I need help choosing a board. I just had to return a second PC CHIPS M-811LU back to newegg. The first one ran for 2 minutes. The second ran for less than 21 hours before dying.
Even the best manufacturers sometimes turn out lemons so I would prefer recommendation for exact boards (and revisions if applicable.)
This board will end up in a headless machine in my basement. It will run linux (Debian stable) and serve files over ethernet. It will be on 24/7 with little downtime.
My #1 top priority is a RELIABLE board. I don't want to deal with any more RMAs and I don't want this thing to die on me after six months of use.
My second priority is price. I'll be buying a new retail processor to go with the board. The processor and motherboard need to be around the $100 range. More than $150 is too much.
I'm open to any AMD processor but it seems that the socket A stuff is drying up. Also, it looks like I can get a 754 Semperon for not much more than I'd pay for a Duron 900 setup. Am I wrong in assuming that 754 is the way to go?
Would it be dumb to buy a budget 754 today with the Geforce 6100/6150 and nForce 430 boards on their way?
How is the Linux support for the Athlon 64 chipsets? I'm happy to compile a recent 2.6 kernel but I will not run closed source binary drivers for anything other than graphics. Are there any chipsets that I should avoid? Does any chipset have outstanding Linux support? I know there were issues with Linux support for the socket A nforce chipsets early on... Do the newest nforce chipsets (3 & 4) work on a stock Linux 2.6 kernel?
Ok, now on to the specifics...
These are the things I absolutely need:
* low DOA rate
* stability over the long term with the machine running 24/7
* solid linux support for the chipset (and if applicable the nic & sata controller) NO CLOSED SOURCE BINARY DRIVERS!
* availability from a reputable retailer like newegg
* no chipset fan
* two ide ports (do all boards still have them these days?)
* must be from a company who will actually replace/fix my board if it dies under warranty
These are things that would be nice to have:
* onboard nic (gigabit is a big plus)
* >1 year warranty 
* sata ports - the controller should be compatible with Seagate Barracuda 7200.8 ST3250823AS drives 
* onboard video with stable linux support
 Someone mentioned that Epox is offering a 3 year warranty on at least one of their boards.
 I read that some SATA chipsets had problems with some Segate sata drives. Dunno much more than that...
I couldn't care less about this stuff:
* onboard raid
I have an older ATX power supply and stick of DDR that I'd really like to use in this box but I'm unsure if either is up to snuff for a recent 754 board.
The ram is a noname stick of DDR 2100 with chips on both sides. Will all of the 754 chipsets function properly with PC2100? For instance, the ECS NFORCE4-A754 with theNForce 4-4X chipset lists support for PC3200. Will it run and be stable with PC2100 in it? I understand and accept that performance will be sacrificed.
My power supply is a Sparkle FSP300-60ATV with specs as follows:
* Complies with ATX and ATX12V standards.
* 20 pin atx power cable
* 4 pin atx 12V power cable
* 3V supplies 28A
* 5V supplies 30A
* 12V supplies 15A
* 5VSB supplies 2A
* 5V and 3.3V total output not to exceed 200W
* 3.3V, 5V, 12V total output not to exceed 280W.
* When 3.3V is loaded to 28A, 5V can only supply 21.5A.
* When 3.3V is loaded to 15A, 5V supplies the full 30A.
Does this thing have the juice to power a low end Semperon 754 with five 7200 rpm drives? If not I'll need a recommendation for a solid but economical psu as well.
Are the ATX power connections up to suff for modern boards? It has 20 pin ATX and 4 pin ATX 12V connectors. For instance, the ECS NFORCE4-A754 has a 24 ATX and a 4 pin ATX 12V connector. Will my power supply work with this board? Does the 20 pin ATX cable plug into the 24 pin ATX connector? If so, then does the ATX 12V connector supply the juice that would have been coming in on those other four pins of the ATX 24 connector?
If you've read this far, THANKS so much! The forums are my only hope...
Even if I'm not a fan of MSI,I would have a look at the MSI board with the ATI chipset. The MSI RS-480. it is a socket 754 board and you are right about low priced Sempron CPU. The board has integrated video from ATI, a fanless design and you should research to see if drivers for linux are available for the chipset. Easy task you can do at ATI web site.
I don't know if the integrated video from nvidia is a fanless design. SIS has fanless chipset for AMD cpu. Foxconn and Asrock are making low cost board of decent quality that should fit your needs. You can even find some low cost combo, but be carefull about combo that has the CPU soldered to the board directly. Ecs is one company that come into my mind for that.
Or, if you want a good board, Asus has a socket 754 CPU with nforce4 chipset. Personnaly, I would get that board and a cheap Sempron CPU and a cheap PCI-e or PCI videocard if I had to built a file server. Asus might not be the best for enthusiast, but they make good and reliable motherboard. The only thing, it is not a fanless design. But you can replace the NB fan with a Zalman fanless cooler and the job is done. I know someone that run the same board with one and it is as stable as it can be. Not a single crash for month. Sure, you'll end up paying more for the Asus, the cooler and the video card, but going with a cheap, but powerfull anyway for file serving Sempron will bring you something reliable overall for a not too bad price, even if it will cost you more than what you budgetted. But if you want to stay within your budget, I suggest brand like ECS, Foxconn and Asrock, SIS chipset and the Sempron CPU.
Your RAM wont have any problem running on those motherboard. I once setted up a Soltek 754 motherboard with a A64 3000+ and 256 megs of PC2100 memory and it was running good, but slower than what it should. But for file serving, I doubt that this will create lot of slowdown. And you could always upgrade later.
I mostly always use Seagate HDD, and never ran into problem with them, on nforce3 and 4 chipset. Didnt try them on other chipset thou.. but know about some that did and never report any problem. And I once succesfully installed Linux Fedora core on my nforce3 system.
Hope that help
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