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Four MicroATX Mobos for Core 2

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November 22, 2006 2:59:49 PM

Planning on building a power-efficient PC for your home or office? Then you'll want to check out these MicroATX motherboards for your HTPC or low-power PC.

More about : microatx mobos core

November 22, 2006 3:27:57 PM

Not a very exciting article... especially with all being based on the same chipset. And I was wanting to see gaming benchmarks on that new Intel integrated graphics chip... but there weren't any :( 
November 22, 2006 4:55:24 PM

A few questions.
1. Is there a reason to avoid Q965 chipset?
2. Is there a reason to avoid Intel motherboards such as BOXDG965SSCK
3. At newegg.com people complain about memory compatibility with G965 and there is a warning about the chipset only supporting 1.8 volt RAM. I see you have used high grade Corsair sticks, any problems with those? Problems with other RAM?
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November 22, 2006 7:15:31 PM

I too was also hoping to see some gaming benchmarks. I am upgrading from a very old system and wanted something with integrated graphics while I wait for reasonably priced DX10 based cards. I'm sure the X3000 would do 3D graphics better than my original GeForce 256 from 1999.

From what I have read on other websites, the graphics performance improves with every release of the Intel drivers. Were the boards testing using v14.25 drivers?
November 23, 2006 1:50:53 AM

Article on Four MicroATX Mobos for Core2 was OK. I would have liked an Intel G965 Motherboard included in this comparison and tested, such as the excellent DG965OT Media Series Board :)  .

Last August, I was confronted by a similar decision for a Core 2 Duo Micro-ATX Board for a PC I was planning to build for a close friend for Christmas :wink: . The PC had to be quiet, low power consumption, and powerful enough to handle her media applications. Core 2 Duo really changed my plans and it was a real challenge to find a good motherboard for the G965 chipset.

I choose the DG965OT because of its RAID capabilities and excellent onboard sound system :idea: . This PC has been built for $1100 and tested. The build has an E6400 processor, 2GB of Kingston DDR667 (KVR667D2N5K2/2G), an eVGA 7600GT KO Video Card, and two Seagate 320GB SATAII drives in RAID 1. The build includes a Seasonic S12 380W power supply in a Silverstone SST-TJ08-B case. Windows XP Pro SP2 is installed. BIOS not overclockable, but the build is quite powerful and stable. Sound system is as good as my Audigy2 on Klipsch 5.1 speakers :D  .

The DG965OT is finicky with progammed memory voltage. It must be 1.8V or bust :x . The other motherboards of this review likely share this same quirk too. I found the performance difference between DDR667 and DDR800 memory (borrowed from a friend for a weekend) with this build is small in PCmark Tests: an 8% difference in bandwidth was observed for a $120 difference in cost :!: . Does not really pay to sweat DDR800 for a G965/Core 2 Duo build at its current prices.

Save yourself some money and use DDR667 for these G965 Micro-ATX motherboards.
November 23, 2006 3:18:11 AM

I wish the article would have concerned itself more directly with how well these integrated boards do HDTV and especially a comparison of Clear Video with nVidia's Pure Video.
a b } Memory
November 23, 2006 7:29:53 AM

You're not going to get much hardware assistance if any from an integrated graphics solution when it comes to high-bitrate video. Live feeds from a tuner card shouldn't be a problem, but recorded video that much be decoded will rely mostly on the CPU.
November 23, 2006 3:29:34 PM

There is nothing wrong with Intel Boards :)  .

I regard Intel Motherboards to be better made than the competitors such as ASUS, Abit, MSI or EPox. These motherboards are made for general and business users for at least 5 years heavy use. Intel uses higher quality capacitors and often use six-layer PCB construction. Intel does this because its bad business to absorb the cost of RMA's motherboards.

Except if you are an enthusiast who likes to tweek components beyond their design margins. Then the Intel BIOS is highly undesirable. Intel controls these features so design margins for these boards are maintained, minimizing RMA's and cost.

Intel does things differently with regard to their BIOS, drivers and managers. It takes some getting use :? to if you are a confirmed AMD user (as I am).

The Q965 is designed for Intel Executive Series boards. These boards include features such encryption/security protocols and devices (such as TCM) and enhanced (more invasive) network administration for a corporate network. You pay extra ($20) for these features over better Media Series board, plus a better bundle of business-related freebie software.

You are probably a single home user who does not need any these specialized features :roll: . I would get an DG965OT Media Series board which has an excellent onboard sound system :!: .

Greatest problem with G965 chipset is memory compatablity :!: . The memory has to be programmed internally for 1.8V. I got burned in September when I ordered 2GB of OCZ Gold DDR-800 memory, which was rated for 2.1V. BIOS would not POST :x . Had to RMA it -- cost me $40 in restocking fees :x . I installed 2GB of DDR-667 Kingston Value RAM and my DG965OT works fine.

I would recommend DDR-667 memory over the DDR-800. I use DDR-667 in my board. I borrowed some DDR-800 Kingston memory from a friend for a weekend of testing (just to see what I was missing :p  ). The memory bandwidth performance differences are about 8% with PCMark, and the price differential is about $120. 3DMark2005 showed a only a 4% difference in performance.

For these differences, DDR-800 simply is not worth the premium. Use the premium/savings to get a great(er) graphics card instead (7600GT to 7950GT), or a better CPU (E6400 to E6600) :)  .
a b } Memory
November 23, 2006 5:56:15 PM

Intel has no compatibility problem with DDR2 memory. All memory is supposed to be bootable at 1.80V. You're about the 223rd person in here to claim a problem with OCZ's older DDR2-800 "not bootable" and you'll probably be the 220th to claim it's not OCZ's fault. So I'll clue you in: ALL RAM is supposed to boot at STANDARD voltage, JEDEC sets the standard and that standard is 1.80V.

"Performance" modules are rated at an overclocked setting, but you'll notice that most DDR2-800 is detected as DDR2-667 or DDR2-533. That's not a compatiblity issue either, it's what the module tells the board it is. The reason for this is simple: It's supposed to be BOOTABLE at 1.80V, and to make it BOOTABLE at 1.80V they set it at a lower detected speed.

Intel doesn't want you to overclock with this board, so they don't give you overclocking options such as memory voltage control. That's fine, because the board is made to work with modules that follow the rules. Overclocked modules are for boards that allow overclock settings.
November 27, 2006 7:29:16 PM

Reviewers keep saying that the integrated GFX are "bad" for gaming. How bad? Do some benchmarks, run sum games, tell us some average and minimal FPSs. Which games won't run at all? Not all gamers are obsessed with running huge resolutions with all the effects turned on and anti-aliasing. Some of us actually like the games themselves and just want to play them more than we want to brag about how much money we spent on our PCs ;)  One of my "gaming" PCs is using integrated nForce2 IGP GFX right now. It's just for a friend to play WoW on when they come over, and it works. Surely the latest IGP from Intel can beat that.

All of these motherboards are over $100 and you say they lack OC features (without going into much detail). A comparison to the VIA and SiS chipset motherboards (which can be had for as little as $45) is in order. As are gaming benchmarks (mostly with discrete GFX solutions, but at least a quick overview of what their integrated solutions can and can't do would be nice). Your main complaint about the VIA and SiS ones was that they didn't overclock well, but some of these motherboards have no OCing features at all??? I'm not paying +$120 for a mobo that can't overclock. I don't care how many useless extra features it has (cuz I'm really not going to connect 6-8drives plus additional external devices to integrated controllers on a SFF computer system). If the VIA and SiS ones suck really bad I guess I won't buy them either, but I'm feeling like I'm in the dark here.

My AMD-compatible Micro ATX and Shuttle form-factor motherboards with nVidia and VIA chipsets have all have at least basic voltage and frequency controls in the BIOS, I hardly feel like taking a step backwards in configurability when I go to "upgrade". Perhaps AMD motherboard selection has spoiled me, but I expect more for that kind of a price then a gazillion USB ports xD The last intel-chipset mobo I purchased (admittedly a full-atx board, but that was 2 years ago I would hope technology and selection had improved since then) had every BIOS feature available at the time, so what gives? Am I the only one interested in building a fully-featured SFF intel gaming machine?
a b } Memory
November 27, 2006 7:34:54 PM

The Foxconn board has most of the main overclocking features, but lacks a working PCI-Express bus clock lock. From the boards THG tested, this is the only one I've tried so far.
November 27, 2006 7:35:38 PM

Quote:

Intel doesn't want you to overclock with this board, so they don't give you overclocking options such as memory voltage control. That's fine, because the board is made to work with modules that follow the rules. Overclocked modules are for boards that allow overclock settings.

Aren't the manufacturer's who made the board in control of what options you get for voltage and frequency? I didn't assume that intel inherrantly crippled their IGP chipsets, but perhaps I should have...
November 27, 2006 9:18:23 PM

Quote:
The Foxconn board has most of the main overclocking features, but lacks a working PCI-Express bus clock lock. From the boards THG tested, this is the only one I've tried so far.
Thanks for the info crashman.

Overclocking without a bus clock lock? It's a motherboard/time machine! I haven't done that in ages. xD There should be enough overclocking overhead in a C2D to get a decent OC out of it still though, yes? I'll just have to do a little more planning if I want to go that route...
a b } Memory
November 27, 2006 9:28:17 PM

Quote:

Intel doesn't want you to overclock with this board, so they don't give you overclocking options such as memory voltage control. That's fine, because the board is made to work with modules that follow the rules. Overclocked modules are for boards that allow overclock settings.

Aren't the manufacturer's who made the board in control of what options you get for voltage and frequency? I didn't assume that intel inherrantly crippled their IGP chipsets, but perhaps I should have...

Sorry for the confusion, but I was referring to his remark:
Quote:

The DG965OT is finicky with progammed memory voltage. It must be 1.8V or bust :x .


The Intel board he chose isn't intended for any overclocking, so it doesn't included voltage adjustment.

As for the Foxconn board, it gets a little past 120MHz PCI-Express clock before the SATA controller malfunctions. That's a 20% overclock. You have to manually set both the PCI-Express and FSB clock rates at the same time because the board doesn't do it for you, and can't use disproportional speeds (such as 100MHz and 333). That is to say, the BIOS is written for a board that has a working PCI-Express lock, but the lock doesn't work.
January 8, 2007 12:33:29 PM

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As for the Foxconn board, it gets a little past 120MHz PCI-Express clock before the SATA controller malfunctions. That's a 20% overclock. You have to manually set both the PCI-Express and FSB clock rates at the same time because the board doesn't do it for you, and can't use disproportional speeds (such as 100MHz and 333). That is to say, the BIOS is written for a board that has a working PCI-Express lock, but the lock doesn't work.


Hello Crashman, Im about to build a smaller pc with mATX, and I was hoping to get an answer regarding the overclocking capabilities concerning these motherboards. Did you try or se if the Asus P5B-VM were able to overclock ? Should I choose G965 or 945G or Q965 in concern to overclocking? which one should I choose, and by which manufacture, in my own research over the net, I get the feeling that the Asus board P5B-VM is the one G965, or I should choose the P5B-VM DO with the Q965 is it better for overclocking or is P5LD2-VM DH better for overclocking with 945G ? I hope for some answer 8O regarding this issue, im very confused.

Foxconns board, can you get the pci-lock done manually so you'll be able to overclock it?

p.s sorry for poor english Im from sweden :p 
a b } Memory
January 8, 2007 4:28:52 PM

Foxconn's lock doesn't work and you can't change the speed independantly of FSB, it's right there in your quote.

I haven't tried the P5V-VM
February 19, 2007 1:38:10 AM

Just a small heads-up about P5B-VM

It does have digital audio output. You have to buy an aftermarket 'optical/coaxial' adapter (they're cheap) to go from the SPDIF header to the rear slot plate, but it's there.

I'm using this board in an HTPC (Antec Fusion case). Been pretty nice so far with an OC E6300 to 2.6.



Quote:
The back panel features four USB 2.0 ports while six more can be added if you purchase USB slot adapter cables. The sound system comes with all necessary jacks for 7.1 surround sound, but it does not offer a digital output.
March 1, 2007 7:59:20 AM

re: As for the Foxconn board, it gets a little past 120MHz PCI-Express clock before the SATA controller malfunctions. That's a 20% overclock. You have to manually set both the PCI-Express and FSB clock rates at the same time because the board doesn't do it for you, and can't use disproportional speeds (such as 100MHz and 333). That is to say, the BIOS is written for a board that has a working PCI-Express lock, but the lock doesn't work.

I still managed to get my E6600 (2.4ghz standard) to 2.85ghz. The pcie frqeuency is what holds u back. Shame, really good board otherwise.
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