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Motherboard suggestions ?

Discussion in 'Computer Components' started by Mr Sparkle, Feb 2, 2005.

  1. Mr Sparkle

    Mr Sparkle
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    I'm planning on taking a leap of faith and start designing and then building my first HTPC......it would primarily be for multimedia use, hooking up to my PJ-TX10, watching and recording Sky, DAB etc and who knows what.

    I'm working towards choosing a motherboard first and then going on from there. After cruising a few threads, the internet and trying to get my head round all the techno babble and TLAs, my first consideration is the Asus A8N-SLi Deluxe

    http://uk.asus.com/products/mb/socket939/a8nsli-d/overview.htm

    This seems to have all the latest bells and whistles and would probably more than do the job for the foreseeable future.

    I would welcome any Mobo suggestions or comments from more experienced HTPCers.

    Thanks in advance,

    Mr Sparkle
     
  2. KraGorn

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    Usually the first decision is the CPU, I used to be an AMD fan but recently have use P4s .. meaning I haven't really kept up with AMD's 64-bit chips. That said, I like ASUS boards and have 3 of them at present, Gigabyte is also a brand I've used and like .. neither are the best for the overclockers of this world by IMX they're solid, stable and these days have a modicum of clocking ability easily available from the BIOS.

    That board certainly has all you need on a board, with plenty of expansion potential should that become necessary so if you intend to go the A64 route that'd be a good foundation I think.

    Your other big decision of course is the graphics card .. something of a religion for some people. ;) You'll get those advocating ATI 9600s and those who are using nVidia 6600GTs, the only thing with this board is that it's PCI-e and AFAIK there are no 9600s in that form so I guess you'd be looking at an XT300 in the ATI range, the key thing is to go for a fanless card unless you're going to water-cool which is a very nice solution.
     
  3. Mr Sparkle

    Mr Sparkle
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    KraGorn, thanks for your comments. Not planning on any of this 'overclocking' business. Not sure why I would want to do that with a fairly high spec motherboard. Something for the future perhaps.

    I have no particular preference for Intel or AMD. As long as the CPU does it's job then I'm not bothered either way. There does seem to be a slight preference (perhaps) for the AMD Athlon 64 on these threads for HTPC applications.

    Regarding 'go for a fanless card unless you're going to water-cool which is a very nice solution.' Excuse my ignorance, but I know why I would want a fanless card and that is to keep noise down....but how do I know which or what CPU needs a fan and which doesn't. Watercooling seems like more ££'s to me. This HTPC will however be living in the main living room so noise or lack of it is also a key consideration.

    On the graphics front, I'm contemplating the nVidia 6600GT route. Based primarily on the good reviews and reasonable cost these cards seem to have been getting.

    Thanks,
    Mr Sparkle
     
  4. Steve.J.Davies

    Steve.J.Davies
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    AM in a quandry. this grade mobo plus all the bits that go with it will give power and upgradeability (which I favour) - also noise and expense.
    P4 route mybe better tha A64 - and cheaper.
    I can't help but wonder about the self tuning overclock gizmoid thingy on this mobo..
    Having said all that I think I may go the A64 route and this board looks a goodie. My way around the noise - put the pc in another room.
    By the time you add 3 or 4 disk drives and a couple of optical drives it ain't gonna be that quiet without extensive watercooling/mods. then the price gets to the range where it will be defeating one of the objects of the exercise.
     
  5. KraGorn

    KraGorn
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    I have an ASUS P4 mobo that can self-clock up to 30% if the CPU can take it, for a while I was running 10% O/C which provided some nice headroom for FFDSHOW. At present CPU usage in about 80% so I don't need to clock, but it's nice to know there's a bit to spare if I need it for maybe Denoise for some older DVD transfers.

    Mr Sparkle: ALL CPUs need fans these days. If water-cooling isn't a possibility then probably the most used 'quiet' (though not silent) coolers are the Zalman range.
     
  6. Mr Sparkle

    Mr Sparkle
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    Are there any trade offs to be aware of if I consider watecooling ?

    In terms of £/decibel what is the best way to go: Zalman fans or watercooling. What sort of dB level do these fans generate ?

    Had read somewhere on a thread of a mobo using a fanless cpu. Is this likely or possible or even practical ? I know there will be other fans (and motors) in the system generating noise. At the moment I'm just trying to get my head round all the additional system components that I need to consider.

    Mr Sparkle
     
  7. KraGorn

    KraGorn
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    From a pure sound PoV water-cooling .. its 100% silent using this, of course hiding an 18" bright blue column can be tricky, mine's behind an armchair and a wall, however I accept the WAF is pretty low. :D

    You can buy heat-pipe systems, Hush systems are the most well known I think (though they're not cheap), but I'm not aware of any self-fitting heat-pipe coolers for CPUs as there are for graphics cards .. if such exist it'd be news to me.
     
  8. Berwhale

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    Water cooling can be near silent, but it's going to cost you quite a bit more, especially for the Zalman Reserator (which I also own). I'd suggest going for a quiet air cooled setup first, if you really can't stand the noise, then you can always add WC later as long as you bear this in mind when building the HTPC.

    I already have 2 water cooled PCs (see .sig) but I'm going the air cooled route for my first HTPC.

    I've been assembling my own PCs since the early '90s, but building and configuring an HTPC AND installing watercooling for the first time is something even I would shy away from.

    Another noise reduction method is to use accoustic foam on the inside of the case. Brands i've used include Akasa Paxmate and Coolermaster foam. They both work quite well, but they can have the adverse effect of increasing case temperatures.
     
  9. Kahless725

    Kahless725
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    Asus get my vote. You can turn off any fancy overclocking stuff btw, I have never used it myself.
     
  10. Steve.J.Davies

    Steve.J.Davies
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    Interesting. thanks for the heads up on this. looking for quality output and stability - pushing everything to the redline/overclocking not convergent with those goals. being able to turn it off a plus.
     
  11. Mr Sparkle

    Mr Sparkle
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    Thanks for the comments to date.

    Any other suggestions on motherboards ? What other boards are being used ?

    Anyone used any PCI-E and SLi enabled mobo's ?

    Thanks again.

    Mr Sparkle
     
  12. Berwhale

    Berwhale
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    I'm considering buying this PCI-E combo...

    http://www.aria.co.uk/ProductInfoComm.asp?ID=16446

    I know the audio is good on this board and it has a co-ax SPDIF output which I like. However, I have a couple of concerns about the GFX card:

    1. I don't think the S-Video out will be as good as an ATI card - Not too important as I plan to buy a DVI equiped LCD TV shortly.

    2. I can't find an Arctic VGA silencer to fit this board - Very important, I want this PC very quiet, but I don't want to build another water cooled PC if possible (I don't fancy taking my Dremmel to a brand new LC10M)
     
  13. Mr Sparkle

    Mr Sparkle
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    Moved on a little since the start of the thread....

    Motherboard choice has swung from Asus to the Gigabyte GA-K8NXP-9. (Socket 939)

    I don't think I will need SLi that the Asus offers. The Gigabyte gives me pretty much everything I need (read want!) and Wireless LAN (which will be very useful for the wireless home n/w) for much the same price as the Asus A8N SLi Deluxe.

    Graphics card could be the Gigabyte GV NX66T128VP. This is a fanless/silent (uses a heatpipe for cooling) GeForce 6600GT card.

    The NEC ND-3520A DVD drive seems to get a lot of plaudits so seems a reasonable choice.

    The other outstanding items still under debate are:

    Hard disk (200~400MB, Quiet)
    PSU (fanless perhaps ?)
    Digital TV card (Hauppauge, Avermedia or Black Gold ?)

    Any other thoughts/ideas for these for these items ?

    Many thanks,

    Mr Sparkle
     
  14. hoyin

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    Digital TV card .. perhaps you should also consider the Nebula Digitv card. I am using it and it is very very very good.

    Harddisk - Segate Barracuda or a Western Digital - I run both very quiet and a lot more reliable than Maxtor or IBM. More expensive but worth every penny.

    As for watercooling - I also have a Zalman Reservator :cool:

    It is cool and works well and is silent but for a newbie it is probably a bit too much. It took quite a lot of work to get it in and I have built every single computer I have ever owned and have been doing it for the past 10 years or so.

    So I would only recommend it for a no newbie who knows what they are doing.
     
  15. CrispyXUK

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    You'll need a remote too
     
  16. Seth Gecko

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    I used to use Gigabyte mobo's quite a lot but had a huge problem with one of their top of the range boards (the Dual DDR was a huge problemo). I'd probably suggest an MSI board or, as I'm currently using, an Abit board.

    The MSI board I used to have was very stable and had lots of bells and whistles for the time. The Abit board I'm running now (IC7-MAX3) is either rare or discontinued, but overclocking is wonderful on it and it has 2 IDE channels and 6 SATA ports. Coupled with the extra PCI card I'm using and it's sitting rather nicely with 9 hard disks and 2 DVD drives - and STILL able to have 3 more SATA devices connected (4 if I REALLY want to).

    Would definitely suggest checking the MSI/Abit boards out. Don't think you'd be disapointed.
     
  17. FruitBat

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    I would recommend that you check out www.silentpcreview.com for tips on getting a quiet motherboard.

    Abit boards seem to be well thought of because of their underclocking/undervolting abilities (can get the CPU to run cooler, therefore allowing slower fans). Watch out for small and noisy northbridge fans.

    I'm thinking of doing something with the Aopen Pentium-M motherboard. The Pentium-M uses a lot less power than a P4. I think it may be limited to 2GHz though.

    Some of these fancy HSF arrangements (e.g. Zalman) are pretty quiet, so if they keep your CPU cool enough, you may find that the PSU is the main source of noise. There are plenty of quiet PSUs around the days (silentpcreview again).

    As for the digital TV. I have a Nova-T and I'm quite happy with it. However, I believe the latest models (90002?) have a different tuner and I have heard that people have had trouble with them. See the forums at www.hauppauge.co.uk. The Nebula card seems to have an extensive fan club. www.tv-cards.com (?) is worth a look.

    And finally. If you were thinking of getting 2 DVB cards working together, you might want to check out your hardware. People (me included) have had problems getting this to work. It seems (i.e. I'm not 100% sure) to boil down to the northbridge chipset (PCI latency is mentioned a lot). VIA in particular have had some criticism for this.
     
  18. Kahless725

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    How much is the Gigabyte board? You can get an Asus A8V with wireless lan for (£85.72 Including VAT at 17.5%) @ www.overclockers.co.uk

    AGP though, I use a Av8 without wireless lan with a Radeon 9700 Pro from the same shop which was only £93.


    Cheers
    Robert.
     
  19. Kahless725

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  20. Leporello

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    I have an Abit IC7-G motherboard with reasonably high specified components, including a Radeon 9800xt. I don't overclock. I highly specified air cooling with a fanbus that allows me to turn all my fans down. I also have a so-called silent PC.

    I don't overclock as I don't need to. I can play Half Life 2 and FS2004 at the max. resolution of my tft monitor, watch digital TV, play DVDs etc., all with 5.1 surround sound.

    Until recently, I felt reasonably smug about the overall performance of my system. I bought a very cheap Dell PC to add to my home network. I originally got this more as a back room back stop machine. When I turned this thing on I was frankly amazed. It was absolutely silent and it's performance marginally short of my main system. Were I to upgrade the GFX card in the Dell it would match or exceed the performance of my main machine SILENTLY!

    I've learned a big lesson from this and my experience of the Abit IC7-G mainboard. Don't build your system from the basis of the features on the motherboard. Decide what you want the system to do first. If your going for an AV, forget about all these tweakers' boards and forget about all this watercooling nonsense. By the time you've bought the high feature components for your system, including the overhead for watercooling you've spent as much, if not more than you would have bought a ready made system.

    I bought the IC7-G on the basis of it's features and the enthusiastic reviews of enthusiasts sites. A big mistake. The NB heatsink/fan "feature" first failed and fell off, as did those of many other Abit owners. The onboard sound "feature" is crappy and noisy. The SATA "feature" exists in the absence of true SATA hard drives and adds no performance gains. All in all a motherboard for the Simple Simons whose lives are devoted to benchmarks and neon fans. My interest in such trivia disappeared with my spots and my surplus pocket money! ;)
     
  21. Steve.J.Davies

    Steve.J.Davies
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    gotta say I agree with the theme - real easy to overegg the pudding.
    As ever be driven by the requirements.
    Dells do tempt on price but their custom mobos leave you nowhere to go.

    Careful product selection the only answer - have had two detailed configs drawn up (based on component selection not overall functionality) now only to find lack of support for some components in operating systems.
    Looks like I will go with 'old stuff' and do it with knoppix.
    Cheap and quiet.
    Just must resist the temptation try with Sweetspot and Xcard......arggh.....strain....resist....aircooled 6600GT...struggle....PCI-E......socket 939.....N4 chipset.....SATA....

    Get thee behind me techno satans.
     
  22. mephistopheles

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    For Home Cinema PC, I have a system built around an ASUS P4C800-E D/L, P4 Northwood 2.4GHz and 1GB GEIL Ultra DDR550. This is running at 277 x4 FSB with the chip at 3.3 GHz on stock voltage settings with RAM on SPD. There is a 2 x 160GB RAID0 HDD array and Pioneer 106S DVD-ROM, SilenX 560watt fanless PSU. I have a Radeon 9800 Pro Ultimate (passive cooled)video card and Sweetspot for capture (removed the Xcard/PDI DVD playback solution after huge disappointment in comparison with Zoom Player/Media Player Classic and an assortment of open source DS Filters). There are various inconsequential extras, eg Matrix Orbital VFD, USB-UIRT, PowerMate etc etc.

    I am using a fanless Thermalright XP-120 heatsink on the CPU and have only one thermo-controlled 90mm exhaust fan in the case, mounted directly behind the XP-120. Max temps are 54C for the CPU and very low 30sC for the motherboard, after DScaler has been running about 5-6 hours. The system is perfectly stable, performs all Home Cinema tasks brilliantly, and even runs Doom3 at high res without a glitch, yet it's yesterday's, or even the day before's technology. I use the same basic system for my workstation, although it's rackmounted and used for different purposes.

    I am building a new system for a friend, which is based on a Gigabyte K8NXP-9, Athlon64 3500+ Win and 1GB G. Skill DDR600 3-4-4-8 PC4800 TCCD 'LA', which he will be using, inter alia, for an audio studio. In order to use the XP-120 heatsink, the Gigabyte proprietary K8 backplate has to be removed and replaced with a stock metal backplate. I am still waiting for Thermalright's reseller in France to send me one of these FOC, courtesy of Thermalright. They say it was posted last Thursday, but still hasn't arrived, so I haven't been able to start work on it yet, otherwise, I could have given you the full SP on the board.

    I spent some considerable time researching Nforce4 mobos and opted for the Gigabyte ONLY because it has SPDIF in as well as out (which he wanted) and it isn't an SLI or proprietary x2 PCIe board, which so many are. If only they made one, however, which they don't, I would have taken a DFi LAN Party N4 PCIe board. PCIe is hardly my first choice, but the alternative was to stick with AGP on an nForce3 (S754) board, which would not have been a good plan, of course, for all the obvious reasons.

    If you want something that works well, has got all (should probably say most) of the bugs out of the BIOS, and for which there are countless forums full of people trying to overclock higher or resolve their snags, and, thus, full of information, doesn't cost an arm and a leg, then go for something like my ASUS setup. If you must have today's or tomorrow's technology, then DEFINITELY go for AMD64 over poor old egg-all-over-their-faces-from-the-P4-fiasco/there-was-everything-right-with-the-PIII Tualatin core-Intel, and IMHO nForce4 and decidedly NOT VIA. The Gigabyte board, assuming it's AOK, is not an overclocker's board, but the manufacturer has an excellent reputation for quality, and it would be very nice to use for Home Cinema, albeit unnecessarily fast (but ready for the future).

    If you can hold hard until I have been able to build the system, I'll gladly let you know how it goes.

    Hope this helps............
     
  23. mephistopheles

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    Oh, I forgot. Get Seagate HDDs. The new big ones look good and now have 5 years guarantee. Whatever anyone says on this forum, Samsung Spinpoint Ps are VERY noisy. I know, I have 4 of them and have even RMA'd them as "below standard" and had them replaced. They whine even at idle VERY badly. So much so, in fact, that if I am exposed for more than an hour I come away with the sound ringing in my ears for hours afterwards. Why anyone says they're the quietest, I cannot understand, unless they're partially deaf or trying to convince themselves they weren't fooled again.The Seagates are audible (just) when they're accessing but TOTALLY silent on idle. I know, I have 8 of them.

    Get a Tagan PSU. They're very well designed air-flow wise and virtually silent. They're really excellent value, too. SilenX are a rip off and no more silent than any Tagan at less than half the price. Mine throbs very noticeably, although it's not quite as bad now after some use). Remember, too, a fanless PSU gets very hot after working hard for many hours and will add to your cooling overhead.

    Good Luck!
     

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