Motherboard Questions for Phenom II

So I'm really new around here and also new to the current generation of technology. My current system is an MSI k8n something something motherboard with an Athlon 64 3000+. I've got a whopping 1 gb of RAM (slow ram). In other words, it's time.

I started researching yesterday and I've looked into the Intel cpus and the AMD cpus and after much deliberation and back and forth, I've pretty much decided on a Phenom II, either the 920 or the 940. Price was the deciding factor. I've heard great things about Intel's processors, but the disparity in price has a bigger impact on me than the disparity in speed.

Where the decision gets harder to make is with the motherboard. I sometimes think the hundreds of different options for 775 sockets was part of the reason I chose AMD: their sockets and motherboards seemed more accessible to research.

I've decided on an AM2+ board (I think) because even though DDR3 is now barely more expensive than DDR2 here (unless there's something I'm not getting in the comparisons I'm making -- I've heard latency being mentioned but know very little about it), I'm not entirely satisfied with what's currently being offered on the AM3 socket in terms of processors.

This leaves me needing an AM2+ motherboard that will support a Phenom II processor, and preferably 1066 Mhz RAM. I'd like to be able to upgrade/expand RAM down the road, as well as potentially upgrade a video card and hard drives down the road.

Currently, I have 2 IDE hard drives (Western Digitals), a GeForce 7950 GT (512 Mb), and a 500W Ultra power supply (19A on the 12v line). I really need to keep these for now (can't afford to upgrade everything at once).

I've always been drawn to ASUS motherboards because I'm big on stability, and the last time I knew what I was talking about, ASUS was king of the mountain. Here's where I get lost:

I've heard that nVidia chipsets are less ideal than AMD chipsets for Phenom processors. Which sounds logical enough. But all the AMD chipsets I've found refer to crossfire or have onboard ATI gpus, and I've got that GeForce 7950 GT I need to keep. (which reminds me, I'm not a fan of onboard gpus...I like upgrade potential).

So far the best option I've found (taking cost into account, as it is a big factor for me right now) is the ASUS M4N72-E, which runs on an NVIDIA nForce 750a SLI chipset. I don't like the fact that any more than 4 GBs of RAM will reduce the speed ceiling to 800 Mhz, but I can't find anything that suits my needs more closely for now.

What I'm hoping the far wiser more experience community (that's you!) can do for me is:

A) point out where my assumptions/logic trains are faulty...cause I'm sure they must be somewhere

B) Recommend a super-awesome inexpensive motherboard that will magically solve all my problems and just be totally perfect for me and incredibly stable and easy to install and configure and allow me to keep the things I need to keep and upgrade them later.

Things to bear in mind:

I'm still running windows XP and probably won't be getting Vistas (I'll skip it and get Windows 7 when it's available, which is probably when I'll start considering expanding my RAM as well).

I don't upgrade the core guts very often (motherboard and CPU), so future upgrade potential there isn't big for me. I factored it in when I last upgraded and now the landscape is completely different. I suspect it will be again the next time I upgrade.

Stability is more important to me than uber-fast performance. I like a machine that will run smoothly with as few problems as possible better than a machine that runs a little faster but needs frequent tweaking/fiddling (one of the reasons I don't overclock -- the other reason is fear).

I appreciate any wisdom you can bestow on me. Thanks for reading the ramblings of a new guy.
11 answers Last reply
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  1. Is this 955 an AM3? you state DDR3. Where do you find out when these chips will be available. I want to go with the AM3 but only see one chip on new egg at 2.6 or something.
  2. if you don't truely require DDR3 then go for a Phenom II 920 or 940. Both are cheaper and can overclock to 3.5ghz + without a heat sync change.

    They also work on AM2+ or AM3 (hell, even some AM2's with a newer BIOS)
  3. 920 and 940's are am2+ only (I have heard there is a possibility of them working on some older am2 boards)

    You also mention that you have 2 ide hard drives that you are keeping, assuming that your optical drive is also ide, you will need to get a pci, ide card as most all mobo's only have one ide port now , not the ideal option mind you and usally causes all kinds of problems till you get you're booting sorted out.

    IMHO save a bit and buy either one big sata hard drive or two smaller sata's (if you are a raid 0 guy), or if you really wanna go all out, one ssd and one "normal" sata. It'll save you alot of furstration getting all your ide devices playing well accross a pic/ide and mobo/ide port range.

    I quick search on the egg showed 3 models of am2+ mobo's with 2 ide ports and only two worth considering but i'd still get the sata drives to open up more options, for now and for the future.

    JetWay JHA04-LF AM2+/AM2 AMD 790FX (but a 600 south bridge)
    and
    MSI K9N2 SLI Platinum AM2+/AM2 NVIDIA nForce 750a SLI ATX
  4. 955 comes out tomorrow but no-one really knows what the price is, it could be priced at $200 or it could be priced at $280.
  5. Yeah, the IDE vs SATA thing was brought to my attention. Depending on whether I whuss out financially, I'll either get a SATA DVD writer to replace my NEC (which would be a shame, this one works perfectly), or I'll bite the bullet and spring for a massive SATA hard drive.

    Is Western Digital still the way to go for hard drives? Last time I knew what I was talking about, they were, but Seagate was starting to make a name for itself too.

    As for motherboards, I'll check out your MSI suggestion Rosenberg, but so far I'm leaning toward an ASUS M4N72-E. Thoughts?
  6. Western Digital Caviar Black drives are pretty much greater than all others, at the moment. Newegg had a deal on the 1TB version for $99 earlier, not sure if it's still around.
  7. brown bag your lunch for two weeks and save the money for a new drive, rather than the sata optical. My old ide's started dying (though i do run them 24/7 in a home server type enviroment) last year, so that's something to think about.

    I also like the WD's and i've become a fan of the samsung drives too (quick, quiet, cheap, and still working fine). My last two seagates were dogs so i wouldn't reccomend them at all. Like eqplayer said for 99 beans you can get a 1TB (or 2 320GB if you really want to try raid 0, everyone loves projects right? or just me?), or less for less storage depending on your needs, and be done with it for some time.

    Once again I'll leave the chipset recomendations in the vets hands. I just listed those two mobo's as being the only two with somewhat up to date chipsets that had two ide ports.
  8. One of the conundrums I'm facing on the hard drive front relates to gaming. I've been told before it's best to have games installed on a separate physical drive from the OS, which is supposed to improve performance (something to do with reading only from one area of the disk instead of searching back and forth between sectors if I'm not mistaken). A SATA HD will obviously be faster than my old PATA ones, so should I install the OS on an older drive and my games on the newer one, or am I better off having the OS on the faster drive?

    I've got no experience with RAID setups, so I'm weary to tackle that at this point.
  9. I'm not a hardcore gamer, as stated I have more of a server like approach to my system. So I personally run a two disc setup (down from a 4 now that larger drives are so cheap), with my os and long term storage (rarely accessed) on one drive, and my other as my working drive.

    I have no real idea if putting your games on a seperate drive will have a noticable impact or not, in theory it makes sence, but theory and pratice are two different things. Maybe some of the other gamers can give some real world advice on this point.

    If you are very concerned get two sata's one small say 160gb ($40) for the os and related programs, and one 500gb ($60) or so for the games, you'll still come in around $100 just end up with less GB's then if you bought one 1tb drive. I still am not in favor at all of keeping the ide's for your new system in anyway other than in encloseurs for external use.

    New sata's do not only have a faster bus and more cache, but the read and write times of the drives themselves will be superior to the old ide's you have, while they look almost the same on the outside, they have changed on the inside over the years, and really do not belong mated to a phenom II system with gaming preformance as a goal.

    My vote is, if you gotta wait another month to save more to do it right, wait. Prices only drop.
  10. I don't think you'll see any performance increase. It would if windows would be continuously using its system drive; but that shouldn't be. Also, once the game is loaded the HDD performance is not important anymore. Often people state that the pagefile should be on another drive etcetc, but they forget the difference between virtual memory management and actually swapping pages to the pagefile. The latter should only happen when your system is running out of RAM; which is not so common anymore.
  11. I figured it had something to do with page files, and upgrading from 1 gig to 4 gigs of RAM would solve a lot of that problem.

    Thanks all around for the tips!
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