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Choosing a Motherboard: ASUS, AM2+ Socket, NVIDIA/SLI Chipset, or switch to non-ASUS

Discussion in 'Motherboards & Memory' started by the_professor, Oct 20, 2008.

  1. the_professor New Member

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    Hello world,

    I recently posted a message on:
    "Choosing a CPU: AMD Phenom 9950"
    "Choosing a GPU: NVIDIA 9800 GTX, NVIDIA GTX 260, or switching to ATI"
    "Choosing RAM: For 64-bit Quad Core (AMD Phenom 9950)"

    The focus of this message is motherboard specific.

    Here is a summarized introduction on what lead to this discussion and will eventually consist of purchasing my motherboard:

    I have needed a new computer for some time now, specifically for producing music (for my profession), though with the invitation to join an early testing phase of an unnamed online game that is not due for release until next year, I picked up the motivation to finally build a computer rather than buy a pre-built. I think it's pretty funny when you are motivated to build a computer for "work" when you know it will be used for "fun" too. ;) Though, my work is also fun, I love my career. In any case, you will find some of the information on the "whole project" in another thread, including revisions to my big list of components/parts. Here is a direct link to "version 1.5" of my list.

    Purpose of this computer: 1/2 music production, 1/2 gaming; and a little extra multimedia mixed in, for use with movies/tv shows.

    Price range for this computer: $1,000 to $1,500 (if possible), though I might go a little higher.

    Side note: some subjects require some special attention and the purpose in the "System Builder's Advice" forum is "...for your whole project." So, I'll leave that there and this one specific piece of my computer puzzle open to discussion here. This is the perfect place for motherboard talk, after all! Now... back to the topic...


    I am 100% positive that I want the "AMD Phenom 9950" CPU and around 95-99% positive that I want the "NVIDIA 9800 GTX" GPU. (The 95-99% on the GPU involves the motherboard, which will be explained below.)

    Motherboard:

    Now that I know which socket (AM2+) and "general" chipset (NVIDIA/SLI) I'll be using, I understand that I can now select a motherboard.

    As far as motherboard brands go, I have had positive experiences with ASUS. However, I have heard that other quality motherboard brands include Gigabyte and Abit. Perhaps DFI and MSI too.

    The 790FX and 790GX boards look really nice, only they are ATI/CrossFire (not NVIDIA/SLI).

    Here are two that I found:

    "ASUS M3A78-T AM2+/AM2 AMD 790GX HDMI ATX AMD Motherboard - Retail"
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131331
    ($149.99)
    ("Unleash 140W Phenom Performance, DDR3 1333 Sideport Memory")

    or

    "ASUS M3A79-T Deluxe AM2+/AM2 AMD 790FX ATX AMD Motherboard - Retail"
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131339&Tpk=M3A79-T Deluxe
    ($188.99)
    ("AMD 790FX/SB750, Quad PCIe x16, Ideal OC platform")

    Is there an NVIDIA/SLI (chipset?) version of these motherboards?

    If those are the best deals available for the "AM2+ socket" ASUS boards, I might be willing to switch from NVIDIA to ATI. (That is why I am 95-99% positive I want NVIDIA. If there is not an equivalent to the 790FX/790GX for NVIDIA/SLI, then that approximate 1-5% chance of switching GPUs might happen.)

    I did some digging and found some AM2+ socket and NVIDIA/SLI chipset motherboards, though am unsure of their value due to some negative reviews I found on each.

    Here are two that I found:

    ASUS M3N-HT DELUXE/MEMPIPE AM2+/AM2 NVIDIA nForce 780a SLI HDMI ATX AMD Motherboard"
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131290
    ($239.99)
    ("3-way SLI with Revolutionary Memory Heat Pipe")

    or

    "MSI K9N2 Diamond AM2+/AM2 NVIDIA nForce 780a SLI ATX AMD Motherboard"
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813130160
    ($239.99)
    ($199.99 after $40.00 Mail-In Rebate)
    ("3 way SLI, PCI-e 2.0 x16, X-Fi Xtreme audio, dual LAN")

    I'll assume the role of "devil's advocate" and look at only the negative remarks people have left on these two motherboards:

    Spacing or lack of space for installing multiple nearby components; needing an older CPU to flash the BIOS; unable to use mempipe (on the M3N-HT) without sacrificing either the CPU fan plug, "case fan plug #2" (and mempipe only goes to one module, not both if using 8GB RAM); can only use 1066 in 2 of the 4 RAM slots; incorrect power for Phenom after updating BIOS (requiring power manually set to "1.2500V"; have to fill the 2 "blue" slots first; using double-width card covers the only PCIXx1 slot; using 3 GPUs will pretty much cover all the other slots; RAID is only on or off, 4 SATA slots, RAID on gets 6 slots with all 6 using RAID, RAID off only 4; have to shut down ExpressGate function; using 2 monitors disables SLI; manually set RAM settings, "auto" settings didn't work; requires retrieving latest drivers from nvidia and asus, as well as creating a bios flash disk; 1066 (supposedly) only supported by Kingston RAM; manual requests using 1000W PSU; "hdmi only switches to single link dvi, 1900x1200 resolution". "SATA plugs positioned terribly"; no spdif plugs; heatsink/fan doesn't fit; one network "drive" doesn't work; sound problems; difficulties getting tri-sli working; need to flash bios; no onboard audio requires use of 1 available audio exp.slot; sli problems; onboard audio chipset but no audio i/o; hybrid mode doesn't always work; SATA controller not Linux/Unix compatible.

    That's just the "cons" from the "pros and cons" in newegg's reviews. In all fairness, here are the "cons" for the 790GX and 790FX:

    CPU lock lever; running RAID, CrossFire, or overclocking will cause overheating; hdmi/dvi does not work or does not work at same time; weak integrated video; VGA port not working; DVI works only when clearing cmos at boot; only supports 125W CPU, not 140W as advertised; requires updating/flashing BIOS; only one ps/2 port (two needed (keyboard/mouse)); doesn't have serial port; only "partially" supports crossfire x (only with hd2k series); only 6 expansion slots; 1066 RAM issue; only reads 2 sticks at 1066, otherwise all 4 at only 800; minor bios issue on motherboard/cpu temp reading; requires manually setting bios memory setting from 800 to 1066 (if using 1066). GPU takes up the space of a PCI slot; if 1066 RAM, can only use 1 DIMM per channel; requires "single slot" GPU to run quad crossfire; issues with audio drivers; SATA connectors face out not up; if going RAID, cannot hook up SATA optical; too small for 4 GPUs; poor placement of fan connectors; RAID doesn't simultaneously support IDE/SATA; bad placement of PCIe slots; power/reset buttons hard to reach if using 2 PCIe GPUs; not enough space for 4 PCIe x16 slots when using 4 double-wide GPUs.

    I'm sure any motherboard will have negative remarks, though I am unsure how to properly interpret the remarks considering several of the individuals who left them are very likely almost as "amateur" as I am with computer hardware.

    Thank you!
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2008
  2. sneekypeet

    sneekypeet Unpaid Babysitter Staff Member

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    go DFI ...Quad core Intel CPU....and Crossfire!

    Also please try to condense the threads about your rig, so you can get all the answers in one spot.
  3. spearman914

    spearman914 New Member

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    Intel + ATI nowadays is extremely popular. Might get a second thought from it? Or no?
  4. the_professor New Member

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    There are 4 separate threads for a reason. I do not want to discuss anything but the specific topics in the specific threads, which are also located in the appropriate forums. If you please read the OP you will see that I addressed the separate topics separate forums concept in that original post.

    I specifically do not want to merge the topics for these 4 discussions, that is very important. Any merging of discussions can take place in the "whole project" thread that I linked in the OP.

    Regarding the off topic, please see:
    "Choosing a CPU: AMD Phenom 9950"
    "Choosing a GPU: NVIDIA 9800 GTX, NVIDIA GTX 260, or switching to ATI"

    Regarding the topic:
    What kind of reputation does DFI have?
    How would they compare to ASUS and others?
    Do they provide a nice board with AM2+/SLI?

    Regarding the off topic, please see:
    "Choosing a CPU: AMD Phenom 9950"
    "Choosing a GPU: NVIDIA 9800 GTX, NVIDIA GTX 260, or switching to ATI"

    Regarding the topic:
    Is there an Intel motherboard? (Not just socket, actual motherboard?)
    Is there an ATI motherboard? (Not just chipset, actual motherboard?)
    How do they compare to ASUS and other motherboards?
    Do they provide a nice board with AM2+/SLI?

    Thank you! :)
  5. spearman914

    spearman914 New Member

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    1. For money Asus Maximus Formula or Asus P5Q Deluxe is a good choice.
    2. Sorry buddy didn't read properly but I still can't think of any chipset that is ATI CrossfireX Certified. Maybe 790 FX or plain 790
    3. Asus mobos vary which means you can’t say they are best or worse. This goes for every other brand too.
    4. As I said mobos vary and in this question the answer is batches vary.
    :) LOL
  6. erocker

    erocker Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Currently, the P35, P45, X38, and X48 chipsets by Intel support ATi Crossfire and can run a single Nvidia card. There are currently no Intel S775 motherboards with ATi chipsets on them. Asus and DFi are both great manufacturers of motherboards and perform equally well. Intel does make motherboards for their respective chipsets, but generally they aren't very good with overclocking. The Asus Crosshair II formula is currently one of the best AM2+/SLi boards available.
  7. Pinchy New Member

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    Most of the top brands are good. ASUS/GB/DFI etc. If you happen to get a bad board, that would be just bad luck.

    Go with whatever is cheapest/has better warranty and has all the features you want it to have.
  8. sneekypeet

    sneekypeet Unpaid Babysitter Staff Member

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    What you are missing is the fact that they all need to be addressed at once. You cant take ram advice without knowing the mobo, and so on. It all stems from one piece of hardware and blooms from there.

    You can continue on your attempt to keep them seperate, but you are already seeing members mentioning other parts to go with hardware suggestions. I think you are going to get really confused really fast. Also getting advice like this is asking alot of the forum as we all have to read what the choices in each thread are before we can advise you inteligently.

    Do as you wish tho, they are your threads.:toast:
  9. Pinchy New Member

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    Yeah I agree there. Whilst you can make separate threads on RAM/CPU/GFX, you cant really for a motherboard because, as peet said, every other part is based on what motherboard you get.

    Personally, I would have a general thread about the motherboard and then, once chosen, go to the other threads and say "This is the mobo I am getting, what recommendations do you have for this part".

    But as stated, its your internet space, do as you wish :D.


    And on topic, I would recommend a P45 chipset, unless you wish to go sli.
    sneekypeet says thanks.
  10. the_professor New Member

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    That's a little scary... every brand has good and bad... and the batches for every brand vary? Yikes. Well, I suppose I can cross my fingers I don't get a motherboard that is either DOA or dies shortly after getting it.

    So I'm guessing that I'll want NVIDIA/SLI chipset motherboard.

    I like ASUS motherboards but those bad reviews I read really worried me.

    I will do some digging into DFI, maybe I can find a really nice AM2+/SLI board. Does one come to mind off the top of your head?

    I saw that ASUS Crosshair II Formula motherboard, it looked really cool, though wasn't sure if it had all the "bells and whistles" that I want in a motherboard. I'll definitely consider it, though.

    Where does MSI fall into the picture?

    I've heard good things about ASUS (and I like the ones I've used, no problems at all), and I've heard good things about Gigabyte (though I don't think I've ever had one of their motherboards).

    Bad board = bad luck... okay. :) Hopefully there is a good return policy, trade-in, or similar.

    I'm hoping to go with the most affordable and has features that I want. I haven't, however, actually thought about warranties yet. Good idea.
  11. spearman914

    spearman914 New Member

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    Don't worry about the batch too much since 90% of them are good.
  12. Pinchy New Member

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    MSI has been renowned to producing budget boards, but lately they have been coming out with some decent boards. Also, from what I have heard, they have excellent customer service.

    The only time I have had to deal with an RMA for a motherboard (returning a defective unit) was with Gigabyte. I didnt have to deal directly with Gigabyte though, I took it back to the store I got it from. BUT, Gigabyte did replace the board with a brand new one, and it only took 4 weeks to get it back (which is decent, considering shipping would have taken a bit over a week each way).

    I have never had to deal with ASUS support, as none of my ASUS boards have ever had faults.


    IMO (as I said) - go for whatever board has the features you want, at the price you want with good warranty. You can ask around for which company has better support and a better RMA dept, but it will be different for everyone. Every company will be different based on your region/location and you will even get a completely different experience from one sales person to another. A great thing is, if you get a DOA board, newegg will replace it for you and they have top notch customer service.
  13. the_professor New Member

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    I understand the importance in addressing all of them at once, I previously stated my "whole project" thread covers all of them at once. These 4 components are topics I would like to understand better as separate entities, mostly free of the other components. The motherboard has so much to it, alone, that I need to understand it better before I even start mixing in other parts. There is the inevitable partial-mixing-in of various components, though the primary focus is as specified per topic.

    I don't want to keep them separate. ;) ...well not forever... I eventually plan on going back to the conglomerate.

    Regarding confusion: I was getting confused really fast with the several components being discussed all at once and merged together.

    Clarity and understanding: Taking these steps back to understand separate components just a little more, then getting back into the whole mixing and merging. I am saying this: this approach is helping me, not hindering.

    (Again, I explained it all in the OP.)

    I created these 4 threads "interdependent" of each other, meaning that I briefly provided the necessary information in each so that the primary topic of conversation could pertain to the specific subject title of the specific thread.

    In this case:
    Motherboards! ;)

    So, getting back on topic... :)

    Hmm. Motherboard is tricky to separate, though it is readily possible and it happening. Although we are discussing additional aspects like sockets and chipsets, those are actually part of this subject title, too, and we are maintaining focus - I am, at least ;) - on those aspects in a motherboard-specific fashion. Anyway... <again>... (We've all made our points... we don't need to repeat them... I will be getting back into my "whole project" thread soon, I just need to understand these 4 components/parts better first... and, thus, I repeat myself again...) Anyway for real now.... :p

    Yeah, P45 is a no-go (see subject title: "...AM2+ Socket..."). Thank you though. :)
  14. Pinchy New Member

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    Lol yeah thats my bad, I didnt know you were getting a Phenom :p. (When I read this thread, I though your CPU thread was "which CPU should I get" ;))

    BTW just a suggestion for the chipset, if you get one with integrated ATi graphics and then get an Ati graphics card (HD series), you will be able to run your three monitors without having to use a second graphics card :) (Note: talking about motherboard chipset, not gfx cards).
  15. the_professor New Member

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    Who doesn't like hearing good news? :) Funny thing is, I may very well be one of the 10%. lol It's all good, though, I'm going through newegg.com and people are saying that newegg.com is very good with returns. More good news.

    The only bad news, I suspect, would be the result of my failure to read all the details making sure all the computer "guts" match with the motherboard. ;)

    That brings up a thought... I wonder how long newegg.com shipping is. My hunch is they offer a few options depending on what the customer wants to pay for delivery.

    I like hearing that you never had faults in any ASUS boards. I will compare all brands, though, price hunting, and will try to get the best deal where I get the most bang for my buck.

    There are tons of specs on motherboards, though. I wonder if there are sources that compare spec to spec on motherboards. That'd be sweet!

    D'oh! Okay, that's where I'm handling these 4 topics really well - it's not confusing me - and yet there's evidence that it has confused someone else. I'm sorry! :( Ah, well my 4 topics idea was worth a try - I mean it didn't confuse me at all. :cool: heheh. I'm an avid multi-tasker though... it's like I have 4 CPU cores inside my brain all doing things at once. Quad topics. Quad brain. :)

    If my motherboard has ATI/CrossFire chipset, I'll definitely get an HD series ATI GPU. :)

    Woh, do you mean I can run 3 monitors with *just* the motherboard chipset? That's nuts! Impressive.
  16. imperialreign

    imperialreign New Member

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    personally, I'd recommend ASUS - 90% of all the boards I've owned have been ASUS boards, and I've never had any major problems with any of them. Their mid-range boards are of excellent quality, and their upper-end boards lead the market.

    I've dealth with RMA service before, and they're typically very quick about helping out the customer determine what the issue is, and if need be, they handle RMAs quite quickly compared to most other companies. Also, I've never had an incident where ASUS were quick to jump on everyone's favorite support diagnosis: "Oh, it's your RAM, not our board - contact the RAM manufacturer." Or blame the issue on some other component.

    Biggest downside to ASUS boards . . . they can get stoopid expensive. This P5E3 I'm running was $385 at the time when I bought it . . .

    Gigabyte is really good as well. IMO, they are, and have been, ASUS' main competitor in every motherboard market segment for almost 10+ years now. In the upper-end segment, they're the only company that can touch ASUS.




    As to the chipsets, I'd recommend a X38 board, especially for crossfire, as you'll get 2 PCIE-2.0 lanes running at x16. But, the X48 supercedes it . . . but I've heard the X48 doesn't OC nearly as well as the X38 . . .
  17. Pinchy New Member

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    Haha unfortunately no...sorry for confusing you :p.

    What I meant though is that if you get (for example) a board with the 780G chipset. This chipset has an integrated HD3200 series GPU, so its like having a dedicated HD3200 graphics card, only its integrated. Now by itself, this will support 2 monitors (most boards have 1xVGA, 1x DVI and 1x HDMI). 3 ports, but only two montors.

    Now if you pair that up with say an HD4850. There is this thing called "hybrid" crossfire which ati has which allows you to "crossfire" both the HD3200 and HD4850. Now whilst a HD3200 wont give you that much more performance (because the 4850 is so powerful), it still is extra performance. Not only that, but it also gives you the option of hooking up up to four screens (two on 3200 IGP, two on HD4850).

    Basically saves you having to buy a second HD4850 to have more than two monitors :)
  18. the_professor New Member

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    I'm sticking with ASUS for the moment. I like the Crosshair II, though it's nearly $300... there's the M3N78 PRO for nearly 1/3 the cost, a little over $100. I currently have the M3N78 PRO on my shopping list, though am unsure if it's a worthwhile investment - that lower price looks great. I'd love to have the Crosshair II, though with all of the other things I'm getting for the computer I might have to go for a more affordable mainboard. However, the mainboard is one of the most important parts for me, so this is a tricky decision to make. I might go with a board anywhere in between the $100 and $300 range if it's a good deal.

    I finally found some boards that appeared to have very cool features, though they didn't have either HDMI or something else, I forget. I'm trying to avoid the boards that don't offer both HDMI and DVI. I have noticed, though, that most do have all 3 VGA, DVI, and HDMI.

    The hybrid crossfire is a very cool concept. It does seem, otherwise, that the integrated video on the motherboard would be otherwise put to waste.
  19. DMF New Member

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    DVI + dongle == HDMI

    Asus is good. Gigabyte seems to edge them a bit in performance.

    Since you're aware of the Asus offerings, why not select the boards in your (huge) price range for us to consider since expecting anyone to read through your 5? threads for requirements is more than presumptuous.
  20. the_professor New Member

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    I'm thinking my dream mobo would be the ASUS Crosshair II... but it's nearly $300.

    How do these 2 boards compare?

    ASUS M2N-SLI
    ASUS M3N78 PRO
  21. spearman914

    spearman914 New Member

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    M2N-SLI has two PCI-E slots but at 8x and I heard a lot of bad reviews of this board overheating but some seem to oc a lot from it. M3N78 PRO has 1 PCI-E slots so if you want to go SLI later on this is a bad idea.
  22. the_professor New Member

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    Ah darn... it'd be wonderful if there's a more affordable version of the Crosshair II.

    EDIT/UPDATE:

    I made my decision, ended up getting the:
    ASUS M3N-HT Deluxe/HDMI AM2+/AM2 NVIDIA nForce 780a SLI HDMI ATX AMD Motherboard.

    It is a more affordable version of the Crosshair II, meaning "more for me" by "version". ;)

    It should be arriving (from newegg) this week. :)
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2008

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