Sample of computer hardware board and card(1)versions definition


At the beginning of this century, the elimination of a large number of old computers in China and the influx of foreign garbage computers led to the booming of the dismantling machine. Under the e-commerce websites such as eBay and Taobao, computer hardware collections were born in China, forming a collection of CPUs and computer boards. Two large groups of people. The collection of foreign computer hardware started earlier. The collection of antique computer sets is the largest, and the collection of various computer hardware is relatively weak.

At the beginning of the collection, classic hardware and antique hardware were very popular. With the richness and awareness of the collection, the samples of computer hardware gradually became the focus of collection. The collection without samples was only an entry-level collection. This is because the sample production volume is extremely small, and the number of deposits in the world is not strange, especially in the early samples, each of which is equivalent to an orphan; the sample belongs to the company's core secrets in the past, with unique colors and mysterious Information is inevitably fascinating; samples are mostly destroyed after the official product is put into production, and it is a legend to be retained. The protagonists of these stories or R&D engineers unveiled the fascinating collections of the year, all of which are rare top collections; or media evaluation agencies that clean up outdated special test samples from time to time, basically familiar with each other. Or an IT company that regularly processes or disposes of inventory due to bankruptcy, and has a large number of samples of all grades. And these samples are mixed in the old hardware of the day, only a small part can meet with the hardware collectors and be eye-catching. It is these characteristics that make the sample the best in the hardware collection, the identification and grading of the sample will inevitably become an important topic for hardware collectors.

The CPU is the core component of the computer and is the first choice for the collection. It has the largest collection of people and is the first to conduct sample grading. On April 30, 2005, the CPU collector morkork posted the "Help on sample versions" on for the first time. The CPU samples were graded and The_Mad was complemented. On December 13 of the same year, Henry, the webmaster of, gave a grading of the CPU samples in the "Saving the CPU Sample". The webmaster of graded the collected samples in a similar way. It can be seen that the classification of CPU samples has reached a consensus, which is mainly divided into the following four categories:

1. Mech sampleMS

      Simply put, it is the earliest product model.



2. Engineering sampleES


Small batch prototypes in the product development phase, also known as prototype.




3. Qualification SampleQS


         Product stereotyped samples, internal testing.




4. Customer SampleCS


       Samples of qualified products are sent to major customers for testing.



As a component of computer hardware, the CPU is generally a small single chip, and the classification is relatively easy. Computer boards are relatively complex, usually one or more chips and countless components are soldered on the PCB board, so the board classification is more complicated. In particular, boards are rarely labeled like CPU samples: ES, ENG.SAMPLE, MECH, PROTO, PROTOTYPE, Internal Sample, EVAL, etc. to show their extraordinary identity. Although the main chip on the board is similar to the CPU, there are similar annotations: ES, ENG.SAMPLE, PROTO, PROTOTYPE, PT, Sample, etc., as well as the production code of the foundry or no label. However, boards loaded with sample-level chips are not necessarily sample-level boards, and sample-level boards do not necessarily carry sample-level chips. This makes the board's grading quite difficult.


Over the years, the issue of grading of board and cards has been a hot topic for collectors and a certain consensus has been reached. Based on the samples of thousands of hardware boards, I studied the sample pictures and related materials on the collectors and the network, and integrated the opinions of the collectors. Five years ago, the sample versions of board and card were defined from a hardware collection perspective. Recently, some intel sample cards have been collected, so it is conditional to partially correct and perfect the sample classification of the board and cards to form this "versions definition", and will be more in-depth in the subsequent "Board type" and "Chip evolution" The feasibility of sample grading is verified.


There are two methods for classifying the samples of board and cards:


One is a conventional grading method similar to CPU grading:

 1.Engineering sampleES

 2.Qualification SampleQS

 3.Customer SampleCS


The other is a plate type grading method for board and card features:

 1.Evaluation board

 2.Reference board

 3.Test board


The relationship between the two divisions is as follows:


     Intel Corporation is the world's largest technology giant in the design and production of semiconductors. It has strict standards in product development, design and manufacture. This article takes the sample card of INTEL i740 chip as an example to discuss the grading standards of sample boards.


       1.Evaluation board

To evaluate the feasibility of the product, there are usually special connectors and more jumpers for detection and debugging. Evaluation board for boards and cards can be divided into Chip evaluation board and Product evaluation board.

1.1 Chip Evaluation board

Chip Evaluation board is mainly to verify the feasibility of the chip, so the materials used are luxurious, and the number is counted in single digits. In particular, the early Chip Evaluation board with chipset with detachable chip is extremely rare, and any piece is regarded as a god in the hardware collection.

INTELi740 Evaluation board




The above picture is the Intel Chip Evaluation board. The right side of the front side of the PCB on the graphics card is marked with the “INTELi740 Evaluation board”. This i740 chip has an intel-specific ES label, serial number "Q601ES", which is roughly the earliest i740 chip. The date marked on the back of the PCB is 3497, and "NOT..." such as "NOT FCC APPROVED", clearly indicating some failed certifications. Generally, the finished board will pass the FCC certification and assign the FCCID number. Usually, most of the sample cards do not have time to pass the FCC certification, and some sample cards will mark the pre-registered FCC ID number in advance.

Chip Evaluation board is developed by chip design manufacturers and intimate partners. The I740 chip was developed by INTEL-invested REAL 3D, so REAL3D also has this chip evaluation board StarFighter-ISV. The version of the chip on this card is also the earliest "Q601ES", and the PCB date is 9737. The comparison shows that the two cards are surprisingly similar except for the use of video memory.

REAL 3D StarFighter-ISV  Evaluation board


1.2 Product Evaluation board

Early sample chips were produced in very small quantities and there were a lot of bugs, so boards with early sample-level chips must be sample-level, but not necessarily Chip evaluation boards, possibly Product Evaluation boards. In the middle and late stage, the sample chip is not much different from the finished chip, and it mainly appears on the Product Evaluation board, and may also appear on the official product.

As the I740 chip design and manufacturing manufacturer, INTEL sold the Express 3D graphics card based on the chip. The following picture shows the Product evaluation board of Express 3D. The production date of the two cards is only one week apart, but the product number is changed from handwriting to stamp. The test board of Express 3D mentioned in this article is the pre-integrated product. Printed on the PCB, the earlier samples are visible, the more original, the more manual traces.


 Express 3D  Evaluation board





Other non-chip design manufacturers, when producing boards, mostly use the Reference board of the chip design manufacturer as the blueprint, put into the manufacturing of the product, and skip the link of the Product Evaluation board. There are also manufacturers that optimize, streamline, or even redesign based on the Evaluation board or Reference board of the chip design manufacturer, so there is a Product evaluation board.

From the point of view of the collection, Chip Evaluation board appears in the initial stage of product development, and the collection value is the highest; Product Evaluation board is still sought after by chip design manufacturers.

2.Reference board

Introduced by chip design manufacturers, the mature design can be directly used by manufacturers.

intel740 Reference board


The upper right side of the front panel of the PCB on the Intel 740 graphics card is labeled “INTELi740 reference board”. There is also a handwritten "854C" on the upper right side, and a flying line on the left side. The handwriting and flying lines are also important signs of the sample. The date marked on the back of the PCB is 4797, and there is a "NOT ..." mark such as "NOT FCC APPROVED".

To meet different needs, chip design manufacturers will introduce one or several Reference board alternatives.

Both the Evaluation board and the Reference board are Prototype and are Engineering samples. Some manufacturers' Prototype do not have Evaluation board and Reference board, only Evaluation board or Reference board, or directly called Engineering sample.

3.Test board

After the completion of the Prototype phase (the last batch of prototypes as the earliest test board or the design of a new test board based on the prototype) is the Engineering Sample Run, which is a small batch test during the development process. An activity produced. This batch of products is "FRIST ARTICLE". Through small-scale trial production, problems in product design and process can be found, and various hazards, defects, and deficiencies are found in the ESR and subsequently solved to avoid making mistakes in mass production.

Test board is based on Prototype, from small batch trial production to pre-production, commissioning, revision before and after product sizing, as well as sampling of official batches. Therefore, Test board can be divided into unproduced, trial production, and official product Test board. Samples tested by customers and media evaluation agencies, mostly test panels for trial production.

After the product is released, the manufacturer will improve the product according to the information of the chip optimization update, production process innovation and customer feedback. During this period, the product improvement Test board and even the redesigned Evaluation board/Reference board will appear.

Qualification sample and Customer sample of the conventional classification method are equivalent to the Test board. It should be noted that samples in the test board that have been manually manipulated to cause a large number of line changes and component changes should be Engineering samples.

Express 3D  Test board





This Express 3D graphics card is a Test board that intel completes the design and is in trial production, which is no different from the official retail product. Compared with the Express 3D graphics Evaluation board, you can see obvious changes from the picture: the core version of the graphics card is upgraded, the BIOS version is updated from the 002 version to the 003 version that is consistent with the official product, and the failed certification is reduced from four to two. The two vertical rows of resistors under the fan interface change from full to full soldering. Also, the date of this card PCB is 98 years and 09 weeks, and the official release date of Express 3D graphics card is April 15, 1998, which is equivalent to 15 weeks in 1998. The test for the media evaluation agency is mainly the Test board before the release date.


In addition, the following types of boards can also be used as sample collections.


4. Demo board


Demo board is similar to the Test board, with a functional demo board that works and an appearance show board that doesn't work.


The following INTEL Pentium Processor Demo Board is the appearance display board.

Pentium Processor Demo Board



5. Development board


        Development board is special products developed, designed or commissioned by original or third-party manufacturers. Due to the early production time, small batch size and many functions, it has some characteristics of the sample and can also be used as a sample collection. The DKHIQV-PCI board graphics card from Intel/ Chips&Technologies is shown below.




6. Other

There are also some special boards that are also used as sample collections. For example, a card with a sample chip and a commemorative card, a limited-edition card, a signature card, and a MACH32 graphics card that has been dyed by the following intel as a fun collection of samples.


Graphics Ultra Pro



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Sample of computer hardware board and card (3) Chip evolution

Sample of computer hardware board and card (2) Board type

Sample of computer hardware board and card (1) versions definition