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What is the "best" (I know there's no such thing) motherboard for a STABLE AMD-based system?

Okay, since I'm spending so much less time here than I used to, I have some free time on my hands :-)
As anyone who's followed my posts knows, I'm an "Intel" guy -- BUT I've read enough about the AMD "Cool 'n Quiet" that I've decided I should give that a try, especially since AMD's dual-core CPUs are so well rated.  SO ... I'm going to build an AMD-based system ==> I can always toss the motherboard & CPU and switch back to Intel if I don't like it :-)

I can select my own "stuff" quit nicely -- but am interested in the opinions of a few folks as to the most "rock solid" AMD motherboards.   MUST support Cool 'n Quiet.   I don't need suggestions for any other components -- I've already decided on the case, power supply, CPU, memory, Video, hard drives, optical drives, floppy drive, and UPS.

Requirements for motherboard:

(1)  Must support ECC memory (I never build a system without it)

(2)  Must support Cool 'n Quiet technology (that's the reason I'm building an AMD system)

(3)  Does not need SLI (I'm not a gamer) but it's okay if it has it

(4)  Native SATA support would be nice (like Intel boards have) -- but that's apparently not available in the AMD boards.   The F6 driver load is no problem for XP ==> but how are SATA drives treated with DOS-based programs?   (i.e. if you boot a Windows 98SE boot disk will it "see" a SATA drive -- presuming there's a FAT32 partition on it?)

(5)  Overclocking features are of no use to me -- I do NOT (& will not) overclock.   If I want a faster CPU, I'll just buy it.   I want my systems to run QUIET and STABLE.

(6)  Must support an Athlon 64x2

My initial inclination is to just buy an Asus A8N-SLI Deluxe or Premium.   But I'm in no hurry (may not do this for a month or so) -- and am interested in feedback from some of the key AMD folks here.

Please don't waste your time & mine by posting to this question if you (a) don't actually have an AMD-based system using Cool 'n Quiet;  (b)  are basing your post on 'Googling' results and not actual experience (I can read/research quite well);  or (c) are suggesting a different CPU or some other component (I've made up my mind).  I'm interested ONLY in feedback on the most stable AMD motherboards -- and any features/lack-of-features that make specific boards stand out; or "gotchas" that you've encountered with particular boards (e.g. does the board have room for a Zalman CNPS9500).

I do like STABLE ==> my current system has not been turned off or rebooted (other than those needed for updates) in 18 months.   This system probably won't replace my current one -- it's just an "extra" PC to "mess with" (although if it performs nicely, I may migrate to it).

Points are low to start - but will be adjusted to reflect the value of the responses :-)

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Gary Case
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Gary Case
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CallandorCommented:
Gary, are you turning to the "dark side"? ;-)

I've tried three boards that support AMD Athlon64 X2's in the process of switching to AMD (I was an Intel P4 adherent before this; my last Intel cpu is a P4 2.8 HT).  I've had an MSI K8N Neo2 Platinum, an Abit KN8-Ultra, and an Asus A8R-MVP.

The Abit was of surprisingly bad quality; the first one would spontaneously reboot after it warmed up, the second one was DOA and would not boot up at all, and the third is what finally worked.  Being an overclocker, I tried pushing it, but it would not work with the cpu at anything more than stock settings.  I tried with an Athlon64 3000+ and an Athlon64 X2 3800+, and now it is my spare.

My first board was the MSI, recommended by Dynamic1.  It lived up to its name as one of the most overclockable boards ever, and it was stable at 30%.  In my book, overclockability and stability together indicate a quality product.

I also have an Asus, because I was intrigued by dual video and RAID-5 capability.  It was not very overclockable, though.
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Gary CaseRetiredAuthor Commented:
"... the 'dark side'? "  ==>  Well ... I'm at least thinking about it :-)   My video server needs more space (only has 3.5TB now), so I'm going to build another system for a couple extra terabytes -- and figure I may as well try out a dual-core CPU in the process.  Yes, a nice dual-core CPU (probably an X2 4400) is overkill for that, but it won't be the first time I've bought more than I need :-)    ... and I may even switch to that as my main system if the performance warrants it.  (disk drives are easy enough to move around)   I "need" another system like a hole in the head -- there are 2 of us & I have about 11 systems laying around :-)   (but only 4 or 5 are "current")    I could (obviously) just add a few drives to one of my "junk room" spares -- but for just a few $$ I can give a nice AMD dual-core a try, so I thought I might do that.

Which board is your "main" system on?


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willcompCommented:
Gary, recommend nVidia nForce 4 motherboards.  Later nVidia nForce boards support SATA natively on nVidia SATA connectors (no F6 drivers required for single drive like Intel ICH5 and up).  RAID array requires drivers as do Intel boards.

I primarily use Gigabyte boards and recommend the GA-K8NF-9.  It's not SLI but has 4 SATA channels, 2 IDE channels (4 drives), and Firewire.  Reasonably priced and stable.  Only problem is that it does not support ECC RAM.

Its big brother is the GA-K8N-Ultra-9 which I have not used as yet.  Has more SATA connectors and some other added features.  Still no ECC support though.

You'll probably get a lot of recommended ASUS boards.  Many of them do support ECC.  Although Asus boards are very good, I do not use them.  Asus failed to honor warranty on one of their boards about 5 years ago and I haven't bought any since unless absolutely necessary.  So no first hand knowledge of their Socket 939 boards.

I haven't used any MSI or Abit boards lately, but they were usually good, reliable mobos.

Intel makes the best mobos, but so far haven't seen any AMD CPU support from them, wonder why?

As to Zalman cooler.  Most full ATX socket 939 boards from major manufacturers should have adequate space.  Although it is an additional, unnecessary expense in my opinion.  The stock cooler is quiet and you don't need any additional cooling since the X2 chips run cool.

Check out this case for future reference.  Will need to swap out PSU (300 watt), but it's attractive, well designed, easy to work with, and fairly compact.

http://www.directron.com/c583ti3bbfu2ad.html

Dalton
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CallandorCommented:
> Which board is your "main" system on?

It's the Asus A8R-MVP, but only because I invested so much time migrating the system from an Asus P4B533 that it was on before.  It also has WinXP on it, the X2 3800, a Radeon X850XT and a Zalman 7000 cooler, so I am trying to see how it performs.   I would use the MSI, but it's got Win2K on it and it's my backup system in case I really mess up something.
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Gary CaseRetiredAuthor Commented:
"... in case I really mess up something. ..." ==> do you not keep a current image of your system?
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CallandorCommented:
I do - but if some critical hardware goes, I may have to wait for a replacement part.  Remember the Seasonic I had?  Unlikely, but every now and then, something unlikely happens, so I use it as my contingency.  It also has my Aquagate watercooling, which I want to keep separate from my main system.
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dandano64Commented:
I recommend Asus. I have the A8N-SLI Deluxe, and except for the chipset fan (replaced under warranty), it's been a great board.  I think the A8N-SLI Premium would be the way to go. It uses a heatpipe instead of that fan and has the option for ECC RAM.

By the way, I have had no problems with Asus service.  I have had to RMA a board from work to Asus, and they got it back to me within 2 weeks.  When I've had to RMA through Gigabyte, it has taken a month to get the board back.

Also, the Asus boards come with a lot of gui tools for OC and SLI switching, if you like that sort of thing.  I never use the gui tools myself.

One other thing about the GA-K8NF-9, it is limited by a 4x hypertransport mode.  True nForce4 Ultra and nForce4 SLI boards are hypertransport x5 capable, an effective 2000 MHz fsb.
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Gary CaseRetiredAuthor Commented:
Dalton - thanks for the note r.e. nForce 4 and native SATA support;  if I'd read that before I'd forgotten it :-)     The GA-K8NF-9  is an amazing little board for the price (only $76 !!).   I'll keep it in mind - although I'm pretty set in my ECC-memory ways !!   (when those little old alpha particles hit my memory chips I don't want any errors !!)

I agree with your comment r.e. the Zalman -- and with the Cool 'n Quiet setup it's probably even less necessary.   Doesn't mean I won't buy it :-)

Nice case by the way -- and a steal for the price!

On the GA-K8NF-9 do the SATA channels work as "standard" SATA channels if you're not using any RAID settings?
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dandano64Commented:
The SATA channels work normally, no drivers needed, when RAID is disabled in BIOS.
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jhanceCommented:
I'm not sure I would agree that there is no such thing as a "stable" AMD based system.  Either that or I have a system that is an anomoly.  I have an AMD Athlon 64 3000+ based system with a DFI nF4 Ultra-D motherboard.  I've been running both XP Pro and XP Pro x64 on it and it's been 100% under all circumstances.

While the X2 CPUs certainly take more cooling than the 3000+ I'm just using a generic AMD-compatible fan.  Even under extreme load I've never seen the CPU temp reach 40C.
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willcompCommented:
Re SATA channels.  Yes and all 4 are off nVidia controller.  Ones I've used required setting RAID in BIOS and default was non-RAID.  Although all 3 had mirrored RAID arrays installed.  CPUs were Athlon 64 X2 3800 and either 1GB or 2GB of dual channel DDR400 memory.  HDDs were Seagate SATA.  XFX GeForce 6600 PCI-E video.  None were gaming systems, but 2 will be used for video editing and DVD burning.

Comment about Asus warranty was that they refused to honor warranty, period.  Claimed board was damaged when mounting CPU although it had been running for 3 months prior to failure.  I'm not exactly a novice builder and it was a faulty board.  Distributor even went to bat for me and Asus still refused.  Needless to say, I was more than a little perturbed with Asus and still refuse to buy their products.
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Gary CaseRetiredAuthor Commented:
jhance -- note that the parenthetical comment is after the word BEST ==> meaning there's no such thing as a "Best" motherboard.   Clearly there are stable AMD-based systems => if I didn't think so, I wouldn't build one !!!

Dalton -- thanks for the additional info.   I understand why you avoid Asus -- a bad experience can do that.   I had a bad experience with Montgomery Wards in 1976 and never set foot in another one of their stores again -- I doubt the lack of my business caused their ultimate bankruptcy; but I wasn't unhappy at the ultimate outcome :-)
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jhanceCommented:
Oh sorry.  I thought the "no such thing" applied to stable as well as best...
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willcompCommented:
To give the Devil his due, Asus makes excellent mobos.  Doubt that I will break them, but failure to replace that one board has cost them much more than replacement cost.  The only good thing was that it was a board in one of my systems and not a customer's.  Bad mobo was replaced with a Gigabyte 7DX which is still running.  Used it continuously for about 4 years.  CPU is 1.2GHz Athlon T-Bird that predates P4.  It was a screamer in its day and time.  Even has DDR RAM.

Someone mentioned chipset fans.  They are prone to failure.  Gigabyte nForce mobos I've used have a heatsink only which is preferable.  Chipset fans can be replaced fairly easily in most cases, but extra noise and moving part that can be bypassed.

I've had 2 Gigabyte mobos fail.  Both were 875P chipset boards (yes, they were P4s) and both had what appeared to be memory controller problems.  Gigabyte replaced them and replacement boards have had no problems.

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Gary CaseRetiredAuthor Commented:
... as I noted in my question, I AM leaning towards Asus ==> they have all of the features I want and do, for the most part, have a good reputation.   I'm always skeptical when someone I trust (you) has had a bad experience, however :-)

A follow-up thought for all:  I'm leaning towards using the Athlon 64x2 4400+, since it's the lowest priced Toledo core (2 x 1MB L2 cache).   But there are less expensive Opteron dual cores that also have 2 x 1MB L2 cache.   Are there any "gotchas" that a non-AMD person might overlook in the differences between these two CPUs??   I know the Opteron has more "hypertransport" channels -- to support multiple CPU systems in servers -- but as near as I can tell the two CPU's should be very similar in a single CPU (dual core) system.   Am I missing something??



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willcompCommented:
No direct experience, but from what I know (or think I know):  Opterons in same price range have slighly lower clock speed and they do not support cool 'n quiet.  Otherwise, they are very similar for single CPU installations.  Hope someone with "hands on" can provide more definitive info.

I would stick with the Athlon 64 X2 for a single CPU installation.

Incidentally, if you want to wait a few months, AMD is preparing a new socket and incorporating DDR2 support.  Some details:

http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?i=2688
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Gary CaseRetiredAuthor Commented:
... yes, I'd read about the forthcoming DDR2 support.   I may wait and see what the early benchmarks look like for it -- or I may just take advantage of the likely cost reductions in the current lineup when the AM2's are released :-)
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CallandorCommented:
A friend got an Opteron 148 single core instead of an Athlon64, due to the high likelihood that it could go from 2.2GHz to 3.0GHz.  He got it to 2.75GHz and is satisfied with that.  Opterons are manufactured to higher standards than the desktop cpus, but the socket 939 versions will work wherever Athlon64 socket 939's will.
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Gary CaseRetiredAuthor Commented:
... I'll leave this open for a while ==> until I hit the "order" button on my current "Dark Side" wish list at Newegg -- yes, Callandor, that's what I labeled it :-)

At the moment it's got an AMD 4400+ and Asus A8N-SLI Premium in it -- but that's subject to change.   It's tempting to wait for an AM2 :-)



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CallandorCommented:
LOL - "Dark Side Computers"!

There will always be better, faster, newer components, but if you want to use them now, you have to jump in.  The memory bandwidth using plain old DDR400 is still phenomenal, due to the HyperTransport bus.
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Gary CaseRetiredAuthor Commented:
... yes, I know.  I've been "jumping in" to new PC technology since 1975 ==> I don't even want to think about how many $$$ I've spent on this stuff :-)  :-)   (but I'm sure it's over six digits)
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willcompCommented:
Just a little side note.  If you guys aren't already familar with this, it's handy info:

http://www.tomshardware.com/2005/11/21/the_mother_of_all_cpu_charts_2005/page20.html
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Gary CaseRetiredAuthor Commented:
Dalton -- thanks for the link;  I was familiar with it, but hadn't looked at it in a while.
I'm still waffling between an AMD Athlon64x2 4400+ and a Pentium-D 950.   What I like about the AMD is the lower power dissipation (i.e. it should be cooler) and the Cool 'n Quiet feature.   What I like about the Pentium-D 950 is it's an Intel chip :-)
(and can therefore use an Intel motherboard)   I suspect I'll build an AMD system "for the heck of it" -- but I still have to cogitate a while before I hit the switch.   I am intrigued by the potential memory bandwidth once AMD's hypertransport bus and DDR2 are combined :-)

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willcompCommented:
All of my Athlon 64 and Sempron 64 systems have been rock solid stable.  Motherboards were mostly Gigabyte with a few Biostar boards on the low end.  Biostar mobos have proven very reliable over the years even though they are in the "budget" category.
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Gary CaseRetiredAuthor Commented:
Well ... I've decided to close this and procrastinate a bit more :-)    I may still build a dual core AMD ==> and if I do the comments above are very useful.   But I'm going to wait until fall to do this build -- and I may just use an Intel Conroe chip (I'll at least wait until it's released and see if there are any obvious pitfalls).   From what I've read, it'll use less power than the AMD's, be appreciably faster, and (of course) use an Intel motherboard :-)
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willcompCommented:
Yes, it's faster than current AMD chips (which means a LOT faster than current Intel CPUs).  But what will results be 6 months or so from now?  Can't believe AMD will sit on their rears and let Intel regain the lead.  I'll continue to primarily use AMD CPUs since they are solid chips and competition has pushed Intel to lower prices and increase performance.  Just a drop in the proverbial bucket, but I do what I can.

Wish Tyan and Supermicro would re-enter the desktop mobo market.  Don't know how well their server/workstation boards are doing, but they made some excellent mobos in years gone by.
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Gary CaseRetiredAuthor Commented:
Yes ... I used a couple of Tyans for builds in the early 90's that were outstanding systems.   Don't even remember the model numbers (memories' the first thing to go -- I think :-)
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willcompCommented:
The continuing saga of will he or won't he?  You need another PC even less than I do, but wouldn't hurt to build at least a "middle of the road" A64 X2 and see what you think.  An older case and 350 watt or better P4 PSU will suffice unless you get enamored with video and hard disks.

Let us know what you finally decide.  It's been fun.
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Gary CaseRetiredAuthor Commented:
This all started when I decided I needed a couple of extra terabytes of storage on my network :-)
Debated just adding a Buffalo TeraStation, but decided I'd rather have a bit of "smarts" with the extra storage.   I could, of course, just use an older PC  [I DO have a few of those :-) ] -- but then I decided rather than use some really low-end system I might just "play" with one of the X2's we've discussed here.   I may still do it -- but I've procrastinated long enough that it makes sense to wait until we get back in Aug/Sep (we're going to be gone about half the time between now and then).   ... then I'll have to decide if the AMD X2's are still what I want to use ==>  I should have both AMD AM2's and Intel Conroe's to think about then :-) :-)

By the way, as I think you know, I do think the AMD's are great systems.   I just don't see any compelling reason to switch from Intel :-)    (kinda like trying to get a Chevy guy to buy a Ford)
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CallandorCommented:
Hey, if it's not broken and it's performing well, no need to replace it.  But I sometimes get new hardware just because I want to find out things for myself, and I can justify the cost as a learning expense.
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Gary CaseRetiredAuthor Commented:
"... justify the cost ..." ==> What a novel concept :-)   :-)  :-)
(I gave up on that L..O..N..G ago !!)
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willcompCommented:
You are married aren't you?  How else do you avoid spousal wrath? ;-)
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CallandorCommented:
His wife is probably independently wealthy ;-)
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Gary CaseRetiredAuthor Commented:
I wish !!!    We have a deal ==>  I fill the checkbook; my wife empties it :-)   If I manage to keep more in it than she spends (a challenge) then I get to spend a little bit of the excess !!
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