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Advice needed - solid 939 PCI-e upgrade board, good value

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June 7, 2006 6:46:33 PM

NOTE: i accidentally posted this first in the Overclocking: Motherboard section, but reposted it here because my questions seem more appropriate to this section of the forums.

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.
June 10, 2006 10:35:54 AM

Quote:
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)

At this stage & with what so far announced gains look to be very small.
Unless AMD has somethingup it's sleeve or the later transition to 65nm gives them a big boost imo 939 will be viable for a while yet (if everybody doesn't go Conroe ;) ).

Quote:


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.

You've got it, they are still mechanically limited rather than by the interface so there is little actual performance difference (mainly burst speed) other than would be expected from incremental improvements due to larger platters etc.
a b V Motherboard
June 10, 2006 2:01:26 PM

As we've seen with Intel boards, DDR2 needs high clock speeds to offset it's latency. How long do you think it will be for AMD to offer highly clocked AM2 procs at reasonable prices? This would mean AMD plays Intel's clockspeed game while Intel brings out Conroe using AMD's throughput strategy.

SATA 150 is not a limiting factor for HDDs.

It looks like all you really need for now is a new mobo and a videocard.
I would avoid the ECS. Go with the Asus or maybe consider this overclocker's favorite:
EpoX EP-9NPA3Ultra 939 nF4 Ultra $85+7 6/06
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16813123258
It has an odd power socket placement but is otherwise a fine board.

The videocard choice is harder though, but PCI-E is not going away anytime soon.
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June 12, 2006 12:04:04 AM

wish i could give you a great run down on PCI express mobo - ive only owned 1 and i only know 1 person with a PCI express motherboard

coincidentaly - they are the same motherboard

Biostar 6100 - ive had mine for a little more than half a year - and it runs great
oddly enough the onboard graphics is fairly capable - it even managed doom3 at low settings
i have a real video card in it now - but that besides the point

plus it really is kind of a plus to have onboard graphics - should my video card ever decide to just up and die oh and dual monitor with ease....

anyway - some one out there probably hates my motherboard heh - i know it works quite well with an X2 cuz my brother n law has the 6100 with an X2 - me myself have the socket 754 model

oh and the 6100 is made by more than just Biostar - check em out if ya wanna, just search for 6100 at newegg

works good for both of us
June 12, 2006 12:14:35 AM

BTW the overclocking ability of this board seems fairly capable
took my chip up to 2500mhz from 2000 without any complaints all i had to do is bump the vcore up .1 volt stock air - haven't tried anymore - dont really wanna

not a good mobo if you want more than 2 PCI slots though
anyhow ill shut up now
!