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Old 08-22-05, 06:04 AM Thread Starter   #1
Jon
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Help a mod pick a board!


Well, I've pretty much been away from the forums and totally away from overclocking for about 2 years due to being stationed overseas with the military, but am about 2 months away from returning home. So, this will be my first build since the early part of 2003, basically. Considering my time away with only a Dell i8600, I'm having to relearn practically everything all over again as things have changed so much, so please, bear with me.

I'm pretty well settled on the bulk of the system and have already purchased (and probably have it waiting at home for me) roughly 75% of what I need, however, the three main components remain.

What I have so far is this:

Raidmax mid tower case (it was cheap, but I also have a Yeong Yang cube server case I may use instead)
Cooler Master ACLY 450W PS
MSI RX800PRO-TD256E (I know it's not on par with most 800Pros, but it was a good price for my needs)
2 X 36GB WD Raptors (these will be in RAID 0) + ATA133 250GB Seagate HDD + 80GB WD external USB HDD
NEC 3520A DVDRW
Zalman CNPS7000-CU heatsink
Various other accessories (fans, grills, rounded cables, etc.)

So that basically leaves the board, CPU, and memory. I'm pretty well set on the CPU as I'm just waiting another month or so for prices to drop on the Athlon 64 X2 4400+ Toledo. As far as memory, well, I'm sticking in the $200US price range as I'm not after any serious overclocking - if any at all.

My dilemma is the board. For the past two weeks I've read at least 50 reviews regarding most all of the nForce4 Ultra boards and really am not any closer to picking a board. First off, I am not considering any SLI boards. Second, I'm needing the least amount of noise possible from the chipset cooling. Noise is a big factor in this system, so I'm trying to keep it to a minimum. I think that the wife will be able to handle a low-level rumble alot better than a shrieking high-pitched whine.

The boards I've looked at the most are the:

1. Chaintech VNF4U as this looks to have most everything I'm looking for plus a very good price. Only downside is that is encompasses passive chipset cooling. While that is plenty quiet, I'm afraid of overheating if I choose to do a little overclocking. (EDIT: Appears REV2.0 of this board includes active chipset cooling. Helps me lean more towards this board)

2. Epox 9NPA+ Ultra. I like the layout, always had a good experience from Epox, and the price is right as well. Downside is I've read the chipset fan is a bit loud (alternate opinions are very welcomed).

3. ECS KN1 Extreme. Like all the others, has what I'm looking for. I haven't owned an ECS board since their dual PIII offering nearly 5 years ago, so I don't know much about it. Downside is that it's relatively unknown to me, only 6-CH sound as compared to 8-CH in other offerings, and just looks to be a noisy board.

4. BFG NF4 Ultra. I like it, but it appears to be a +$30 version of the Chaintech board with active chipset cooling and more BIOS options. Can't really justify the extra cost for that.

5. Biostar NF4UL-A9. This board, along with the Chaintech, are the two I'm leaning towards the most. Everything seems standard in comparison to other boards in this price range. I get some conflicting opinions in chipset fan noise, however.

So those are pretty much what I'd like to choose from. I've looked at higher-end boards, but have come to the realization that I don't need most of what they include (like the DFI Lanparty, for instance). If I overclock at all, I'd only be shooting for a couple extra hundred MHz anyway, so modest BIOS options are fine. As stated before, I'm mostly concerned with noise and stability. This board will be the platform for mostly video/sound editing with a little gaming thrown in :]

As for memory, I'm waiting until CPU purchase on that in hopes prices may drop a little as well. This will probably consist of some budget PC3200 like the Rosewill, pqi, mushkin, or OCZ value lines. Tight timings are nice and all, but I really have no interest in paying the extra $100US or so I doubt I'll notice in anything other than a benchmark. I'm getting a couple of 1GB modules anyway, so overclocking those doesn't look to be too venturous anyway from what I've read.

Well, there you have it. Pick a board for me. I'd make it a poll with the choices I've listed, but I am more than willing to take other considerations. Thanks for reading this novel and taking the time to get me back up to speed!

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Last edited by Jon; 08-22-05 at 06:12 AM.
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Old 08-22-05, 07:05 AM   #2
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Personally, I think that all the chipset cooling solutions for NF4 boards bite.
The non-SLI boards have it a bit better, but you'll probably have to upgrade them as well. The Zalman HS seems a popular choice (and is easily tweaked for clearance, if needed).

I think you might be shortchanging yourself by eliminating the DFI from your list...it is a magnificent board.
My previous choice was the Gigabyte GA-K8N
which was very stable and simple to set up, but has poor DIMM placement ( I was running 4x512MB and they are packed together like sardines) and limited BIOS options.

DFI has by far the most comprehensive technical support base I've ever seen.
New Oskar Wu BIOSs seem to come out every week and the BIOS settings knowledge pool is enormous. There is a lot of performance to be gained even if max megahertz is not the goal.

Through it all, Patriot has been my RAM of choice. Tight timings and amazing scalability ( my 512s have run stable at PC4000 speed @ 2,3,2,5, 1T) for a very reasonable price.
Since one of the biggest advantages of your new chip will be it's memory handling capability you should exploit the potential to it's fullest.

No matter what combination you end up with, you'll love the new rig....939/nf4s are the bee's knees.

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Old 08-22-05, 07:15 AM Thread Starter   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by clocker2
Personally, I think that all the chipset cooling solutions for NF4 boards bite.
The non-SLI boards have it a bit better, but you'll probably have to upgrade them as well. The Zalman HS seems a popular choice (and is easily tweaked for clearance, if needed).

I think you might be shortchanging yourself by eliminating the DFI from your list...it is a magnificent board.
My previous choice was the Gigabyte GA-K8N
which was very stable and simple to set up, but has poor DIMM placement ( I was running 4x512MB and they are packed together like sardines) and limited BIOS options.

DFI has by far the most comprehensive technical support base I've ever seen.
New Oskar Wu BIOSs seem to come out every week and the BIOS settings knowledge pool is enormous. There is a lot of performance to be gained even if max megahertz is not the goal.

Through it all, Patriot has been my RAM of choice. Tight timings and amazing scalability ( my 512s have run stable at PC4000 speed @ 2,3,2,5, 1T) for a very reasonable price.
Since one of the biggest advantages of your new chip will be it's memory handling capability you should exploit the potential to it's fullest.

No matter what combination you end up with, you'll love the new rig....939/nf4s are the bee's knees.
Thanks. I suppose I won't rule the DFI out. It actually was my original choice due to popularity, but after reading and seeing the price difference in other boards, I really began to question whether the added cost would add up for my use. I will throw it back into the mix simply because the price is bound to keep dropping over the next month and a half. I also didn't take the time to consider the huge following the board has. That may be worth most of the extra spent in simply having the extensive knowledge base at hand.

I also forgot to mention the Patriot branded memory. I have looked seriously at it. I'll probably end up going for the best 2 X 1GB set I can get for $200-225US (or whatever memory is running by mid-October) in the end, so anything is possible at this point.

Thanks for the input - everything will be taken into consideration.

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Old 08-22-05, 08:07 AM   #4
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I'd be looking at the OCZ Gold memory if you decide not to go with 2 x 1024. These are some of the best you'll find if you're not gonna overclock.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16820227211

If you must have the best of the 1 gig sticks in your price range then I'd go for these. A tad bit higher but by far the best in under $300.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16820146425

In regards to the MB. Do yourself a favor and consider the DFI boards.

Not sure if you've purchased the video card yet but if you're gonna run stock speeds the X800XL is the superior card. Price is about the same as the MSI you're looking at. Get it right now on sale and you can have an XL for just over $200 at bestbuy or staples with some pricematching. GL with your build.......

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Old 08-22-05, 08:03 PM   #5
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I try to avoid ECS like the plague. They work like a charm for as long as they're warranty, then nothing but problems. They may have cleaned up their act in the last year or two, though. I've had good experiences with the Chaintech boards in the past few years. Epox, would be another consideration for me. Not the top of the list for performance, but they've always been rock solid and stable for me.

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Old 08-23-05, 09:21 PM   #6
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Abit AN8, how are you not even looking at that?
Good to see DFI is back into your list also.

I know you said you might not OC, but wouldnt you like that option for WHEN you deep down inside know you will. A little tweak here, a little tweak thier, then what when you are stuck with a sub-par motherboard.

I know i dont need to tell you the MoBo is the most important pice of hardware in your system, So why would you even think of going cheap like ECS/BFG?
I will rank your Epox high than Biostar and Chaintech, but even still, yes its a much better quality board than chaintech or biostar, its just overclockability that may lack in.

Also you are often paying more on High End boards are they only use Caps from Japan, no more Tiawan made leaky caps that plauged us for so long.
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Old 08-23-05, 09:35 PM   #7
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my .02 goes to the Epox board - you can always toss one of the zalman passive heatsinks on the chipset - thats what my friend did with his

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Old 08-23-05, 10:31 PM Thread Starter   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JaY_III
Abit AN8, how are you not even looking at that?
Good to see DFI is back into your list also.

I know you said you might not OC, but wouldnt you like that option for WHEN you deep down inside know you will. A little tweak here, a little tweak thier, then what when you are stuck with a sub-par motherboard.

I know i dont need to tell you the MoBo is the most important pice of hardware in your system, So why would you even think of going cheap like ECS/BFG?
I will rank your Epox high than Biostar and Chaintech, but even still, yes its a much better quality board than chaintech or biostar, its just overclockability that may lack in.

Also you are often paying more on High End boards are they only use Caps from Japan, no more Tiawan made leaky caps that plauged us for so long.
Come to think of it, I don't know why I overlooked the Abit board. Looks alot like what I'm wanting, as a matter of fact. Silent northbridge cooling and no less than any other board offers. Price isn't that bad either. My only concern is whether that heatpipe will interfere with the Zalman 7000-Cu I have (well, just checked Zalman's site and it's listed as a compatible motherboard, so I guess that's not an issue - I think this is why I didn't include it originally, but didn't check). Does that passive system work well though?

I do like the DFI board, but the more I look into it, the less I really want to get involved with it. I realize it's about the best there is for overclocking (possibly best period), but I honestly don't want to have to deal with alot of the initial setup it appears to involve. The options are great, I do agree, but average to above average overclocking features will be more than enough for me. I'm just not going to have the time to spend configuring a system like I used to (Army, baby, wife, masters degree program = no time).

I suppose I'll end up choosing between the Abit and Epox boards. After reassessing the Abit, I'm leaning more towards it. Price is where I want to be too. I don't have the greatest of DDR to do alot of overclocking with in the first place (2 X 1GB Patriot PC3200 CAS3), so this may be the best stable (and quiet) choice.

Thanks for all the input so far. As you can see, I've totally changed my mind thus far.

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Old 08-24-05, 12:11 AM   #9
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You haven't ruled out MicroATX boards and I've found one I rather like.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16813186066
Before dismissing it because it's a Foxconn take a look at it. I've got one myself and am very happy with. The NB cooler is nice and quiet as well. Overclocking options aren't that great though. You can adjust RAM timings and FSB, that's it. There is also no divisor for the HTT so you're gonna get 1:1 whether you like it or not. Other than that it's been a great and stable board. It is compatible with X2s as well.

note: I have a pair of 36GB raptors in RAID in the system right now and they are louder than the NB.

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Old 08-25-05, 07:25 AM   #10
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Honestly the DFI is as easy to set up as any other AMD board.The difference is not diffuculity BUT the extended memory settings.If you set it to performance defaults and then do basic overclocking you are as well off as any other board.The on board cooler is quiet as a mouse as well.

But IMO when you have time to dabble and tweek even small amounts of it the DFI offers a strong list of options just for that.And for that reason it makes it an ideal board even for someone that does not have hours to invest at one time. . .

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