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Solid Capacitor Motherboards Introduced 264

Posted by kdawson
from the charge-it dept.
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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Solid Capacitor Motherboards Introduced

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  • Average (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sporkme (983186) * on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @01:12AM (#17519088) Homepage
    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 (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @01:21AM (#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: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by thedarknite (1031380)
      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 (Score:4, Insightful)

        by multipartmixed (163409) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @01:59AM (#17519372) Homepage
        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.
      • You forgot the problems two years ago with caps leaking
        http://hardware.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=02/11/ 04/1751210&mode=thread&tid=137 [slashdot.org]

        I've had a Gigabyte socket A board for a couple years and have had no problems.
      • by PopeRatzo (965947)
        That was also my thought. I can't remember ever have a capacitor fail in my 25 years of torturing various computers. Even some Chinese ones.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by OrangeTide (124937)
          I've worked for companies where we had to RMA an entire run of our product because the caps we received from the supplier were below spec and were exploding in the field (DSL modem). I've also have replaced people's motherboards because they were running pretty unstable (even in memtest86) and had some lumpy looking caps on the board. The PSU seemed large enough so I can only point the finger at out of spec caps.

          Most motherboards are Taiwanese not Chinese. Although I'm sure the government of China would lik
    • Re:Average (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @01:32AM (#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.

      • by Sique (173459)

        The life of electronic components doubles for every 10C reduction in temperature.

        This is called van 't Hoff's rule [pima.edu], not to be confused with van 't Hoff equation [wikipedia.org], which describes the chemical equilibrium or van 't Hoff factor [wikipedia.org], describing the solulibility of salts. Yes, Jacobus Henricus van 't Hoff was a very productive chemist.

    • Dell GX270's (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Gates82 (706573)
      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 (Score:4, Informative)

        by parasonic (699907) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @08:38AM (#17521170)
        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).
        On the GX270's, there is now a lifetime replacement warranty on the motherboards. Capacitors blow on these things, whether that is six months down the road, or four years. We got a bunch of 270's around 2003 and still have several dozen of them here at the company where I work. A few months ago, we called Dell, and they sent two boxes complete with new motherboards and return labels for the old ones.
         
        As a CmpE (currently working in I.T.), I will tell you that electrolytics are absolutely fine. I have electronics from the 60's and 70's with electrolytics that hold up. If the manufacturing process is botched, something may go wrong. But you can end up with a mess also if you manfacture tants, micas, polypropylene, even ceramic disc capacitors incorrectly. "Solid" capacitors are more of a sure-fire thing, but they can fail, too.
    • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @03:45AM (#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: (Score:3, Informative)

        by splutty (43475)
        Funny, you sort of go completely past the point of the *actual* difference between ceramic condensators and electrolytic condensators, which is that one's polarized and the other isn't. They're not interchangable.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by deevnil (966765)
          No, the real difference is the amount of capacitance. I wonder what a 100uf ceramic disc cap would look like, a frisbee?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by AaronLawrence (600990) *
          That's true but often irrelevant. The difference in size (electroytic gets much more capacitance per size, so after about 1uF they are usually used) and RF behaviour (ie. inductance) of the two is much more important in most cases.
        • by petermgreen (876956) <plugwash@@@p10link...net> on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @09:20AM (#17521366) Homepage
          actually you can get non-polarised electrolytics too, they are often used in loudspeaker crossover circuits, i think they are basically two ordinary electrolytics in inverse series.

          but anyway in most cases (especially in digital equipment like computers) capacitors are used in a way that keeps them biased the same way all the time so it doesn't really matter if they are polarised or not.

          i agree with the gp that the important characteristics of electrolytics are big and slow (high ESR) while the important ones of ceramic are small and fast (low ESR).

          tantalums are fairly big and fairly fast, they also have much better lifetime characteristics than electrolytics. The downside is that they are expensive and when they do go bang (tantalums are polarised) they tend to fragment into a shower of tiny hot high velocity shrapnel.

          Its unclear from TFA if the "solid capacitors" gigabyte are reffering to are tantalums or some new technology.
      • by Alioth (221270)
        I don't know the relative costs of each type in bulk - but I wonder if they just figured that it would be cheaper to manufacture the boards with SMT tantalum capacitors rather than pin-through-hole electrolytics, and are putting a spin on it?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Bassman59 (519820)
        Let's be pedantic here.

        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).

        Also used in filtering applications ...

        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.

        I suppose you mean Aluminum Electrolytic. The failure modes are not high frequency, but mainly heat (either because of the environment or because its ESR is relatively high, which means it's self heating). They also don't like reverse biases, the results of which can be very exciting. They're not "slower" because they're "inductive," they're "slower" because their values are typically much larger than ceramic types.

        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.

        Tantalums are also elect

    • by Gordonjcp (186804)
      So they've rediscovered tantalum bead capacitors, like in the old CP/M machines?
    • I have seen popped caps on motherboards, but 3 years seems a little short as an "average."

      Two of my friends and I all bought Gigabyte 7VRXP motherboards at about the same time. Out of the three, mine is the only one that still works -- both of theirs failed within 3 years due to popped capacitors. Yeah, it's only an anecdote, but it makes me have no trouble believing that 3 years can be "average" for Gigabyte motherboards.

    • by canuck57 (662392)

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

      I had an Intel PERL motherboard with a P4 HT 2.4GHz that died from shorted and bulging caps. The power supply that was used has been powering another system for over two years steady without problems. It was my first and last Intel mobo. Knowing other manufacturers have also had problems, I treat them like the plague. It lasted 18 months.

      The only other mobo I have had fail while in service was ABIT dual celeron t

  • 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 (Score:5, Funny)

      by snowgirl (978879) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @01:21AM (#17519130) Journal
      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.
      • by sporkme (983186) *
        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.
        • by snowgirl (978879)
          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'
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by The Darkness (33231)

            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?

            You're close, but I recall from my physics classes that capacitors aren't required to have a vacuum between the plates. I just checked the wikipedia entry [wikipedia.org] on capacitors and found the following piece of text:

            The capacitance is proportional to the surface area of the conducting plate and inversely proportional to the distance between the plates. It is also proportional to the permittivity of the dielectric (that is, non-conducting) substance that separates the plates.

            So, if I understand that text correctly,

            • I'm making variable capacitators with air as the dielectric for use with an Antenna Tuning Unit. They're the kind you see in old radios, with interlocking plates separated a short distance. Apparently I can increase their capacitance further if I wish by soaking them in mineral oil. Or at least, that was what I was told.
              Point is, making capacitators are really quite simple. You need to be a bit inclined for practical matters, but the device as such can be really low-tech.

              The Wikipedia page on varicaps has a
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by unitron (5733)

            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?"

            Anytime you have two conductors separated by an insulator you have a capacitor, or at least capacitance.

            If you put a sheet of wax paper between two sheets of aluminum foil, that's a capacitor. If you replace the wax paper with a layer of air, it's still a capacitor. If you replace the air with a vacuum, it's still a capacitor. You can even replace the vacuum with a non-conductive liquid. It'll still be a capacitor.

            As long as whatever separates the two conductors is an insulator, then you've got a capa

      • by Carewolf (581105)
        Or a CPU company selling CPUs claiming to make the internet go faster
    • That's when you see exploding capacitors - loud enough that everyone near you knows you've let the smoke out.
      • 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.
        • by dbIII (701233)
          And I thought it was embarrassing enough to admit exploding a capacitor by reversing the polarity!
    • It appears the english language lacks a word for what the capacitors do. Saying they "explode" seems to take things a little too far, I get an image of a charred black spot on the board around two stumps of wire, and the outer can of the capacitor embedded in the ceiling, with the bottom cork and electrolyte scattered around the room like confetti. (I have seen that happen, twice) Thats more my idea of "exploded". (makes one heck of loud pop too!) What we see with the caps as of lately are more like the
  • finally (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Swimport (1034164) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @01:17AM (#17519112) Homepage
    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....
    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @02:21AM (#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.
      • I've seen a lot. Of those, a lot were caused by this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capacitor_plague [wikipedia.org]
      • 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 cou

        • by Aladrin (926209)
          I think it has a LOT to do with how you use the computer. I never had any hard drive problems until I got usenet. Then, the constant (and I do mean constantly) downloading, checking, unpacking, deleting that went on killed a few of my WD Caviar drives after about a year and a half. They happily replaced them and I don't treat them like that any more, and none have failed since. The only other hard drive I've had die was when I was really young and stupid and kicked a computer. The heads hit the platter
      • ... 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 mo [wikipedia.org]

      • I see about 2-4 a week, mainly jetway, but increasingly asus, gigabyte and other big brands. From what I can tell bad power and bad power supplies (read cheap and light, as in weight that is) increase the speed at which these things fall apart, about 1 in 20 has no visible sign that the caps are damaged, and only un-soldering and testing can prove the problem.

        As an interesting extra, asus now has 2 mobos that use no caps on the power regulator, their "Republic of gaming" boards use solid state dc-dc convert
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by iminplaya (723125)
      ...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.
    • "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
    • by rucs_hack (784150)
      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.
    • by Alioth (221270)
      The only machines I've seen fail through bad capacitors failed due to the capacitor plague (a manufacturing defect). I have some very old computers with their original electrolytic capacitors that work just fine (the oldest, a 22 year old Sinclair Spectrum+)
  • 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 th
  • I swear I saw this on Gigabyte promotional material like 6 months ago.
    • No shit. I've had a 965 based Gigabyte board with these on it for several months now. What kind of news is this crap?
  • 3 YEARS? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by vistic (556838) * on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @01:21AM (#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? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @01:38AM (#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? (Score:4, Informative)

        by alienw (585907) <alienw DOT slashdot AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @02:22AM (#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.
    • by donaldm (919619)
      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 t
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      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.
    • by Tatarize (682683)
      There is a certain amount of natural selection in such things. You never find the old computers which burnt out in a week. You only find the older systems which stood the test of time and were really solid. I like, any geek worth his salt, has half a dozen old sub-1 gig mobo/cpu combos. This isn't because computers back then were made to last, it's because I threw away all the broken ones.
  • Dell (Score:3, Informative)

    by Cherita Chen (936355) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @01:28AM (#17519180) Homepage
    The three year average doesn't surprise me, Dell has had a multitude of problems with bad/bulging caps [com.com]
    • Bad capacitors got everybody, not just Dell. While Dell and other large computer vendors do sell some of the worst components and suffer some of the highest breakdown rates, the capacitor problem got everyone a few years back and still do. badcaps.net [badcaps.net] has the dirty details and the issue has been covered by Slashdot numerous times:

      • 2005 [slashdot.org]
      • 2005 [slashdot.org]
      • 2002 [slashdot.org]

      Solid sounds good to me.

  • 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.
    • 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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by fabs64 (657132)
      Conveniently they're also used for a completely different purpose in electronics. :-P
    • Not vacuum tubes... (Score:3, Informative)

      by Kadin2048 (468275)
      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].

    • 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.
  • EH? (Score:2, Funny)

    by SinGunner (911891)
    "superior heat resistance?"

    Doesn't resistance CAUSE heat?

    • by HazE_nMe (793041)
      Electric resistance causes heat, but 'heat resistance' describes the ability to resist heat.
    • 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."
  • by SloWave (52801) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @01:48AM (#17519304) Journal
    Gold Plated Speaker wire crowd will love this.
    • Re:I'm sure the ... (Score:5, Informative)

      by nightfire-unique (253895) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @02:06AM (#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, 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: (Score:3, Informative)

          by PeterBrett (780946)

          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
          • 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 peop

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

        by PeterBrett (780946) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @03:13AM (#17519772) Homepage
        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.

        • 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 (e

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

        by vojtech (565680) <vojtech@suse.cz> on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @03:36AM (#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.

        • I notice there seems to be no mention of ultra/supercapacitors [wikipedia.org] in the wider Slashdot discussion. The role of such devices is completely different to the role of the high frequency capacitors mentioned in the main post, but interesting nevertheless. They were a real surprise to me, then again I havn't done much electronics in earnest for years.

          Have you or anyone here had experience with these things? How scary is discharging a 2600F capacitor? Any idea of their effective resistance / inductance?

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by DrDitto (962751)
          Yet another NASA engineer who potentially compromises the design of a spacecraft in the name of environmentalism. You wanna know why the Space Shuttle is having all these recent foam problems that crashed the Colombia? Because they switched the formula to remove freon in order to be more environmental even though the EPA gave NASA a special waiver. The original design worked, but it used freon in the foam. Don't believe me? Here is a journal entry from NASA's website in 1997!!!: http://quest.arc.nasa. [nasa.gov]
        • by smoker2 (750216)

          With reference to tantalum caps. I used to work for a company called AVX [avxcorp.com], which was part of the Kyocera Group [kyocera.com]. We made Tantalum caps. and believe me, you don't want a bad one in your pc. I've seen a Motorola mobile phone which had a bad cap in it, and lets just say, there wasn't much left of the phone afterwards. When Tantalum burns, it keeps going, and the only thing that can put it out is salt.

          They are used in Seagate hard drives too IIRC, which always worried me, but they went over to a different proces

      • by ozbird (127571)
        If you've ever heard the crackling sound an old car stereo tends to make, it's often because of corroded copper wires.

        Dry joints: yes. Dodgy volume pot contacts (especially sliders): yes. Loose wire connectors (spade, bullet): yes. Flex wiring fatigue: yes. Corroded wires? Nope. (YMMV.)
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        >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.

        Wrongo, Bub. Wire strands are usually tin-plated to reduce corrosion and improve solderability.

        Nobody, but nobody gold-plates wire, even for the most demanding aerospace and military applications. I've taken apart Titan missle guidance computers, Mil-spec avionics, even old satellite guts and havent found an inch of gold-plated wire.

        Now connector ed

    • 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,
  • 3 years??? (Score:3, Informative)

    by wiredlogic (135348) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @01:57AM (#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 (Score:2, Insightful)

      by coder111 (912060)
      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
  • 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

  • About time! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Orphaze (243436) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @02:17AM (#17519488) Homepage
    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.
    • What is it on your motherboard that requires Maxwell Lab's supercapacitors? :)
    • by unitron (5733)

      Every single 1000F and 1500F cap on the board needed replacement, so an old PIII board became the donor.

      Of course, it was around the time of the PII/PIII BX chipset boards that all those capacitor disease capacitors were being used by mobo manufacturers, so if you got good ones off of your board you rolled the dice and got lucky. Better just to order new ones from digi-key or somebody.

  • 23 years? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ScaryMonkey (886119)
    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...
    • by gbobeck (926553) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @03:11AM (#17519764) Homepage Journal
      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? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Angelwrath (125723) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @02:25AM (#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'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 r
  • 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 h

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