Intel released the DG31GL motherboard in January 2006. It was a low end, budget motherboard, targeted to users that simply want a computer to do basic stuff like emails, type letters etc. This motherboard does not require a graphics card. The video is built into the motherboard. Just plug the VGA cable into the back of the DG31GL and the monitor will come to life. Intel even made sure that the user cannot install a graphics card because the DG31GL has no PCI Express slot.
I have two of these motherboards in my collection. Never liked them. Their VGA displays were poor when compared to a dedicated graphics card. They ended up in my storage box with other motherboards that failed to meet my expectations. And there they sat for many years.
While rummaging through my motherboards a few days ago, I came across this DG31GL. It didn’t bring back good memories. I remember clearly I had difficulties even getting this motherboard to post and when I did, I wasn’t impressed by the performance. Nonetheless, I was determined to give it another shot. I wasn’t expecting much. No expectations, no disappointments.
I plugged in the rams and a hard disk and true enough, it wouldn’t post. Nada. No beeps, monitor stayed blank. I thought perhaps the motherboard doesn’t like the cpu. I then tried different processors, ranging from Pentium 4, Pentium D to Core 2 Duo, but none of them worked.
I recall years ago when I tested this board that it’s very picky with memory. I proceeded with inserting different rams that I have and to my delight, a particular 667MHz memory stick brought on the Post. Got the Bios set up and installed the latest Linux Mint 19.2 LTS. I had to use the 32bit version because I only have 2GB of ram.
When Mint came on, I was dumbstruck. The monitor display was beautiful. It cannot be. This motherboard video is horrible. That’s why I hated it so much. So, what’s changed.
Then it occurred to me that I’m using a IPS monitor. I’ve never used the VGA on this monitor because when digital came out, I’ve been using HDMI ever since. It never crossed my mind that the VGA on this IPS monitor is far superior to that of my old Dell LCD monitor.
That got me all excited. My discovery means that the old chipset graphics are actually very good. It’s the monitor technology that was lacking. As a matter of fact, I’m writing this with VGA out on the Intel DG31GL motherboard. I’m totally at ease, not stressed out squinting and cursing the dim, wash out monitor display. Now that the VGA is sorted out, let’s see how this DG31GL motherboard fares in today’s world.
As I mentioned earlier, I’m using Linux Mint 19.2 and not Windows XP which this DG31GL was originally designed for. XP is no longer supported. It’s a Windows 10 nowadays and for that you’ll need a modern motherboard and preferably a i7 processor with 8GB of ram. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t need that unless I’m into gaming.
The exercise here is to determine whether this “ancient” motherboard is good enough to work with. By that, I mean run LibreOffice, my Windows soft wares like OmniMic, DATS, Dreamweaver etc and most importantly, surf the internet without crashing.
Having tested the DG31GL for a few days, I’m happy to report that it passed with flying colors. I can actually work with this computer and with VGA at that. I have Chromium on now and with it, my hotmail, webmail, ebay and bbc. All activated, together with my WordPress blog. I’m even listening to CCR through the SB Audigy 2 ZS as I’m typing. The computer is working flawlessly.
In the Resources above, it shows my meager 2GB of memory is already exhausted and I’m into 381.5MB in Swap. The beauty with this Mint 19.2 is that the swap file is seamless. The browser doesn’t stall or crash when swap is in use. There was an instance where Chromium hung but that was because the website was continuously downloading those video ads. Don’t you just hate that. I have no issues with an ad or two but plastering the entire page to make as much money as possible is ridiculous. These site owners have no regard for viewers and for that, thank god for the ad blockers. I swear by AdBlock Plus. It stops all these garbage and it’s free. If you’re interested to reuse your DG31GL motherboard, here are a few tips that will make you life easier.
The most annoying part is the memory. This motherboard only accepts single sided ram. No wonder I couldn’t get it to work. Most of my 667MHz rams are double-sided. To make matters worse, there are only two memory slots. To install 4GB of ram means that each stick must be 2GB. For the life of me, I couldn’t find any single sided 2GB memory. Fortunately, the swap file came to the rescue.
As for the processor, go for the fastest Core2Duo. This will speed up the computer considerably. I am using a Core2Duo E7400. It has two cores running at 2.8GHz. Works perfectly.
Installing Linux Mint 19.2 is painless. However, you’ll need to apply all the updates immediately to avoid Mint from crashing. With this latest Mint, I’m getting a VGA resolution of 1920×1080 out of the G31 chipset. That’s the native resolution of my Dell IPS 27″ monitor.
In summary, I would like to stress that there’s absolutely no necessity to spend your hard earned money on the latest hardware for normal work. It can be done on the cheap. There’s an abundance of these motherboards in the world. Instead of heading to the landfill, they can be re-purposed. All it needs is one of the many FREE Linux distributions and you can do 95% of the work. This is a positive way of reducing electronic waste and it’s healthy on your pocket too.
December 9, 2019Computers