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Advice needed - solid 939 board, good value

Last response: in Overclocking
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June 7, 2006 7:55:58 AM

i've been trying for the past couple of weeks to replace my dated and ailing 9800Pro. i was looking for a temporary upgrade to appease me for a year or so, until socket AM2 hits its stride and begins to take advantage of the increased bandwidth DDR2 offers, at which point i was planning on building an entirely new PC. however, i've found that AGP components are now very expensive compared to PCI-e components (i'd heard as much, but was surprised at just how difficult it is to find a reasonably priced, mid-range AGP card). one DOA 6800GS later, i think i've decided to stick with my socket 939 rig for a bit longer, and just upgrade to a PCI-e motherboard and (most likely) an x1800XT. i probably won't want to run Crossfire or SLi, because i just don't tend to have the extra cash to spend on a matched pair of decent video cards. however, i definitely want a motherboard that will accept an A64 X2 processor - if i commit to 939 for a while longer by upgrading my motherboard, i'll likely want to drop an X2 in at some point in the not-too-distant future. this brings me to my questions:

1) i know AMD is migrating its entire line of processors to socket AM2, but is socket 939 likely to remain viable for long enough to make a motherboard upgrade worthwhile at this point? will the eventual performance increase offered by DDR2 be modest, or will it leave 939 rigs in the dust? (i realize answers to this question will be speculative)

2) can anyone suggest a high quality, reasonably priced 939 motherboard that might fit my needs well? after browsing Newegg for a while, i've found the Asus A8N5X and the ECS RX480-A, two inexpensive boards that have received high ratings and include most of the features i'm looking for. anyone have personal experience with either of these boards? is the NF4 or ATI Xpress chipset better in terms of performance and reasonable overclockability? i certainly don't want to skimp on my new motherboard, so i'm not restricting myself to the price range of the two boards listed above, but at the same time, i don't want to spend money on features i probably won't use (e.g. SLi/Crossfire compatibility). suggestions are welcome.

my rig at this point:
A64 3200+ @2.2GHz, Zalman CNPS-7000Cu
1GB (2x512MB) Corsair XMS PC3200 @440MHz, 2.5-4-4-10
MSI K8N Neo2 Platinum
WD Raptor 10k 74GB SATA150 (+ 3 other 100/120GB PATA WD drives)
Sapphire Radeon 9800Pro 128MB (the weak link which i was originally looking to replace :p )

EDIT: upon further inspection, i've realized that the two motherboards i listed above only support SATA150, not 300... i haven't had occasion to use anything beyond my WD Raptor SATA150 drive yet, so i don't know what kind of performance increases SATA300 offers over 150. does real-world throughput actually scale linearly with theoretical data transfer rate, or are most drives still limited by their rotation speed? in short, should i consider SATA300 a make-or-break feature? if so, i might consider the ASUS A8N-SLI instead of the A8N5X, despite my earlier claims that i don't need SLI support.

EDIT 2: just realized i accidentally posted this in the Overclocking: Motherboards section of the forum... i'm going to repost in the General Motherboard section, since it better fits my question.
June 7, 2006 8:30:47 AM

I was in the same boat you are in now. Went with 6800gs and had a bad card.

The ABIT Fatal1ty AN8 SLI Socket 939 is reasonable price @ $89. after instant rebate. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...

I wish I would have went with the x1800xt though as you have planned.

Good luck on you project!
June 7, 2006 8:45:54 AM

thanks for the advice - i'd have to make sure that Abit board could accept an A64 X2 (perhaps via a BIOS upgrade), but otherwise, it looks like a solid board and a good value. a word of warning, however: i see your sig says that you have an x1800GTO, "soon to be 2" - the Crossfire and SLi technologies are incompatible with one another, so you won't be able to buy a second x1800GTO for use with your SLi Abit motherboard. in order to take advantage of SLi, you'd have to get two nvidia cards rather than two ATI cards. now that you mention it, however, perhaps if i'm leaning towards the x1800XT, it would be wise to pick up a Crossfire-capable board, just in case... the ASUS A8R-MVP seems to fit the bill pretty well while squeezing just under the $100 mark, although X2 support would again be a question mark. by the way, i'm not stuck on getting an ASUS board - they just seem to keep popping up on Newegg with solid reviews and at reasonable prices...
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June 7, 2006 5:54:27 PM

Asus don't seem bad and has good reviews. Yeah, I forgot about the 2 GTO's till I posted. I was thinking about getting the x1800xt and posted a question just like you have here. Is it worth it to sell the GTO and go with an XT.

Believe me, what ever games you play now, you will notice a difference from the 9800pro to x1800's. I went from a 9700pro, and just in details alone it was nice. Make sure when you get your x1800xt that you download Cat's 6.5 or what ever the newest drivers out will be. The new drivers alone give the x1800's a huge boost!

But in all, I thought the XT would be a better choice now with the prices are down on them. The GTO's over clock well and I'm sure the XT are about stuck at they're clocks. That is if you over clock at all. I don't, but I like to try it out when I'm benchmarking. Just to see the difference.
June 8, 2006 12:48:30 AM

3.0 Gbps has zero effect on performance, drives can't even reached ATA 100 speeds yet. Anadtech tested this, using jumper settings to force a 3.0 Gbps drive into 1.5 Gbps mode.

Watch out for NF4 MB's with low profile chipset fans mounted directly under the best PCIe slot. Thin fans spinning at 6000 rmps emit an anoying whine that drove me nuts.

Actually I couldn't hear the fan until I got quieter hard drives and a slient power supply. Its not so much load as high pitched.

I had to clip the fins on a Zalman passive northbridge cooler to make room for my video card then point a silent 80 mm case fan at a 45 degree angle aimed at the heatsink to silence my system.

You probably won't notice it at all if you get a loud video card, but if you like a quiet system watch out for poorly placed chipset fans.
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