e_dawg

Help me choose budget mobo (and vid card)

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have you seen the Asus kt600 board?

A7V600

anandtech have a review in which IIRC, they say the onboard sound is in the same ballpark as the MCP-T, you also get sata and a passive northbridge cooler out of the box.

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not to mention the expense of buying a passive cooler...

I've replaced the active chipset cooler on a number of mobos with old Socket 370 Celeron heatsinks, minus the fan (usually on its last legs anyway). A little oversized, but that doesn't hurt :)

Double-stick thermal tape works well, and is in fact used by some lesser manufacturers for that application.

If you are not comfortable with that, drill two holes and reuse the pins from the active heatsink.

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I am now leaning towards the Soltek's KT600-RL board ($95 shipped) and the Matrox G450 OEM ($26 shipped). Rationale:

- the KT600 is slower than the nForce 2, but speed is not my main concern

- most nForce 2 boards are significantly more expensive than the KT600 boards, especially with SATA support

- SATA support would be nice to have when the FDB Raptors arrive in time for Xmas

- I like the passive NB cooler of the KT600-RL; the active one on my Soltek 75FRN2-L rattles and whines

- the KT600-R comes with the VIA VT1616 5.1 audio codec, which is said to rival the nForce MCP-T audio solution, unlike the RealTek ALC650/655 codecs commonly used for onboard sound

- I guess I will be taking a chance with Soltek's poor customer service & tech support now that they have minimal presence in this country, but according to Anandtech, most mobo mfr's are the same way except for Abit

- Matrox video could offer a noticeable improvement in image quality over the onboard nForce 2 stuff

The Abit KV7 KT600-based board will apparently be coming soon; this appears to a viable alternative to the Soltek with superior support and the same VIA VT1616 codec, albeit with an active NB cooler (how does one remove those suckers?... not to mention the expense of buying a passive cooler)... otherwise not much difference.

You'd be suprised. The original nForce1 mobo had a GF2 video solution that was fairly pathetic at high resolutions on a good screen. I gave mine to my mother for just that reason (she only runs 800x600 on a 19" monitor). However, the nForce2 has GF4 440 graphics - and the 2D on that is on a par with Matrox. I have a GF4 4400 (same 2D as 440), and I have used it at high resolutions on both a very good 19" monitor and a 17" LCD (driving the analog port). It is astoundingly clear - the first nVidia product that I can say that about. GF4s have 350Mhz RAMDACs, good quality output circuitry, and stable drivers. You would find exceedingly little difference between a Matrox and the GF4, at least up to 1600x1200 resolution. Above that, maybe the Matrox might be clearer, but I don't know for sure - after all, who drives higher res than that on a budget system?

I would recommend an Asus nForce2 w/ onboard graphics as the most cost effective Athlon system out their right now. Was going to post that yesterday, but my daughter turned off my UPS in the middle of posting it...

Future Shock

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I have no problem agreeing to the fact that a GF4 AGP card would rival the Matrox in image quality. But I am not convinced that a mobo's onboard GF4MX circuitry would be of the same quality. Don't they have to fit the GPU into the NB chip?

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Regarding Future Shock and rfarris' suggestion to get an Asus nForce 2 mobo with onboard video, I considered that option, but it still costs $122 shipped.

For $121 shipped, I can get a Soltek KT600-RL and a Matrox G450. If you assume that the onboard video of the nForce 2 is as good as the Matrox card, this combo still has an advantage in the form of SATA support.

So the question I pose is: what are the advantages of the Asus mATX nForce 2 board that would make it compelling enough to give up SATA support for?

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have you seen the Asus kt600 board?

A7V600

anandtech have a review in which IIRC, they say the onboard sound is in the same ballpark as the MCP-T, you also get sata and a passive northbridge cooler out of the box.

From the Anandtech review:

ASUS has included ADI SoundMax audio 5.1 audio on the A7V600 ... ADI SoundMax is the same audio chip used in ASUS 865/875 high-end motherboards. It is also used by Intel on their 865/875 motherboards. SoundMax is one of the more flexible AC ’97 2.2 compliant sound codecs ... VIA would certainly prefer that manufacturers use their excellent VT1616 audio codec. However, with the KT600 so quickly becoming slotted as a value board, it is difficult to fault manufacturers who are looking for cost savings. The ADI SoundMax will be a fine solution for most users, but if you prefer a higher-end audio solution using a PCI audio card, the on-board Audio can be easily disabled.

Hmm... my take on this is that the ADI codec is not as bad as the Realtek ACL650/655 codec found in many other KT600 boards, but is not as good as the preferred VIA VT1616 solution... an understandable cost-saving measure due to the value-oriented nature of KT600 boards.

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Regarding Future Shock and rfarris' suggestion to get an Asus nForce 2 mobo with onboard video, I considered that option, but it still costs $122 shipped.

For $121 shipped, I can get a Soltek KT600-RL and a Matrox G450. If you assume that the onboard video of the nForce 2 is as good as the Matrox card, this combo still has an advantage in the form of SATA support.

So the question I pose is: what are the advantages of the Asus mATX nForce 2 board that would make it compelling enough to give up SATA support for?

Honestly, I can only think of a few (and they are mostly subjective, so please no flames):

1) Asus build quality and support over Soltek's

2) nVidia's chipset and driver quality over VIA's (this is probably the one that I feel most strongly about)

3) Quality of onboard sound solution (which you discuss above).

4) Ability to actually run 3D games or graphics should you ever want to (as limited as the 440 is in Direct X 8 or above, it is still MUCH more capable than a Matrox)

You can add a SATA card for $32 if you want one in the future.

Again, many of these are very subjective...and only you can put a value on them. Native SATA support is a nice feature, and it doesn't load the PCI bus as an expansion SATA card would. In terms of reliability, I personally would pick an Abit or Asus over almost anything, with Gigabyte my third choice (Tyan for anything dual proc, of course). But, YMMV...

Future Shock

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1) Asus quality is overrated. IMO their boards aren't any better than most other brands. The only thing Asus seems better about is maintaining BIOS support for a longer time than other manufacturers.

2) VIA doesn't have driver problems like they had in the past.

3) A high quality audio card needs decent speakers. Depending on what speakers you use, there won't be any difference between el cheapo onboard sound and a high-end add-in card.

4) You can always add a cheap vidcard which will be faster than the integrated vid if/when you ever decide you want to play games.

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Few links

Soundstorm(nvidia) vs Vinyl(via)

Be careful though just because a motherboard uses the southbrigde it does not mean it uses that APU/CODEC

ASUS A7V600 review fyi

Review of an nForce2 IGP solution (info for integrated graphics)

As your buying on a budget, I think you will you'll be better off looking at ASrock and ECS budget solution, with SIS and VIA. (although the range seems limited)

or look at other brands

EPOX http://web.epox.com/html/motherboard-produ...cket%20a〈=1 (there new ones) I like there boards.

Gigabyte http://www.giga-byte.com/MotherBoard/Produ...ts_Socket+A.htm Making damn fine nForce2 solutions (look at the 7N400 range)

Advice: Buy a board you want with everything you want, don't just stick to the major brands look at the others the boards are all very good (they just may be 1 or 2% slower in a benchmark so don't get the lime light)

also If you find a board you like have a little look on www.ebuyer.com and see if anyones bought that board and added a little review. May help you..

Your in the worst sector to buy in, so much choice.

It's easy if you want the out and out must have board ;)

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If you want to save a few $$$, have you looked at the Shuttle nForce2 board with graphics for $84? Well reviewed on NewEgg...and Supercaff can tesitfy to the reliability of Shuttle's mobos, seeing as he now has 5 at home... B)

Future Shock

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If you want to save a few $$$, have you looked at the Shuttle nForce2 board with graphics for $84?

I built a computer for my Mom with the Shuttle MN31N, and I'd recommend it with no hesitation. I had planned to buy the Asus nForce2 micro-ATX product, but an Asus systems house I deal with (JNCS) said they'd had some stability problems with the Asus microATX mobo, and were recommending the MN31N. I bought it and I've been very happy. Decent onboard video, great sound, 6 USB2.0 ports, four firewire ports, 10/100 LAN, dual head video... All for about $80.

The only drawback I've found is that the cable for connecting the onboard SP/DIF connector to the back panel is completely unavailable. Anybody know where I can find one?

-- Rick

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1) Asus build quality and support over Soltek's

2) nVidia's chipset and driver quality over VIA's (this is probably the one that I feel most strongly about)

3) Quality of onboard sound solution (which you discuss above).

4) Ability to actually run 3D games or graphics should you ever want to (as limited as the 440 is in Direct X 8 or above, it is still MUCH more capable than a Matrox)

You can add a SATA card for $32 if you want one in the future.

Again, many of these are very subjective...and only you can put a value on them.  Native SATA support is a nice feature, and it doesn't load the PCI bus as an expansion SATA card would.  In terms of reliability, I personally would pick an Abit or Asus over almost anything, with Gigabyte my third choice (Tyan for anything dual proc, of course).  But, YMMV...

Future Shock

I have not been that impressed with Asus, although I have used their boards in 2 of the last 3 systems I have built for myself. My last Asus mobo (the nForce 1 mATX board with onboard video/sound/LAN) died, which is why I am getting another board.

I am similarly not as impressed with the nForce chipset and driver quality as I was before. Indeed, I have a VIA 686 southbridge with the glitchy sound during IDE transfers, so I know all about the legendary VIA chipset and driver "quality", but my nForce experience hasn't been all roses as of late either. I guess the possibly slightly better chipset stability and somewhat better performance would make an nForce 2 solution more compelling than a VIA based solution in most peoples' minds, but for some reason it doesn't do that for me.

The nForce 2 mATX boards typically use the cheaper Realtek AC650 codec, whereas a select few KT600 boards (Abit and Soltek) use the preferred VIA VT1616 codec. So, the sound quality on the Asus and Shuttle mATX boards would not be as good as the Soltek KT600.

There is no argument about the superior 3D performance of the onboard GF4MX. I just don't know if it's enough of a factor to sway a purchasing decision on (this system is not meant for gaming).

As for adding an SATA card for $32, that would put me into the range of an Abit NF-7S with SATA, 1394, sound, LAN, 5 PCI, full ATX, so I might as well get that instead of an mATX Asus or Shuttle, but that pulls me out of budget territory again.

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Funny the way things are unfolding... I am currently deciding on purchasing a condo downtown. If I end up with that condo, that means less space for my computer stuff, and possibly the consolidation of 2 desktops into 1... or maybe 2 mini-ITX systems. Anyways, the point is that I wonder if I should just sell my orphaned Palomino 1800 and PC2100 and slap my Athlon Classic 650 and Asus K7M board back into my case and call it a day.

Another question is does anyone know anything about putting together space-efficient computer systems with the kind of features I am looking for (is there such a thing as one of those Shuttle mini-ITX cubes that can handle 2-3 hard drives, a high end Radeon, a powerful CPU, and yet is still quiet?)

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And what of a wireless KVM system where I could stash the PC halfway across the room and have just the LCD, KB, and mouse on a desk.

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I haven't heard of a wireless KVM system. Even if it exists, the video quality/performance will be aughful.

If you want two disks, forget the tiny systems. You would be better off building a rack to hang the systems off the ceiling.

My preferences in KVM's are a little too expensive. :) It is Avocent Outlook/Autoview line. They are enterprise rackmount server switches.

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I guess the wireless K and M is nothing new; it's extending the range to more than 10 feet that is the challenge. Bluetooth is too short range, yes?

I guess wireless V would be asking a lot, but then they do send video signals all over the place in the common form of TV broadcasting, satellite uplinks, videoconferencing, and even Mercutio's VCR to ATI AIW transmission system :)

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e_dawg,

The link I gave you was to a Shuttle mobo, not the cute cube they sell. It IS a uATX mobo though, so you could put it in a real uATX case and have room for 3 PCI cards, AGP, and multiple disks. I might recommend something like the Enlight # 76020B1 uATX tower ($42), which has many bays and a 300W supply - yet still conforms to uATX 3 PCI/1 AGP backpanel specs. Small and powerful, and very popular according to 37 reviews on NewEgg.

FS

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If you want more drives in the mini cube systems you need to use 2.5" drives.

Cool, Quiet and not as power hungry.

And you could always RAID them ;)

You say you would liek SATA but this takes you out of 'budget' range

and you also say you would like this so you could get the new FDB Raptor...

Sorry but I don't get it.... 'budget' & 'raptors' :lol:

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If you want more drives in the mini cube systems you need to use 2.5" drives.

Cool, Quiet and not as power hungry.

And you could always RAID them ;)

You say you would liek SATA but this takes you out of 'budget' range

and you also say you would like this so you could get the new FDB Raptor...

Sorry but I don't get it.... 'budget' & 'raptors'  :lol:

2.5" drives so far are excruciatingly slow for me. Even a striped pair would be slower than a nice 3.5" IDE drive.

The reason, oh flightless bird, for wanting a budget board with SATA capability is so that I could afford a FDB Raptor, which would give me a much greater performance boost for my uses than things like a faster CPU / chipset / 3D performance, etc. It's all about spending money where it counts, and IMO, the hard drive is still the bottleneck.

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Sometimes it does pay off when one reads computer mags. :) The still-current c't features a review of FSB400 boards, among them the Asrock K7S8XE (SiS 748 + 963L), Asus A7V600, Epox 8KRA2+, Gigabyte GA-7N400-L, GA-7VT600-L ans MSI KT6 Delta-FIS2R. Computing speed didn't vary much within the boards with one chipset, with the Sis equipped Asrock being the slowest and the nForce2 GA-7N400-L the fastest; however, PCI performance varied quite a bit. The KT600 seems fastest here (seems with current VIA southbridges like the VT8237 it's bye bye to sucky PCI performance), with the Epox and MSI boards turning in read/write throughput of 115/113 and 115/114 MByte/s, respectively, with the RocketDrive. The Gigabyte only reached 83 MB/s writing, and the A7V600 was stuck at 47 MB/s (I guess a BIOS update might fix that, the reviewed board had 1005), while the read scores were on par with the other nForce2 boards. The Asrock board turned in 89/70 MByte/s. The nForce2 board despised the RocketDrive (38/18 MByte/s), but turned in throughput comparable to that of the A7V600 with a PCI GBit card (85/49 vs. 79/48).

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I might recommend something like the Enlight # 76020B1 uATX tower ($42), which has many bays and a 300W supply - yet still conforms to uATX 3 PCI/1 AGP backpanel specs.  Small and powerful, and very popular according to 37 reviews on NewEgg.

Looks pretty good... I think this Biostar Ideq is even cooler, though: http://www.mini-itx.com/store/ideq.asp

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Oh yes, and if I haven't said it enough before, damn you Americans for having access to so much nice stuff *and* good prices. Newegg doesn't even ship to Canada, but if they magically did, it would cost a fortune with brokerage fees, courier costs, GST, PST, duty, etc.

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Oh yes, and if I haven't said it enough before, damn you Americans for having access to so much nice stuff *and* good prices. Newegg doesn't even ship to Canada, but if they magically did, it would cost a fortune with brokerage fees, courier costs, GST, PST, duty, etc.

For normal sized stuff, recieved thru the post, Ive never paid a penny in brokerage or duty. Ive only had to pay GST...

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