Researching for new Motherboard

I haven't bought a new Motherboard in five years and haven't kept up on the technology. I like to buy big and not upgrade for a long time. Answers to these questions would be appreciation.

Thx Much!

I know I want:
- AMD processor
- DDR memory
- onboard SCSI adaptor

- Which AMD processor is considered tops with using DDR memory?
- What's the diff between Socket vs. Slot
- Is Socket A the latest & greatest?
- What's the best chipset for AMD processor and DDR memory?
- Any Motherboard suggestions for what I have specified?
23 answers Last reply
More about researching motherboard
  1. You certanly won't find a motherboard with DDRAM and SCSI. Simply because even now it still is extremly difficult to get a hand on DDRAM, the Motherboards, and the newer Athlon-C's that support a 133MHz. FSB. Now the fastest AMD with DDR is 1.2GHz. but in order to use DDR and 133MHz. FSB (266 DDR), without overclocking you have to buy at least 1GHz. because that's the lowest they're making Athlon-C's at.

    And again there just aren't many options for DDR right now so you would have to get a Socket A which for AMD is the latest and greatest. There are only 2 chipsets out there for DDR, The AMD 760, and the ALi Magik 1. Personally I would wait for the VIA KT266 right now which is coming out soon, just because it is based on the very successful chipset KT133.

    And the best Motherboard for DDR Right now, is the Asus A7M266, mostly because it is based on the successfull A7V. There are a few differences. The A7M266 has a different Promise ATA/100 that supports RAID level 0, but not 1, or 0+1. In case you don't know what RAID is I'll give you a brief discription:

    RAID 0: It is called Striping. It makes 2 equally sized Hard Drives and makes both of them one drive. But it does more than that, it uses the Power of the 2 drives so it improves performance. But it does have it's draw backs, if one drive fails you lose everything

    RAID 1: Mirroring, it is mostly for Fault Tolerence. It copies a drive onto a 2nd. drive of the same size. So if one drive fails the 2nd. one kicks in automatically.

    RAID 0+1: It is Disk striping and Mirroring. It is the most recommended configuration.

    But a note some people have had problems when using RAID and with sound. If you really need RAID go with a better solution. There are also some little things with the A7M266 that can and will eventually be fixed by newer BIOS's. Again though I'd wait for the KT266 chipset. Which one could guess there would be a Asus A7V266 or something like that would use the KT266. Hope this info is helpful.


    P.S. I've never used RAID just speaking on what I've learned by reading.
  2. Thanks Jacob. Just want I needed.
  3. The motherboard you are looking for is the MSI, K7 Master-S.

    It supports DDR RAM using the rock solid AMD 761 chipset and has on-board support for Dual Channel Ultra 160 SCSI using the onboard Adaptec AIC-7899. It also supports dual bus-master ATA-100 by using Via's VT82C686B giving you support for up to 4 ATA33/66/100 devices. It includes support for AGP4xPro and chip integrated hardware support for Soundblaster/DirectSound AC'97 Audio. The board also includes 4 USB ports, a game port and an Infrared port connector on the motherboard (if you want to run an IrDA port to the front or rear of your case) and the standard 2 serial & 1 parallel ports.

    What really sets the board apart is the 4 DIMM slots to support 4, 814-pin DDR-DIMMs for up to (HOLY COW) 4GB of onboard RAM.

    This motherboard is fantastic, but a tad pricey because of the Ultra160 SCSI support (but it is still much cheaper than going out and buying the Ultra 160 PCI controller and plugging it into your PCI bus!)

    You get 5 PCI slots, 1 CNR slot and of course the aforementioned AGP4xPro slot.

    While DDR RAM is readily available from Corsair (we've thoroughly tested the DDR-2100 modules in both this and the Asus A7M266) and it runs great. You might have trouble coming up the 266MHz AMD, Socket A CPU until after the end of March. (AMD says it will officially ship to distributors in the 3rd week of March)

    If you go with this board, you will be very happy. It runs very stable (unlike the current release of the Asus A7M266, but we are hoping the next revision of that board will be better).

    I should mention that while we are an authorized Asus dealer, we have been using this board for clients that want SCSI support and a stable DDR platform. The A7M266 just is not up to our standards at this time.

    Good Luck
    Steve Benoit

    Stable Technologies
    'The way IT should be!'
  4. is asus A7M266 overclockable as good as A7V133 ?

    Lionel Dumontier
  5. Hey stable what is your opinion of the MSI boards in general I am finding that they are nearing ( and sometimes surpassing) the asus boards in terms of stability and performance.

    A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing!
  6. No, the Asus A7M266 isn't as overclockable because it doesn't have multiplier adjustments. I was all ready to buy it until I found that out, now I'm probably going to get the MSI K7-Master (As soon as I can find one).
  7. Do you know where I could buy an MSI K7-Master? I can't find any retailers that have them.
  8. I'm not really sure that I can rate MSI, "in general", but I will give my best shot to comparing them to Asus.

    We only have about 6 different models of MSI motherboards in the Lab. While we really like the design of the latest AMD DDR boards, I can't really speak intelligently regarding the rest of their product line.

    Asus is still our primary vendor (at least for now) and we have put most of our efforts into testing any manufacturers boards that claim to have better baseline specifications than Asus boards.

    We started looking at MSI after they became the first manufacturer to pass the AMD Assured Program certification requirements for DDR, back in September of last year. That got our attention as they beat Asus to the punch and followed through by having a much more stable board in every revision we have seen.

    After kissing some butt (and because we already had 3 Pre-shipping 266MHz CPUs and 12 Sticks of 2100) we were able to get our hands on two boards just before Halloween. It's been love (or lust) ever since.

    While we waited and waited and waited from ANY boards from Asus. We actually suspected that they were going to pull the product completely last month when Asus deleted ALL mention of the board from their web site INCLUDING PREVIOUS PRESS RELEASES! By then, MSI had already gone through it's second revision.

    Still (to this day) the only versions of the Asus A7M266 that we have ever seen are the shipping production models and they are very unstable (crashing about once per hour), so we just won't sell or endorse them. Period.

    The other thing we really like about MSI is how co-operative they have been about explaining their positions, and helping us to obtain as much information as possible to, "help us, help ourselves". I suspect the logic behind this is so that we can help clients using their boards, so they don't have to. In any event, who can complain about it?

    Asus (on the other hand) seems to just want to keep everyone in the dark all of the time regarding EVERYTING, and they flat-out refuse to notify us of revisions (something that everyone else does automatically).

    Since November they have completely stopped providing ANY sales, marketing, service or support assistance to anyone (as far as we can tell). If you talk to anyone in California, they just tell you that they are working on it and blame somebody else in Taiwan. If you call Taiwan, they tell you to call Asus USA marketing in California. Can anyone say, "CIRCLE JERK?"

    The Asus Reseller square offers nothing. No features, no services, no support, NOTHING. Why have it at all?

    They don't even monitor their own web based "NetQ" support section. In fact, without going into archives, no user can see more than 50 support messages at one time. Oh, big help!

    As for the knowledge base, the A7M266 it is not even listed! We've reported over 15 different BIOS issues and have yet to receive a single reply so it's not like there aren't any issues.

    To top that off, we have reported errors in the printed materials with nine different motherboards; however, Asus has yet to make a single correction and some of these misprints (and completely inaccurate definitions) go back over a year. A good example would be to read the BIOS section of ANY Asus manual. I guarantee that the manual doesn't match what you see on your screen. I could live with that if they would at least enable F1 help. (Something that according to Award is required for all officially released BIOS's) Hitting F1 on ANY line in the BIOS should tell you exactly what that field is for and what the different options mean, but not with any Asus based BIOS.

    This is basic stuff, NOT rocket science. This single issue alone (either correct manuals or F1 BIOS help enabled) would prevent HALF of Asus' technical support questions and problems.

    We are really disappointed that Asus has gone out of their way to make things so difficult. It seems clear that there needs to be some major changes in the company. The only thing that keeps us buying CUSL2's and A7V133's is performance. We figure the rest of the stuff out on our own or with help from other experts. PERFORMANCE IS THE ONLY REASON WHY WE RECOMMEND ASUS.

    Now all we have to do is get Tom Pabst to bitch at them, maybe THEN they will change. It seems clear that we (and the thousand or so other people and companies that are complaining about these issues on Asus' web site) just don't have the power to make them listen or react.

    As for the question at hand, I would have to say that our limited relationship with MSI to date has been wonderful. They have been real good about support, printed materials, research data and prompt revisions in hardware and software. Based on what I have seen so far, I would have no problems recommending ANY of the boards that we have tested so far. Nor would I have a problem with the statement that MSI documentation, support, and communications far exceed anything offered by Asus at this time (or for the past 9 months). I hope that answers your question.

    Steve Benoit

    Stable Technologies
    'The way IT should be!'
  9. As a matter of fact, YES, I do know of a dealer that has some K7Master's and K7Master-S's in stock! (Grin) How many do you want?

    Steve Benoit

    Stable Technologies
    'The way IT should be!'
  10. Do you really have retail boards to sell? I got the impression that you were just testing pre-release boards. I would definitely buy one from you.
  11. i think that JumperFreeTM from asus can provide it

    Lionel Dumontier
  12. If you don't need raid don't buy it - it consumes valuable system resources and complicates configuration is many setups. The more gear you have, the more resources you are likely to need.

    ABIT KT7A Raid; 1ghz T-bird; 256 MB CAS 2 Ram; VisionTek G-force 2 GTS 32 Mb DDR; SBL Plat 5.1
  13. Steve: Re - your elaboration on Asus vs. MSI, all I can say is "wow"!

    It's incredible to me that you are still hanging in there with Asus!
  14. Hello, what about stepless frequency adjustments don't you understand? The A7M266 can have adjustments made in 1MHz increments. Also if the MSI K7 Master-S is too pricy the MSI K7 Master is cheaper because it lacks the onboard SCSI

    Someday I will stop asking all the questions!
  15. I would be more than happy to buy a board from you, but can you explaine something. What is the use of the SCSI 160 that makes the board so pricy? I don't know anything about SCSI cards so im clueless about it. The main reason why im thinking A7M266 over MSI K7 Master-S is the price. Oh and can you check the other post "ddr chipsets" I posted another error I found.

    Someday I will stop asking all the questions!
  16. SCSI is expensive. It would take to long to describe all of the reasons why, suffice it to say that it is much faster than IDE, supports up to 7, 14 or 30 devices per channel (depending on the controller) and is the only disk technology capable of reading and writing data at the same time.

    If you don't need SCSI options, I would sugest that you go with the K7Master instead of the K7Master-S; however having it on the motherboard in this case (if you need it) has reflected great performance with really easy setup.

    As for the Asus A7M266... First, I wish people that have never even seen one (other than in a picture) would stop endorsing it. Quite simply, it is just not anywhere as stable as the K7Master series. The fact that the A7M266 is supposed to support ECC memory (as Asus says that it does) but doesn't (system immediately crashes if ECC is enabled, or it plain just doesn't work depending on the board in your hands) a full 4 months after hitting the street is just another example of known bugs in the BIOS, and how slow Asus has been to correct problems. The K7Master series (on the other hand) supports Unbuffered DIMMs (in DIMM sockets 1 and 2 ONLY!) and Registered DIMMs in all 4 Sockets.

    There does seem to be distinct differences in performance and compatibility of the A7M266 depending on the chips that are used on the DDR stick; (ie, Micron, Hyundai, Samsung) however, again, this really only seems to be an issue with the A7M266 and not as sensitive on the K7Master's.

    As for DDR RAM stability, I would say the current products from Crucial (PC1600 Only!), Corsair and Mushkin are very good. While I would agree that it is young technology, it has sufficiently evolved to be considered stable. This is due much to the help of Video card deployments over the past year or so, giving DDR manufacturers a chance to evolve product. The rest of the DDR stability issues are strictly related to the design of the motherboard it sits on and the compatibility of add-in cards used with those motherboards. The A7M266 needs to have the voltage reduced from the factory settings (By completely removing the jumper from the VI/O1 header) to get any stability at all and owners should avoid using any stick that utilizes Samsung chips with this particular board. Another reason to avoid this motherboard completely.

    Steve Benoit

    Stable Technologies
    'The way IT should be!'<P ID="edit"><FONT SIZE=-1><EM>Edited by stable on 02/18/01 01:38 PM.</EM></FONT></P>
  17. lol easy enough I wont endorse the A7M266 anymore, didn't really know that the manufacturer could post inacurate things about a product(isn't that false advertisment?). How sould I decide on if I needed the SCSI or not? Maybe you could tell me. I use my system and the one im going to build for mostly gaming and Solid Works(seems to take a lot of memery). What do you think? And if I purchased a MSI K7 Master, Master-S from you how much would they cost right now and how much for shipping to Phoenix AZ? You have informed me of a lot and I wouldn't mind giving you some business. I plan on this purchase in mid April or so.

    Someday I will stop asking all the questions!
  18. Ah.. Solid Works is one of the apps. that we test with the KT133A, I815xx and DDR based boards. I heard we are now testing it with the P4 too, but I don't have the specs in the benchmark database (I'll ask on Tuesday about it).

    This application is a real pig when it comes to memory bandwidth and spiking CPU utilization, especially when used with big libraries and importing/converting big 3D models through FeatureWorks. We like that.. (grin)

    Interestingly, this application also seems to really like dual Pentium systems as our benchmarks show it has done well on all of the Tyan and other Dual PIII MB's. It hasn't faired nearly as well as the AMD platform when it comes to Single CPU systems. The floating point/cache of the AMD just runs circles around Intel's performance. We started testing this and other CAD/CAM applications because we supply all systems to (and for) Tech Ed Concepts, Inc. (The exclusive CADKEY/DATACAD/ALGORE distributor to Academia in North America) If you think we're anal about specifications and performance, you should hear some of their users. I'm blown away when a Teacher in South Dakota calls me to explain what he needs for a bit by bit floating point configuration to reproduce a 580 layer, 360 degree rotating image. If you think we talk technical, you should hear these guys. Most of the specialized CAD configurations use at least 256MB of RAM, and they mostly choose to go to SCSI to really take advantage of the refresh/layering speed. It's hard to beat a 15,000RPM ULTRA 160 SCSI Stripe set for raw performance. It's a little like comparing ATA-33 to an ATA-100 stripe set. We call these systems our "Screamer" series (the sound clip you hear is actually a guy screaming "FIRE IN THE HOLE" and a Van Halen guitar lick for the Windows startup)

    If you are waiting until April (which if you want a 266MHz CPU you'll have to do anyway) I would check back then on pricing. We don't have CPU prices yet, as the product is not in the distribution channel.

    Steve Benoit

    Stable Technologies
    'The way IT should be!'
  19. Thx for that information. My use of Solid Works is more of a hobby :D Like I said I maintly play flight sims so I will probably go with the K7 Master without the SCSI. I'll give you a post when im down and ready to start makeing those big purchases. Once again Thx

    Someday I will stop asking all the questions!
  20. I think the issues of SCSI are two fold. Performance and Price.

    If anybody had to pick a choice (on a level-playing field), I suspect that they would always choose SCSI over IDE, even if SCSI were 25% more expensive. There are just too many performance enhancements to ignore that are not available in the IDE World. Moreover, SCSI allows you to string more devices on a single channel, thus the need to introduce additional controllers that consume valuable system resources is alleviated. Finally, RAID solutions for SCSI are by far more superior than anything offered in the IDE world.

    The real trouble with SCSI is price. I remember when building servers for 'Uncle Sam' in the 80's and 90's that SCSI prices were considered expensive, yet dropping. The claim at the time was that SCSI would get cheaper as time went on. I could see the logic in that statement as it was commonplace for all servers to use SCSI and several manufacturers were investing heavily in continuing development of the technology. What seems to have happened are the leaps in performance have not really impacted the cost of developing the drives, even drives using the older technologies (SCSI, SCSI II, etc...) Since SCSI mechanisms (regardless of the speed) are so costly to produce, IDE has become the "preferred choice", especially now with the advent of ATA-66 and ATA-100.

    In my mind, the real problem is that the spec of ATA-100 is a "theoretical" limitation. In the real world, drives don't even come close to achieving the throughput performance capabilities of ATA-100, (nor ATA-66 for that matter.)

    Moreover, standard drive sizes are small for SCSI (9gig is very common) and if you look at the price for setting up (let's say a 45GB) stripe set, it's enough to make you want to cry, or punch the guy showing you the price depending on your personality.

    The real advantages of SCSI shine when it comes to backup however. Just try to find an Internal IDE tape drive over 20GB. Good Luck! (There are some 30GB USB drives out there, but who wants that kind of a transfer rate?) So if you do setup IDE stripe sets, be sure to setup volumes in sizes 19GB or smaller so you can back them up on a single tape!

    On the other side of the coin, have you looked at the prices of SCSI backup solutions lately? WOW!.. I have previously mentioned that I think the terms, "Price Reduction" and "SCSI Tape Backup" are considered to be incompatible by OEMs.

    Anyway, that's my two cents.

    I love SCSI, I can't afford it, but I love it nonetheless. We usually have between 20 and 30 different SCSI drives in stock from IBM at any given time (usually in the 10,000RPM 9 & 18 Gig flavors, using Ultra 160 & LVD) but these are mostly for "power users" that have SCSI now and can't handle the performance drop of IDE. Of course these die-hards also usually get SCSI CD-ROM drives, Burners, and any other SCSI device they can get their hands on and they mostly use Linux, NT 4.0 and Windows 2000 for their operating systems. Of course with this comes the shelling out of some more cash for Disk Keeper software to facilitate defragging. Something that we include with every system, but (unfortunately) something that most people just forget about until the issue arises. While some workstation users do run Windows 98 S/E, I have not seen anyone with Ultra 160 SCSI running Windows ME.

    Steve Benoit

    Stable Technologies
    'The way IT should be!'
  21. hello,

    not stepless (for FSB) but JumperLess TM (the bios soft from Asus) => ok for the FSB adjustement
    but for the Multiplier ? and the vCore Voltage ?

    Lionel Dumontier
  22. Forgive me for being rude and correct me if I'm wrong. I was just quoting the information listed on there web site under the board information. I have now hear many not so good things about asus so I myself have turned my attention to the MSI K7 Master.

    Someday I will stop asking all the questions!
  23. The multiplier adjustment in the BIOS is disabled on the A7M266. I've read several reviews and some of them said that Asus has no plans of enabling it with a BIOS update.
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