I have been tasked with building a computer for a customer and would really appreciate hearing recommendations, and good and bad experiences in selecting a new motherboard.
The current computer was a custom build about 2 years ago.
The mobo is a K7SEM, being replaced because the keyboard controller failed, causing a *huge* volume of low priority inerrupts that are pegging Windows XP at 100% utilization sustained. Here's a link to the vendor website:
So far, I am unable to find a new replacement K7SEM, which introduces the opportunity to consider modern hardware ...
The mobo is a Micro-Atx form factor. I don't know whether a different size board will fit properly within the current case, although it is a pretty tall tower. Consider the uATX form factor a constraint.
The case is a full height big and tall box, designed to sit erect on the floor, not a lan party special that fits in a backpack.
The computer has a new Maxtor 6y250p0 hard drive, 7200 rpm, 8M onboard cache, 250G storage, interface is Ultra ATA 133 mhz. This is a really nice disk that is going to stay. RAID and SATA are nice to have built onto the mobo, but are not required. This 250G IDE drive *MUST* be supported well, and strong preference at it's maximum speed.
There are two IDE cd drives, one of type cd burner, the other is a dvd-rom drive.
The rating on the power supply is currently unknown.
The prime function of the computer is to translate speech into text using Dragon Naturally Speaking, which inserts the text into MSFT Word. This person dictates alot, and produces prodigious compelling verbiage for a living. Doing text to speech conversion well (read: fast) is a key factor. The current lag time is about 5-30 seconds on a 1.6ghz processor (, that is unfortunately pegged by a continuous and inescapable onslaught of deferred procedure calls!). An impressive result would be near realtime conversion!
During normal text to speech operation, the overall volume of data movement will be relatively low, except for OS startup and program launching. This will not be a database machine that is being continually hammered by a webserver farm 7x24. On the contrary, the machine will be a deskside workstation, used interactively. But when it is used, the text to speech process will consume the processor 100% sustained for the duration of the document.
OS = XP Professional.
High performance graphics is not a requirement, or even particularly interesting. This computer will probably never be used to play games like Doom or Half Life, but will spend it's life within the bounds of MSFT Windows XP Professional. However, the basic nature of the design for a gamer machine might be an extremely good match for doing near realtime text to speech conversion well. The presence of killer display engine would not be deal breaker by any means.
There must be a parallel port, ps2 style keyboard and rodentia, a(n onboard) nic, usb2 (there are 4 usb devices to be plugged in, but a usb hub could be gotten). There must be at least 1 expansion slot, to hold a modem card. But the ability to expand is a nice thing.
I'm interested in DDR2, but not married to the idea. Am I barking up this tree just because it's new, or is DDR2 really that much faster than DDR memory? Note: reasonable cost is an issue. I'd rather sink the cash into a great mobo, then processor, then memory. But I understand the performance constraint that memory bandwidth has, so the ability to support really fast memory is a key factor. Presume the cost of memory will not exceed $200, for at least .5G.
The ability to support > 1G of memory is a good thing, but not a requirement. However, based on the general historical trend that things tend to get bigger not smaller, and more and bigger are better, the ability to support 2G+ would be nice.
This cpu should be biased toward excelling at computation and data movement. Multiple processors would be a waste. The nature of text to speech is unthreaded, so it will run best on a single processor that is fast and has super memory bandwidth. I don't think Dragon is like PhotoShop, which is written to be threaded, and will not take nice advantage of multiple processors. Think single processor for this one.
The processor type is open. Presume a max price to be in the $200 ballpark.
The motherboard has to be a uATX form factor.
The processor will need to be something Intel compatible. How much does this rule out cool low power technology like Efficeon?
Goals, hopes, and dreams:
Tell me what mobo to get! I've been doing research on this for a while now, and there are some really goor/ great ones out there. But I have come to the inescapable conclusion that others might also have encountered this kind of project before, and might have a thing or two to say on this.
Comments, suggestions, guidance, red flag warnings please!