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Newbie needs guidance

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WilliamG

New Member
Joined
Nov 10, 2004
Location
Washington DC
I have been lurking here for about a year, and I have to say that this place is awesome. The information here is great, and everyone seems willing to help. :thup:

After reading posts here since January, I have finally decided to (gulp) try and build my first system. I am not a hardcore gamer but I will use the computer to play, and also for digital photography/image post-processing. I will not OC my system at first. I will start by building a stable system, get to know it well, keep reading these forums, and after a few months maybe try my hand at some not-too-agressive overclocks. I will be loading WinXp on the machine, as I have some software that I need that will only run under WinXp SP2.

After lots of research I decided to go with the Athlon 64 3500+ Venice (s939). Since I don't need SLI I chose the nForce 4 Ultra chipset. My next step is to select a mobo.

I have done lots of reading and I am down to either the EPOX 9NPA+Ultra or the DFI LANParty UT nF4 Ultra-D. There have been lots of reviews of these boards and many comparisons (including a recent thread in this forum asking about the differences between these boards) but none have answered the specific questions I have.

I have read a lot about the DFI, and it seems that since it has so many options (a Good Thing for an experienced user, but maybe too confusing for a newbie?), it requires a lot of "tweaking" of the BIOS to get it going and stable (I have read a lot, for example, about tweaking the memory settings). As a complete newbie this is something I should probably avoid. So, here is my first question: Does the DFI really require lots of tweaking at the start? Or can you use the mobo with stock settings with no problems if I don't want to OC my system at first? Or is it a matter of luck, depending on the rest of the system?

The Epox has received top reviews at Anandtech and sems like an excellent, stable board with very good OC potential. It is also cheaper, so right now it is my top choice. The only thing holding me back from getting the Epox is this review at Anandtech. The review says that the board's layout is somewhat awkward. It complains, for example, about the placement of the ATX 24-pin and 12V 4-pin power connectors between the CPU and the rear panel (so that the 24 pin cable will have to go around or over the CPU or memory, possibly blocking air flow) and the position of the IDE connectors just behind the PCIe slot, so that the IDE cables may prevent a long card from seating properly. In comparison, the layout of the DFI seems great. Is this really a big deal for a newbie trying to put together a system? I have never built a system before, so I'm not sure if these layout issues are a big deal, or just a minor nuisance.

So, assuming the answer to both questions is 'yes' (yes, the DFI may require lots of tweaking to get it going, and yes, the layout issues of the Epox might be a big problem), which of these would be the "lesser of two evils" for a newbie?

Thanks in advance for any help, and thanks for all the excellent info you guys provide here!
 

azu

Member
Joined
Dec 16, 2005
well.. my 2 cents
DFI imo is a much more reliable mb than the Epox.
Its just more complex.

If you're a total newbie, i guess epox is the way to go. It is simpler and easier to setup.
If you're into doing some research and tinkering, i think DFI is the way to go.

But anyhow, my friend built his computer with a DFI mb and it didn't seem so bad. It just seems that the memory timings are off and all that is needed was to reset the values to the original manufacture configuration. It did that with my crucial ballistix too. gave me timings of 2-3-3-8 on a8n sli premium. ballistix default is 2-2-2-6. soo its something like that.. i think. Im not an expert or anything soo can't really count on me i guess. :/

just my 2 cents
 

darksparkz

Member
Joined
Jun 11, 2005
Location
Chicago, IL
Definitely go for Epox for a complete beginner then. You could try the DFi and troubleshoot and learn you way out of it, but if you don't need to get the highest mhz out of your CPU, the Epox is fine.

Also, I'd say don't get the 3500+. You can clock the 3200+ and 3500+ both to the same maximum speeds. If anything, I'd definitely recommend the Opteron 144 or 146, Opterons can OC better then their previous A64 counterparts, and both the 144 and 146 comes with 1MB of L2 Cache, while the 3500+ has 512KB of cache.
 

rseven

Member
Joined
Sep 9, 2003
Location
New Jersey
:welcome: to the Forum!
If you build a stock system the DFI will be fine. It is only tricky when you go to overclock it. That said, I would also suggest you get the Epox. One of the reasons is the manual. The Epox comes with much better documentation than the DFI. This is of particular benefit to a newbie. As for the design quirks, it is true that the Epox has a couple of layout problems, but the DFI is not perfect either. The side mounted floppy connector is one that I remember. Getting the floppy cable on required all kinds of contortions. I would not let the layout flaws drive your decision as they can be dealt with and once it's built it hardly matters.
Good luck with whatever board you decide to get.
 
OP
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WilliamG

New Member
Joined
Nov 10, 2004
Location
Washington DC
Thanks to everyone for the great feedback. I will follow your advice and get the Epox. Fiddling around the DFI and trying to learn how it works sounds like fun, but it would take me lots of time and I should probably get something that will let me get up and running quickly to minimze the frustration factor -- the learning curve is steep enough already! My OC needs are mild, I will just try it in a few months "to see if I can do it", so the superior OC capability of the DFI is not really a big factor for me. I will leave major OC for my next system. :D


darksparkz said:
...I'd definitely recommend the Opteron 144 or 146, Opterons can OC better then their previous A64 counterparts, and both the 144 and 146 comes with 1MB of L2 Cache, while the 3500+ has 512KB of cache.

darksparkz: I hadn't even considered the Opterons. I guess I saw "server" and just dismissed them as too much for me :) . Since reading your post I started doing some research. Do the Opterons need a different chipset than the Athlons? I did a search on this forum, and while there is a TON of info for the Athlon, I could not find much for the Opteron in terms of chipsets available. I assume they need different chipsets. I believe that the nForce professional is a chipset for the Opterons, but I could not find a single mobo for that chipset in newegg or tigerdirect. :confused: Could you please point me to a good place to find out more about chipsets and mobos for the Opteron? Would an Opteron system be much more expensive than a comparable A64 system?

Thanks again!
 

darksparkz

Member
Joined
Jun 11, 2005
Location
Chicago, IL
Almost all the new motherboards support Opteron CPUs, pretty much, a simple BIOS update would allow support for Opteron CPUs. Opterons were a server type CPU for skt940, but they've released a "desktop" verison for skt939. Almost all nForce4 boards support Opterons.

The Opterons are still made of server type quality, so they run at lower temperatures and perform just as well at lower stock voltages. They are supposed to be made of higher quality silicon, since they were originally for servers. Most of the Opterons has been seen to perform better and OC better then the A64s and X2s.

The single core Opterons, 144, 146, 148, 150, all have 1MB of L2 cache, while the A64 counterparts have 512KB of L2 cache, and only the higher end A64s have 1MB of cache. Some single core Opterons has been seen to clock much better then A64s, some have gotten to 3.3ghz stable with their 144 or 146.

The dual core Opterons, 165, 170, 175, 180, all have 2x1MB of L2 cache, while the X2 counterparts have 2x512KB of cache, and only the X2 4400+ and X2 4800+ have 2x1MB of cache. The dual core Opterons has also been seen to OC better then the X2s, people have gotten to 2.7ghz-2.9ghz pretty well, some get higher.

So to sum it up, the Opterons have more cache then A64s and X2s, OC better, and also runs at better temps due to lower vcores, definitely a great buy. Both the DFI and Epox boards mentioned above would support the Opteron, if you still feel a bit uneasy, you can simply do a BIOS update and it would work fine.
 

ochungry

Member
Joined
Jul 27, 2005
Location
Austin, Texas
WilliamG said:
Thanks to everyone for the great feedback. I will follow your advice and get the Epox. Fiddling around the DFI and trying to learn how it works sounds like fun, but it would take me lots of time and I should probably get something that will let me get up and running quickly to minimze the frustration factor -- the learning curve is steep enough already! My OC needs are mild, I will just try it in a few months "to see if I can do it", so the superior OC capability of the DFI is not really a big factor for me. I will leave major OC for my next system. :D
darksparkz: I hadn't even considered the Opterons. I guess I saw "server" and just dismissed them as too much for me :) . Since reading your post I started doing some research. Do the Opterons need a different chipset than the Athlons? I did a search on this forum, and while there is a TON of info for the Athlon, I could not find much for the Opteron in terms of chipsets available. I assume they need different chipsets. I believe that the nForce professional is a chipset for the Opterons, but I could not find a single mobo for that chipset in newegg or tigerdirect. :confused: Could you please point me to a good place to find out more about chipsets and mobos for the Opteron? Would an Opteron system be much more expensive than a comparable A64 system?

Thanks again!

whatever you buy make sure it is not overpriced. newegg has opteron 146 for $279, but you can buy it from mwave for $179. It was $165 a week ago)mwave).
If 1.8 ghz suites you mwave has opteron 144 for $143, which is cheaper than A64 3000(1.8ghz) and overclock much better, w/ larger cache(1m compared to 512 a64). below is the link. but you have to act quick before they raise the price again or out of stock.
http://www.mwave.com/mwave/viewspec.hmx?scriteria=BA22046
below is some links to opteron:
http://www.xtremesystems.org/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=56&page=2&order=desc
http://www.ocforums.com/forumdisplay.php?f=3
here are some good memorys:
http://www.ocforums.com/showthread.php?t=430489
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16820220033
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16820148007
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16820146890
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16820231035
 
OP
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WilliamG

New Member
Joined
Nov 10, 2004
Location
Washington DC
Wow, thanks to everyone for the great info, both about the mobos and about the Opterons. I will definitely look into them a lot more seriously!