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First nForce II roundup ! Post your opinions ...

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So far ALL nForce mobos have stupid layouts, some to higher degrees than others.

The choice of Realtek ALC650's is a little suspect, given the power of the APU, I would have liked to seen a better-regarded DAC (if anyone has test results to prove that the ALC650 is more capable in the DAC department than my Game Theater XP, PLEASE post them)

No parallel IDE RAID for hard drives that actually exist right now.

No board save for Asus actually implements all the chipset features.

The Soundstorm APU has two significant limitations:

1) Even though Sensaura, who writes the drivers _has_ emulated A3D2 for SoundStorm, they are not allowed to expose the functionality since Aureal's IP is now owned by Creative.

2) Nothing aside from Waveout, DS, and DS3D is capable of being encoded. No EAX, no A3D1.

Only 5 PCI slots. Not that I have 5 PCI devices (although I could), but I love the placement flexibility when you have 5 slots.

Universally, the IDE connectors block either PCI slots or, worse, the AGP slot. In my experience, half the IDE cables out there have "fat" connectors that stick "up" a little bit from the IDE connector. All the round IDE cables I have have such fat connectors. This means that I can't use rounded cables and a Geforce4 Ti4400/Ti4600.

Check out the Gigabyte GA-7VAXP - that is the closest to the PERFECT mobo layout I've ever seen. All ribbon connectors are above the midpoint of the board, where they allow drives to be installed in the top bays of a full tower and don't interfere with longer cards. All the small connectors are at the bottom of the board, which allows you to lay the cables on the floor of the case for routing. Unfortunately, the GA-7VAXP has a stupid Via chipset and stupid Realtek networking.

Questions

Can individual chipset features be turned off? Say, Firewire, USB 2.0, and individual USB controllers? If I only have two USB devices (the rest attach through hubs), and none of them are USB 2.0, can I save 3 of the 4 IRQ's otherwise taken up by USB functionality?

My Epox EP-8K7A allowed individual control over USB like that. No i845D / i845E board I've seen lets you do this.

Can ACPI be turned off? Again, the EP-8K7A allowed that in the BIOS :)

Is the ALC-650 utilized differently on an nForce board versus an Intel board with AC'97? I recall installing Realtek drivers on intel AC'97 boards, so those parts of the chip are not utilized in the nForce setup?

Thanks,

Alex[/b]

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not that i'm even considering a purchase, but it bugs me severely that everybody is using realtek parts and nobody seems to be 'true' to the features. if there was an nvidia-branded board that implemented everything faithfully and with good components, i would be more likely to find a reason to buy one.

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Actually, Asus is true to the features. Everyone save for Chaintech implements all the features save for the 3com NIC.

Realtek PHY's for the networking and firewire are okay. All a PHY does is take care of the actual electrical signaling, whereas the layers above it take care of what constitutes a packet, bit arrangement, etc. So, theoretically, by implementing a wireless PHY, you could have, for all intents and purposes, Ethernet, but transmitted via the radio instead of over the eight wires. The drivers wouldn't even have to know about it.

(of course it's not efficient to implement ethernet that way, but you COULD - wirelessly, or via optical, etc..)

(Incidentally... methinks the Nforce NIC is basically a software "CNR" NIC.. why not implement the 3Com MAC if you're only gonna do one?)

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According to the Anandtech review, you can use the reference drivers for the Asus board, but it will skip the sound driver installation (for this, you need to use the drivers from Asus' page). If you installed the 2.0 drivers over the ones that came with your A7N8X, chances are you may still be using the audio drivers from the CD... although since I don't own the Asus board, I can only mention what I've seen on other sites.

If I remember correctly the 2.00 drivers came the 20. november.

and looking at the screenshots here: Nforce Soundstorm

The nforce-info.jpg shows the driver details, and I really think thats the driver included in the 2.00 drivers. And I think that the asus a7n8x (non deluxe) doesn't use the nforce apu. Am I correct?

I just saw a company selling the Chaintech on eBay - for 200€ / 195$ w/o shipping

damn impressive what you get  

CNR Firewire card, Digital sound out PCI Slot bracket and optical in/out, rounded Floppy / IDE cables and that CBox with Firewire, USB 2.0 and sound is very nice too :)

The Chaintech board does not use the nforce apu, it uses the CMedia 8738 chip.

Chaintech at anandtech

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Nothing aside from Waveout, DS, and DS3D is capable of being encoded.  No EAX, no A3D1.

[/b]

Everything I've read sofar suggests that the soundstorm supports EAX and EAX2.

Could you explain further please ?

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Nothing aside from Waveout, DS, and DS3D is capable of being encoded.  No EAX, no A3D1.

[/b]

Everything I've read sofar suggests that the soundstorm supports EAX and EAX2.

Could you explain further please ?

The Soundstorm can, of course, do EAX and EAX2 like a Sound Blaster Live! can. However, according to a good friend of mine who has an A7N266-C, EAX, EAX2, etc, are not capable of being encoded into a DD stream, only waveout, DS and DS3D.

Again, if and only if you use analog outs, you get the full functionality. It's a damn nice sound solution still, but hampered by potential analog output quality issues and DD encoding limitations

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(Incidentally...  methinks the Nforce NIC is basically a software "CNR" NIC..  why not implement the 3Com MAC if you're only gonna do one?)

It’s not clear to me what you mean. The nForce MAC is superior to the 3Com MAC, and should always be used first. The 3Com MAC is older, and is there only for people who understand little about Ethernet, but think they have heard of 3Com before.

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(if anyone has test results to prove that the ALC650 is more capable in the DAC department than my Game Theater XP, PLEASE post them)

[/b]

I just upgraded from a KR7A-R to an 8RDA+, and I have been using a Game Theater XP with much enjoyment for the last year. However, the Soundstorm on this board absolutely puts the GTXP to shame, in my subjective listening experience. For UT2003 they sound about the same, but as far as mp3 and other digital audio goes, the SS sounds much better because it can utilize 24bits/sample, and even 32bits/sample with the winamp MAD plugin. This is on a Klipsch 5.1 setup. There is also slightly lower CPU usage with the SS. I have taken the GTXP out of my system, and I will probably sell it to a friend who's got a crappy Live! card. :)

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lol. I like that last comment

this thread sure has taken off.... On the topic of implementing all the features.... well... it seems that is rearely done in a motherboard... however some get close...

I think that manufacturers are releasing the 'basic' boards now('cept for Asus) and are going to come out later with their 'full featured'/'feature rich' boards when they get all the bugs outta the basic models and see what people really want/what features work well in the N'force 2 chipsets.

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I just upgraded from a KR7A-R to an 8RDA+, and I have been using a Game Theater XP with much enjoyment for the last year.  However, the Soundstorm on this board absolutely puts the GTXP to shame, in my subjective listening experience.  For UT2003 they sound about the same, but as far as mp3 and other digital audio goes, the SS sounds much better because it can utilize 24bits/sample, and even 32bits/sample with the winamp MAD plugin.  This is on a Klipsch 5.1 setup.  There is also slightly lower CPU usage with the SS.  I have taken the GTXP out of my system, and I will probably sell it to a friend who's got a crappy Live! card.  :)

Interesting... If I may quote http://www.realtek.com.tw/products/product...aspx?modelid=30, the ALC650 is an 18-bit device, so the 24bits/sample isn't actually translated into greater dynamic range (which is around 90db, and you can get 90db with 16-bit audio)

The numbers are one thing... I'm curious about things like frequency response, distortion, stereo separation and overall "tone" of the sound. The GTXP and Santa Cruz seem to be near the top of the class for consumer level soundcards in terms of just analog quality (good drivers aside). If I can get that from an nForce board, I'd love it - I could sell my GTXP and not have to spend the money on a Granite Bay setup for my next upgrade.

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Interesting...  If I may quote http://www.realtek.com.tw/products/product...aspx?modelid=30, the ALC650 is an 18-bit device, so the 24bits/sample isn't actually translated into greater dynamic range (which is around 90db, and you can get 90db with 16-bit audio)

Apparently the new nForce drivers offer ASIO (?) support - I don't know exactly what this means, but according to a thread on http://www.avsforum.com HTPC section, I get the idea that this allows you to bypass "kmixer" in windows and pass the sound digitally directly to your DD5.1 receiver. Maybe this is what the Winamp MAD plugin does? Anyway, it should bypass the Realtek ALC650, so the 18-bits has no effect, I expect. I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong here...

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If I remember correctly the 2.00 drivers came the 20. november.

and looking at the screenshots here: Nforce Soundstorm

The nforce-info.jpg shows the driver details, and I really think thats the driver included in the 2.00 drivers. And I think that the asus a7n8x (non deluxe) doesn't use the nforce apu. Am I correct?

Well, I'm not currently at my nForce2 PC (it's in my lab), so I can't do a direct comparison right now. However, the image you linked showed the Audio Control Panel version 3.06 - which corresponds to the version in the 2.0 Reference drivers. So, maybe it's installed on the Asus board? If so, Anandtech is wrong in their review...

On an unrelated note, I got my Tbred 1800+ (1533MHz) up to a 2400+ (12 x 166MHz FSB = 2.0GHz) on my Epox 8RDA+. Had to up the voltage to 1.85V, so a little bit high... Anyway, it overclocks nice. :wink:

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...However, the image you linked showed the Audio Control Panel version 3.06 - which corresponds to...

Should preview my post first... 3.07, I mean.

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On an unrelated note, I got my Tbred 1800+ (1533MHz) up to a 2400+ (12 x 166MHz FSB = 2.0GHz) on my Epox 8RDA+. Had to up the voltage to 1.85V, so a little bit high... Anyway, it overclocks nice.  

If it were a palomino I would say a little high... but a thoroughbred??? you are crazy. the voltage for the 1800+ T-bred should be 1.5... 23% voltage increase sounds a mite much, don't you think? or perhaps were you mistaken about the core of your CPU(the palomino runs at 1.75v)?

AMD Athlon XP model 6 (Palomino):

http://anime-jennie.com/hdd/model6-palomino.gif

AMD Athlon XP model 8 (Tbred 133MHz FSB):

http://anime-jennie.com/hdd/model8-tbred.gif

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Well, I'm not currently at my nForce2 PC (it's in my lab), so I can't do a direct comparison right now. However, the image you linked showed the Audio Control Panel version 3.06 - which corresponds to the version in the 2.0 Reference drivers. So, maybe it's installed on the Asus board? If so, Anandtech is wrong in their review...

Yeah the pictures are taken from a computer with the asus a7n8x deluxe board.

The 2.00 drivers installed without a hitch.

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If it were a palomino I would say a little high...  but a thoroughbred??? you are crazy. the voltage for the 1800+ T-bred should be 1.5... 23% voltage increase sounds a mite much, don't you think? or perhaps were you mistaken about the core of your CPU(the palomino runs at 1.75v)?

I knew what I was talking about. :P Yes, the default voltage is 1.5V, so it is upped by 23%. Rule of thumb is that 10% or so is okay, so I know I'm pushing it a bit here. However, I do have a watercooled (Koolance) case, so CPU temps are still low. And I really just want to try it for a while - it boots at 11.5 x 166 at 1.7V, so I may drop it down to that after a while... but it's hard to resist "2400+" in the boot screen. :roll:

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It certainly wont last 8 years like some of my other mobo's but it will probably last 2 years(which most people would probably consider is the usable service live of a mobo)

When did 2 years become the usable service life of a motherboard or of a computer for that matter?

I must be living in a different planet.

I should have responded to this earlier... I think that after 2 years technology has pretty much moved on. So that a 2 year old mobo can no longer take the CPU's and RAM modules that are being produced.

Personally, I think almost anything that is solid-state should last forever... or until it is no longer usefull. I have 2 working 486DX/2 66mhz systems(1 I use as a mail server) and I have recently aquired a powerPC 66mHz computer... These are 8-9 year old systems and are still running... more surprisingly, I even have a use for 1 of them. I see no reason to throw out perfectly good and useable equipment.

However, I realize that alot of what is made today is intentionally meant to fail after a certain amount of time. Hopefully this time occurs after the usable life of the product... but that really depends on the item and how/why you're using it. I have been told that this is to cut down on costs, but personally I would spend extra money to buy a product that is over engineered and built with exceeding quality.

A difficult question arrises when you ahve a situation similar to the Asus board. The board comes from a reputable manufacturer, offers more features than the competition, and comes at a resonable price. However, you can tell from the design that this product is one of the "meant to fail" items. On one hand you get THE BEST feature set of any N'Force2 mobo, but on the other hand you have a product that will fail prematurely.

If you don't plan on using the board for more than 2 years it doesn't really matter to you... but if you are looking to buy a computer system that you can hand down to a friend or child then you will probably not want to buy the Asus...

I don't think I will buy the asus, although I would like to... I really don't need a new mobo at the moment anyway...

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If it were a palomino I would say a little high...  but a thoroughbred??? you are crazy. the voltage for the 1800+ T-bred should be 1.5... 23% voltage increase sounds a mite much, don't you think? or perhaps were you mistaken about the core of your CPU(the palomino runs at 1.75v)?

I knew what I was talking about. :P Yes, the default voltage is 1.5V, so it is upped by 23%. Rule of thumb is that 10% or so is okay, so I know I'm pushing it a bit here. However, I do have a watercooled (Koolance) case, so CPU temps are still low. And I really just want to try it for a while - it boots at 11.5 x 166 at 1.7V, so I may drop it down to that after a while... but it's hard to resist "2400+" in the boot screen. :roll:

I've got a 1700 T-Bred at 1950MHz in my 8RDA, at 1.9 volts, but it seems to like it just fine. The temp probe shows only 42C under load with my PAL8045, and the air coming off it is much cooler than it was with my 1.33 T-Bird @1.6 w/1.85v. If it craps ou then so be it, it was only a $58 chip anyway, beats paying ~$190 for a "real" 2400+.

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I think that after 2 years technology has pretty much moved on. So that a 2 year old mobo can no longer take the CPU's and RAM modules that are being produced.

No doubt that technology changes a great deal every two years. The question is whether you can continue to do your work in a timely and reliable fashion. Mindless consumerism does a lot of damage to our pockets and to the environment. Anyone who thinks that an inexpensive upgrade carries no cost simply does not understand how a modern processor is produced. If any of you care to find out what the ecological footprint of our technology is, the following short article is insightful:

”Tiny chips weigh heavily on environment” http://zdnet.com.com/2100-1103-964721.html

If you must have the latest and greatest, give your computer to somebody who may not be as fortunate as you are.

I agree with you that planned obsolescence, particularly for products that have no moving parts, is a very unfortunate thing and should be litigated when/if it can be proven.

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Nice comment. Actually, the Realtek ALC650 has been rated relatively good compared to some other chips out there. And for the nForce2 boards, you don't actually install any drivers for Realtek components - they only provide the interface between the nForce DSP/LAN and the physical connectors. Also, if you use SPDIF output, you can bypass the Realtek analog outputs altogether...

That's right. I have digital speakers with a Dolby decoder unit, so I use the digital-out. A direct connection to the APU. Realtek is only for digital-to-analog conversion, in case someone is using analog speakers.

Leo

ok ill buy the digital output part here but you need to show me how your speakers are digital? :confused: even if you have a dolby decoder you are still getting an analog signal to your speakers. however this was not processed by the realtek decoder obviously. its simply wrong to call a speaker digital. sorry im nitpicking but it just sounds funny. i got a book on elctronics in the closet have to pull it down and give a proper definition and theory of operation...some other time need sleep now maybe someone else who is into audio will do it ;).

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If it were a palomino I would say a little high...  but a thoroughbred??? you are crazy. the voltage for the 1800+ T-bred should be 1.5... 23% voltage increase sounds a mite much, don't you think? or perhaps were you mistaken about the core of your CPU(the palomino runs at 1.75v)?

I knew what I was talking about. :P Yes, the default voltage is 1.5V, so it is upped by 23%. Rule of thumb is that 10% or so is okay, so I know I'm pushing it a bit here. However, I do have a watercooled (Koolance) case, so CPU temps are still low. And I really just want to try it for a while - it boots at 11.5 x 166 at 1.7V, so I may drop it down to that after a while... but it's hard to resist "2400+" in the boot screen. :roll:

Well, I just got back to my lab today... the system successfully survived a weekend of the Sandra 2003 burn-in wizard (CPU Arithmetic and Multimedia test). It was on cycle 5625 when I stopped it - I guess it says something about the stability of the Epox board at OC settings. I may just keep my 1800+ at 2400+ for the time being... :)

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That's right. I have digital speakers with a Dolby decoder unit, so I use the digital-out. A direct connection to the APU. Realtek is only for digital-to-analog conversion, in case someone is using analog speakers.

Leo

ok ill buy the digital output part here but you need to show me how your speakers are digital? :confused: even if you have a dolby decoder you are still getting an analog signal to your speakers. however this was not processed by the realtek decoder obviously. its simply wrong to call a speaker digital. sorry im nitpicking but it just sounds funny. i got a book on elctronics in the closet have to pull it down and give a proper definition and theory of operation...some other time need sleep now maybe someone else who is into audio will do it ;).

The SPEAKER SYSTEM is digital, i.e., the subwoofer/amp box contains a Dolby decoder, which feeds 5 seperate amp channels, which in turn feed the decoded bass and mid/high signals to the appropriate surround speakers. I have this with my old Altec Lansing 880s (a 4.1 setup to be sure). When you look at today's integrated amp/speaker/decoder setups, they really are tending towards one unit - my ALs surround speakers even use a DIN plug that is incompatible with standard amps. So calling the whole thing a SPEAKER SYSTEM is probably correct, and shortening that to SPEAKER is probably a conversational contraction...

There ARE digital speakers, btw - Meridan makes (made?) a set that I know of, and the drive signal fed into the speaker cabinet is indeed digital. Internally, much of the processing and amplification is indeed digital. But they do cost in the tens of thousands per pair, if I remember correctly...

Future Shock

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Digital speakers? What an oxymoron! You can do whatever you like with the rest of the signal chain, as analogue or as digital as you wish, but it is utterly impossible to have a digital amplifier or digital speakers. No such thing. Not "not invented yet", impossible.

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Re-reading my post, I realized that I SHOULD have been clearer that the SPEAKERS in my ALs are analog, as are the amps, as are the signals...only the decoder in the subwoofer is digital, which then feeds the D/A converters. I was merely refereing to it as a NAMING convention, as the sub/satellite/amp/decoder package is marketed and used as one unit - hence, it is a DIGITAL SPEAKER SYSTEM...thus shortened to SPEAKER in conversation...

The Meridians were a different story, AFAIK. They used analog transducers, but I think the amps themselves may have been some variant of digital 1 bit amps, not a conventional analog design. They ONLY accepted a digital signal. I have only seen them a few times, and only at VERY tweeky home theater stores in Manhattan. I can find no reference to them now, so I can't give exact info...they were always out of my price range to even look at too closely...

Future Shock

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