc the cost curve tends to get worse.
1uF ~7-10X aluminum electrolytic, 10uF? About 15x the price.
Thing is the total number of aluminum electrolytic caps in a system is fairly low so this should not impact price too much.
-nB

Re:finally (1)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 7 years ago | (#17520022)

I've only once seen popped capacitors on a board once after a power surge, and I've been around computers for years. Ok, I'm not a 'take stuff to bits' guy, I'm a coder who's adverse to opening the box lest I break something, but if capacitors were that big a problem, surely they'd be a common source of failure?

Solid state HD of huge capacity and Sata2 equivalent speeds, now *that* I'd be interested in.

Gigabyte (1)

phorm (591458) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519116)

I've seen a lot of gigabyte boards with bad caps, although it seems to be that boards from various manufacturers about the 1Ghz Athlon era ago all suffered from a plague of them, I've found a rash of GB boards in general with cap issues.

I've found some pretty decent gigabyte boards, but the end results tended to have them dying of exploded capacitors. If GB has a good solution for this, and they still manage to maintain a good cost/value ratio, it might be a good reason for me to consider going back to them. I find their webpage/support is generally a little better than other brands.

3 YEARS? (3, Interesting)

vistic (556838) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519132)

"Solid capacitors also last longer with an average lifetime of 23 years compared to only three for electrolytic capacitors, according to Gigabyte."

Motherboards may get obsolete fast, but I still would expect a longer life than just three years.

If this is true, I'm amazed so many old computers work so well. Maybe this is a bit off. In either case, it seems with such a huge difference in life span, unless there's a huge change in cost, the extra reliability offered by solid capacitors should make them standard in every motherboard. I'm not an electrical engineer though (or an economist).

Re:3 YEARS? (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17519236)

so many old computers work so well.

Capacitors are generally used for filters and timing circuits. The motherboard I'm running right now has a capacitor at the edge of the AGP slot that I accidentally crushed (hey, I thought the new video card was just tough to push in, sue me). I only noticed it because the computer refused to boot until I cleaned the guts of the cap off the motherboard, and it runs just fine since then. Perhaps it won't deal with certain line noises anymore, or some USB port hardware runs 15 times as fast, but I'd say that I'll never notice either with this getup. My mother had a TV that was perhaps 20 years old. One day a cap (audibly) blew, and the only difference was that the scan controls no longer kept the picture entirely within the screen, sort of like a permanent 125% magnification, with the extra running off all four edges. She watched that tv another year or two before finally buying a new one.

Re:3 YEARS? (3, Informative)

alienw (585907) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519516)

The little caps near the expansion slots are for power decoupling. There are usually lots of them and the loss of one will not affect anything as long as it does not short out. The bigger switching converter caps near the CPU are a critical component of the switching power supply, and losing one would definitely kill the mobo and possibly the CPU. They are also the ones most likely to explode or leak, since they do a lot more work and are exposed to much higher temperatures.

Re:3 YEARS? (1)

donaldm (919619) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519584)

Any electronic component will eventually fail, however the mean time between failure can vary enormously. When designing any electronic device you need components that have tolerances that are within an "acceptable" range, so the manufacturer usually picks the cheapest component for the job.

Picking components that are only just within tolerance is asking for a reduced lifetime. This is called "planned obsolescence" or in Business speak "Product Lifetime". The trick is to not get the consumer offside with two many failed devices over the so called product lifetime. Manufacturer's do plan for this.

It must be noted that the higher the component tolerance (this means longer or more reliable life) the more expensive that component is so a 1% reduction in component costs can translate into 10's or even 100's of Millions of dollars in saving.

When mentioning exploding capacitors this normally occurs with electrolytic ones in power supplies however put too much voltage on any capacitor and it will breakdown sometimes quite spectacularly. Of course this can also apply to any electrical component.

Most tiny capacitors on computer boards are mainly ceramic or thin film (signal passing) or tantalum (dc power filtering) with electrolytic and Mylar mainly used in power supplies because they are usually larger. There are also other types of capacitors such as those with air or mica dialectics which also have their uses.

Re:3 YEARS? (2, Insightful)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519586)

I'm amazed so many old computers work so well.

Actually, if a computer is old enough that helps too. I use a floppy drive from a 286 due to the fact that it's mechanically bulletproof. I went through 2 floppy drives before gutting an old external floppy enclosure for the drive. Newer hardware isn't built to last.

Also, thee years for a capacitor is probably three years of continuous usage.

Moo (1)

Chacham (981) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519234)

will allow PC enthusiasts to tweak the highest levels of performance from their system

Have enthusiasts mastered performance so well that they need to tweak them _from_ the motherboard to give them a challenge?

This is news? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17519238)

Iwill has been using them for over one year. Just check out the DK8EW or DK8ES boards. Looks more like free advertising for Gigabyte...

No thanks... (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519252)

I'll stick to my vacuum tubes. Not only is the technology well-tested over the years, you can heat up the entire house if your computer room is in the basement.

Re:No thanks... (1)

calidoscope (312571) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519322)

At least I hope you're staying away from the new-fangled 12AT7's in favor of the tried and true UX-199's.

Re:No thanks... (2, Insightful)

fabs64 (657132) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519564)

Conveniently they're also used for a completely different purpose in electronics. :-P

Not vacuum tubes... (2, Informative)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519668)

I'll stick to my vacuum tubes. Not only is the technology well-tested over the years, you can heat up the entire house if your computer room is in the basement.

What you really want are Leyden Jars [wikipedia.org].

Re:No thanks... (1)

Technician (215283) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519768)

I'll stick to my vacuum tubes.

Just stay away from the wet electrolyte capacitors that used to launch the metal case out the top of the cabinet.

Sort of like the DS3 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17519262)

What, sort of like the GA-965P-DS3 that I bought 4 months ago?

Yawn.

EH? (2, Funny)

SinGunner (911891) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519266)

"superior heat resistance?"

Doesn't resistance CAUSE heat?

Re:EH? (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519562)

No, as mentioned by the other poster, electrical resisance "causes" heat. Heat resistances "causes" temperature. As in, Temperature increases as heat accumulates, which will happen if resistance to its flow out is increased.

Perhaps the meant, "superior heat rejection."

Re:EH? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17519580)

Resistance ensuring operation, they should have just said tolerance to be clear.

On a related note... (1)

Skewray (896393) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519276)

On a related note, Gigabyte will also not be using Mentos any longer in the manufacture of Intel motherboards. This will prevent explosions due to Coke spilling into the computer case, apparently also a major cause of death for these motherboards.

Um... Abit? (1)

sweepkick (531861) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519300)

Anyone remember Abit's BE6-II motherboards, and their leaky capacitors? This is the single reason why I haven't bought an Abit board in the last 5 years... and will likely *not* purchase another Abit board in the next 5 years (Abit handled it very poorly.. it cost me money). Guess what? I haven't had a leaky capacitor problem for 5 years. Nor have I had a MB problem (Asus and ECS). It's expected that your hardware should just work. Don't charge me more for "capacitors that won't leak". If I can trust your hardware, and not have any problems... you get my business. If you go with cheap parts and pass your hardware off as 'teh b3st'... then fuck off. It's as simple as that.

Re:Um... Abit? (1)

gethoht (757871) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519526)

That's interesting...

Up until about 6 years ago I used ASUS for all my builds, then I found that ASUS boards were giving me alot of issues and I switched to abit. While abit isn't 100% bulletproof(no hardware is), I found them to be by far the most reliable boards that I have experienced. And now that ABIT is using solid state capacitors in a majority of their new boards (AW9D-Max, IN9-Max, etc...) I have all the more reason to keep using them.
-gethoht

Re:Um... Abit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17519776)

It's trivial to replace those caps, so I don't see the problem. At least it's something you can goddamnit fix with cheap tools, not like if part of the chipset had to be replaced calling for a BGA rework station (some $k) and an X-ray inspection (figures). Dropping a brand due to well understood transient manufacturing issue at the cap plant is plain stupid. Abit didn't choose those caps because they were cheaper, at least I don't think so. Most likely they just were available -- when you purchase quantities to support motherboard production, quite often it's less than trivial to secure a supply of a particular component, even as "trivial" as a cap. I would absolve most MB makers from having anything to do with that. It was the cap maker which was at fault. They screwed up, they should have made it right. Cheers, Kuba

I'm sure the ... (4, Funny)

SloWave (52801) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519304)

Gold Plated Speaker wire crowd will love this.

Re:I'm sure the ... (5, Informative)

nightfire-unique (253895) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519416)

Gold Plated Speaker wire crowd will love this.

Ahem. :)

Speaking as an "audio dick," I feel I should come to the defense of both "solid capacitors" and gold plated speaker wire.

Firstly, gold plated speaker wire isn't gold plated to improve the capacitance or resistance properties of the wire - it's done to prevent corrosion. If you've ever heard the crackling sound an old car stereo tends to make, it's often because of corroded copper wires. It's particularly noticeable when you live near saltwater areas or in marine applications in general.

Secondly, there is no outstanding debate in the industry on whether or not polypropylene, film, or even tantalum capacitors (what they're referring to as solid, though they're probably talking about tantalums) are of superior quality to electrolytics for audio applications. Electrolytics have changing thermal characteristics, worse tolerances, and tend to introduce a small amount of phase shift into whatever AC signal you're passing through them. Yes, these properties are measurable with the right equipment and are not generally questioned.

And yes I am an electrical engineer! :D

Mod parent up. (1)

sokoban (142301) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519446)

Mod parent up, informative.

I do a lot of DIY speaker building and there definitely is a difference between Film/Foil caps and electrolytics. A speaker crossover made with Electrolytic caps sounds like crap compared to one made with even the cheapest of film/foil caps.

Re:Mod parent up. (2, Informative)

PeterBrett (780946) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519854)

I do a lot of DIY speaker building and there definitely is a difference between Film/Foil caps and electrolytics. A speaker crossover made with Electrolytic caps sounds like crap compared to one made with even the cheapest of film/foil caps.

Firstly, WTF are film/foil capacitors? As far as I am aware, the only major types of capacitors used are:

  • Aluminium electrolytic capacitors (aluminium foil, tightly would in a dielectric fluid)
  • Ceramic capacitors (single- or multi-layer, using EIA Class 1 or Class 2 dielectric ceramics)
  • Tantalum- and niobium-based capacitors (chip or electrolytic styles)

Are you thinking of resistors? I use thin-film SMT resistors all the time...

Which part of the crossover are we talking about? Which design do you use? Do you have inductors in there? Quite a few performance issues when using electrolytic capacitors are due to an inappropriate choice of inductors, IMHO.

Also, I've got a friend who does psycho-acoustics research, and he did an interesting series of experiments a couple of years ago that indicated that systems that performed technically very well (almost perfect filter characteristics, no harmonic errors) actually were rated worse than a system that had all sorts of junk spewing out of it, when the audiophiles participating weren't told which system they were listening to...

Re:Mod parent up. (1)

nightfire-unique (253895) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519932)

Also, I've got a friend who does psycho-acoustics research, and he did an interesting series of experiments a couple of years ago that indicated that systems that performed technically very well (almost perfect filter characteristics, no harmonic errors) actually were rated worse than a system that had all sorts of junk spewing out of it, when the audiophiles participating weren't told which system they were listening to...

Yes I've heard of this mythical study myself. *shrug*. There are plenty of people with tin ears and they're not hard to find. Some people prefer the sound of greater distortion, so long as it's primarily low-order. Think valve based guitar amplifiers, vs. bipolar transistors. It doesn't mean they picked the one with the lowest distortion or most accurate presentation, it means the picked the one which was most pleasing to their ear.

Re:I'm sure the ... (5, Interesting)

PeterBrett (780946) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519772)

Secondly, there is no outstanding debate in the industry on whether or not polypropylene, film, or even tantalum capacitors (what they're referring to as solid, though they're probably talking about tantalums) are of superior quality to electrolytics for audio applications. Electrolytics have changing thermal characteristics, worse tolerances, and tend to introduce a small amount of phase shift into whatever AC signal you're passing through them. Yes, these properties are measurable with the right equipment and are not generally questioned.

Agreed. Tantalum capacitors have much better performance than electrolytics in most circumstances. However, there is outstanding debate about whether the use of tantalum capacitors is ethical, as tantalum is just about the rarest element that's actually used in the electronics industry and most of the deposits are in developing countries. Accusations have been levelled that electronics manufacturers are going to inordinate lengths to secure tantalum deposits, and the people who live there are the losers (especially since the by-products of processing tantalum ore are decidedly unpleasant).

I try to avoid using tantalum capacitors in my own designs as far as possible, trying to keep to NASA's guidelines for component derating [nasa.gov] when using electrolytics. Where I need precision capacitances I design the circuit so that a ceramic NP0 or similar EIA Class 1 capacitor can be used instead. I haven't had any capacitors fail yet.

Re:I'm sure the ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17519910)

Wow.. Cool...
Blood Caps!
I bet there very expensive too!

Do they shine better than real dia... ohmmm caps?

Re:I'm sure the ... (1)

nightfire-unique (253895) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519954)

Agreed. Tantalum capacitors have much better performance than electrolytics in most circumstances. However, there is outstanding debate about whether the use of tantalum capacitors is ethical, as tantalum is just about the rarest element that's actually used in the electronics industry and most of the deposits are in developing countries. Accusations have been levelled that electronics manufacturers are going to inordinate lengths to secure tantalum deposits, and the people who live there are the losers (especially since the by-products of processing tantalum ore are decidedly unpleasant).

I try to avoid using tantalum capacitors in my own designs as far as possible, trying to keep to NASA's guidelines for component derating when using electrolytics. Where I need precision capacitances I design the circuit so that a ceramic NP0 or similar EIA Class 1 capacitor can be used instead. I haven't had any capacitors fail yet.

Interesting.. I've never heard that. I'll have to read up.

It sounds frustrating because the one area where tantalums are good is where neither ceramics or electrolytics are good - right around the 10uF-100uF range. Ceramics/polyproylenes are huge, electrolytics are crappy.

Know your stuff before you comment (1)

viking2000 (954894) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519814)

Speaker wire is gold plated to fool uneducated people to throw away money, not to improve performance.

The *connector* on the other hand is gold plated to reduce resistance.

So buy speaker wire with no gold, but make sure the connectors are gold plated. Even look for thicker plating if you plan to insert them over 100 times.

And secondly, an electrolyte is much better than polypropylene, film, or even tantalum capacitors for one use: Large capacity for the money. In an audio amp, you use film or other to handle the signal, since you need well defined parameters, but to deliver the power, you use electrolytes. The comparison is what do you want to buy when you are *really8 thirsty: 1) A bottle of exactly 10ml of pure water, or a gallon, give or take a little, of drinking water?

The problems with electrolytes are just with a few companies using the wrong recipe for the sauce. ieee.org has had a few articles about this.

You're an EE? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17519822)

"..If you've ever heard the crackling sound an old car stereo tends to make, it's often because of corroded copper wires.."

Corrosion on the outside surface of a wire has negligible effects on the signals being carried by that wire at audio frequencies (20 - 20 KHz). If you are refering to corrosion at the connecting ends, then in a car stereo setting, the connecting ends of the wires are usually soldered to either the speaker posts or soldered to a connector... so again even in that situation, corrosion on the outside surface of the wire metal has no effect.

In your second statement about electrolytics.. Electrolytic caps are used for decoupling power leads to ground mostly and they have to have a DC bias maintained on them to work.. they can only pass AC if the signal does not reverse bias the capacitor. They are almost never used in audio filtering circuits for passing audio signals.

Somehow I don't believe that you really are an electrical engineer.

Re:You're an EE? (1)

nightfire-unique (253895) | more than 7 years ago | (#17520002)

Corrosion on the outside surface of a wire has negligible effects on the signals being carried by that wire at audio frequencies (20 - 20 KHz). If you are refering to corrosion at the connecting ends, then in a car stereo setting, the connecting ends of the wires are usually soldered to either the speaker posts or soldered to a connector... so again even in that situation, corrosion on the outside surface of the wire metal has no effect.

You've clearly never worked on a boat. Yes - in general you're right. The lifespan most consumers expect from their gear is exceeded by the time pure copper cables will last in most environments. In harsh environments, plating cables does extend their life and transmission quality over time. Terminal blocks and crimped cables are common enough.

In your second statement about electrolytics.. Electrolytic caps are used for decoupling power leads to ground mostly and they have to have a DC bias maintained on them to work.. they can only pass AC if the signal does not reverse bias the capacitor. They are almost never used in audio filtering circuits for passing audio signals.

Uh.. speaker level crossovers? There are many applications where the signal will not reverse-bias the capacitor. In cases where they do, people will often use bipolar electrolytics.

Somehow I don't believe that you really are an electrical engineer.

Fair enough.

Re:I'm sure the ... (5, Interesting)

vojtech (565680) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519864)

The capacitors in question are not tantalum, but solid polymer capacitors. A tantalum capacitor design would be possible, but would be very expensive and also rather bulky.

Compared to tantalum capacitors, these capacitors reach much higher capacities at the same physical volume, and the same or better ESL/ESR.

See for example here:

These aluminium electrolytic capacitors, with a solid conductive polymer electrolytic find their way even on most current mainboards, most often in the CPU DC-DC convertor circuits. They're usually easily recognizable from classic electrolytics by their small size and metal casing without a plastic sleeve.

A benefit from an all-solid-polymer capacitor mainboard is dubious, since classic alimuium electrolytic capacitors work just fine in many roles they're needed for, particularly in low-ripple-current situations.

Re:I'm sure the ... (1)

Shaiku (1045292) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519870)

I don't know what kind of EE you are, but HELLO you're implying that other caps don't phase shift AC signals. Remember all caps and inductors have a complex component because they store energy. You're gonna get a phase shift as a result of capacitance regardless of the construction of the capacitor. Sure electrolytics suck, but phase shift isn't one of the reasons... Come on.

Mod parent from Elbonia down (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17519876)

He must be a graduate from Elbonia

Re:I'm sure the ... (1)

residents_parking (1026556) | more than 7 years ago | (#17520176)

Well, I do live near the sea but unlike James Bond my car doesn't need to go in it, and I've never noticed crackling that wasn't down to a carbon pot or dodgy connector. In boats there are different considerations, but that hardly needs to dictate best practice for the audio industry as a whole. In regards to the electrolytic vs tantalum debate (and there is a debate, as long as one side keeps claiming to know best), the performance of both can be adequate and secondary factors often come into play. Tantalums don't go big, aren't tolerant to over-volting or reverse volting, leak less but can have have significant ESR. More significantly, tantalum is a globally scarce resource and although there are alternatives, there is no emergent winner and designers are often loath to specify a solid cap for supply reasons. Try this. Find a brand-name analog mixing desk and take the lid off. You'll find a mix of parts, carefully selected, And yes, I bet it meets the published spec including distortion. The real problem is far eastern factories that won't buy the correct low-ESR caps for SMPSU circuits, to save a few cents. In that scenario, lifetime can be of the order of months. Specifying a solid cap means the factory can't fit the wrong part, so there is some wisdom in it.

Re:I'm sure the ... (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519450)

Actually gold PLATING can be of some use. Since gold doesn't corrode easily it's a good choice for a plate for a connection that's going to be made and not messed with like most consumer gear. It's when they start messing with the material or geometry of the wire itself that you are talking BS. However gold plating (and silver for pro gear) is not useless,

mod d0wn (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17519348)

BSD culminated in another cuntinG TO STICK SOMETHING (I always bring my pRoblems that I've

3 years??? (2, Informative)

wiredlogic (135348) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519356)

Solid capacitors also last longer with an average lifetime of 23 years compared to only three for electrolytic capacitors, according to Gigabyte

This is complete BS. A three year service life may be the norm for bootleg Chinese knockoffs of Japanese parts but quality Aluminum electrolytics can last far longer.

Um, right (2, Insightful)

coder111 (912060) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519824)

When was the last time motherboard manufacturers used quality Japanese parts instead of bootleg Chinese knockoffs? And Gigabyte is guilty of doing this as much as every other motherboard maker.

--Coder

Move along (1)

dj245 (732906) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519380)

At first I thought there was a revolution in the contruction of capacitors. But no.

"While both capacitors store and discharge electricity when needed, solid capacitors contain a "solid" organic polymer as opposed to the liquid electrolyte used in electrolytic capacitors."

They changed the electrolyte. Better, but it isn't going to revolutionize the industry. As most of you know from school, capacitors are composed of two charged plates and some "stuff in between". The stuff in between can multiply the total storage capacity by 1 (air, vacuum) to somewhere around 6 (some other fancy material). They changed the stuff in between.

Engineer General Warning
With your increased reliability of this new product you may find higher cost, vendor lock-in, and unpredictability as the long-term effects of this electrolyte are probably not known

ABIT has solid state capacitors as well (1)

gethoht (757871) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519402)

Most of the new ABIT boards have solid state capacitors in them as well. Just an FYI -gethoht

DS3 (1)

Blankhorizons (1003315) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519410)

I may be wrong, but the major selling point of the 965 DS3 line is that it has solid state caps. The cheaper S3 line does not but is otherwise identical. These boards have been out for over 6 months. It may be new that they're introducing them to the 945 chipset line, but who's buying 945 anyway?

WEED and Lead-free... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17519476)

But exploding caps are FUN!!!

Okay, kidding aside, all this will do is increase costs. As long as the original electrolyte wasn't selected really close to needed voltage and temperature, there should've been no long term problems anyway. I've noticed that manufacturers in China often cut it really close on the voltage, at least on hi-fi stuff. For example, a particular cap may be a 16V cap, when the voltage they need there is around 14 or 15V. It would be better (but add maybe 2 or 3 cents to cost) to use a 25V cap instead. Most of the time, this is what causes failures, as I'd assume most caps are 105C (and not 85C) anyway. As a side benefit, electrolytics are easy to change out with non-expensive equipment. Surface mount caps are NOT fun to change out.

Their use of "solid" caps is probably due to the ease in using robots to put on surface mount components. The costs must be relatively cheap now. Add to that, the WEeD directive and lead-free initiatives, probably makes the solid caps slightly more cost effective than they used to be. But they should still be more expensive than electrolytics...

Since I've not RTFA, I'm assuming electrolytics are still used in the power supply and and power-related circuits...

About time! (3, Interesting)

Orphaze (243436) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519488)

As someone who has painstakingly replaced all the capacitors on two separate motherboards, I can definitely see why this is a good idea. The most recent was my Epox 8kra2+ board (with an Athlon XP 2600+, not over clocked.) I noticed the caps beginning to bulge slightly on top and develop some crusty electrolyte "dandruff" on the heads after 2 years of use, but I decided to hold off on major surgery until I began to notice any problems.

About a year later the system began to lock up mysteriously, and after ruling everything else out (this was my main system after all) I grabbed my soldering iron and began an hour or so of some rather nerve wrecking soldering. Every single 1000F and 1500F cap on the board needed replacement, so an old PIII board became the donor.

I measured the bad caps after removing them and most of them were off by about 300-700F, way outside of tolerance. After I finished I booted the system up, ran memtest for a few hours successfully, and never had a lockup since.

23 years? (2, Insightful)

ScaryMonkey (886119) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519518)

Solid capacitors also last longer with an average lifetime of 23 years compared to only three for electrolytic capacitors, according to Gigabyte

I guess a longer lifespan is good, but do I really need a motherboard to last for 23 years? I just might get around to upgrading the processor in that time frame...

Re:23 years? (3, Funny)

gbobeck (926553) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519764)

I guess a longer lifespan is good, but do I really need a motherboard to last for 23 years?

Actually, the intended buyer of this motherboard happens to be Gentoo users. The idea is to sell them a motherboard which will run after everything compiles on their system.

Note: I am a happy Gentoo user, above was only a joke.

Why is this news? (4, Informative)

Angelwrath (125723) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519538)

I've had a Gigabyte board with solid-state capacitors for more than 3 months now, it's based on the 965 chipset, so I was a bit confused why this article made it sound like this was a new innovation.

I love the idea! (1)

paulius_g (808556) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519546)

I'm going to tell you guys, I really love this idea.

I thought that in this crazy world where almost every computer component is manufactured in China, that I could never find something reliable, fast and at good value. This motherboard has just made my day and I hope that more manufacturers will take a similar approach.

This also looks like it would be a great server motherboard. And the Core 2 Duo is an extremely fast chip aswell. I think that we're seeing a nice marriage of great technologies.

I've always respected Gigabyte, and I hope that I'll respect them more in the future.

But (-1)

phalse phace (454635) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519554)

the question on everyones mind is whether these even-more-overclocked PCs will be able to run Windows Vista?

Re:But (3, Funny)

nmos (25822) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519608)

the question on everyones mind is whether these even-more-overclocked PCs will be able to run Windows Vista?

Well maybe not "run" but it should at least "walk" now.

Re:But (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17520120)

Well maybe not "run" but it should at least "walk" now.
You all scoffed when Microsoft said they were focusing on safety... It's a documented fact that walking is safer than running.

even better than solid caps is NO caps (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17519660)

even better than solid caps is NO caps with Digital VRM [techreport.com]

liquid motherboards? (1)

aleator (869538) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519734)

Solid Capacitor Motherboards Introduced
better solid capacitors than liquiid motherboards

Instead add neon lite to PC for better performance (2, Insightful)

viking80 (697716) | more than 7 years ago | (#17519740)

The recipe for the electrolyte in capacitors is kept as a big secret similar to the secret ingredients in the sauce at a restaurant.

Chinese industrial spies stole a fake formula from a Japanese company, and started making capacitors, and the rest is history.

A combination of a smaller solid cap with good HF performance together with a cheap and large electrolyte further away, but with better LF performance will beat the solution in the article.

I use the power supply from a 25 old HP HDD as a lab supply. It has huge electrolytes that still deliver great performance.

You will probably get more performance improvement by adding neon lights to your case.

Article in ieee.org members only
http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/iel5/6/26410/01176509.p df?arnumber=1176509 [ieee.org]

http://www.burtonsys.com/bad_BP6/story1.html [burtonsys.com]

But can it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17519766)

But can it burn Dual Layer DVDs?
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