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In this paper, we present a detailed analysis of the system design choices available for low-power high-speed I/O link transceivers. Using the transceiver power dissipation as the metric, we compare three equalization schemes (linear equalizer, decision-feedback equalizer, and transmit pre-emphasis) in combination with three pulse amplitude modulation (PAM) schemes (2-PAM, 4-PAM, and 8-PAM). The input signal levels and the filter lengths in the equalizer are chosen to minimize the power dissipation while meeting a bit error rate constraint. We show that, for a typical 20" intersymbol interference dominated link, transmit pre-emphasis in combination with 4-PAM results in 75 data rates.