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renethx 08-14-2006 07:53 AM

The post comprises three parts:
  • Part I. Hardware Recommendations for Building a High-Definition HTPC
  • Part II. Core 2 Motherboards  A Complete List of
  • Part III. AM2 Motherboards  A Complete List of (under construction)
Part I includes recommendations of CPU, memory, motherboard, video card, HDD, PSU and case. This part should be helpful to select right components quickly when building a HD HTPC. The rests are specialized in chips, chipsets and motherboards. Part II and Part III are based on the database (Excel worksheets) Perhaps it is much quicker to look at the worksheet itself if you are looking for a motherboard of particular features.

I also included several appendices for reference:
  • Appendix I. AMD Processor Ordering Part Number Description
  • Appendix II. Naming Rules of Motherboards
  • Appendix III. Calculating Memory Frequency when Overclocking
  • Appendix IV. List of Bandwidth
  • Appendix V. GeForce 8600 / 8500 Video Card List


Part I. Hardware Recommendations for Building a High-Definition HTPC


I wrote this part to help users to select a right motherboard quickly. Recommendations are restricted to Core 2 compatible Socket 775 motherboards and Socket AM2 motherboards.

Like most of you I have no hand-on experience with most of motherboards. Hence recommendations here are based on reviews by professionals and other users experience. I also included several others at my discretion. You can see the original sources in the reference part and the reviews section of each motherboard.

I also included recommendations of several other components for your convenience.

Needless to say, there is no guarantee that a recommended motherboard or component works right for you. Please take recommendations just for reference.

Prices cited here are based on the search at Newegg.com, PriceGrabber.com and Google Product Search.


Last Update: May 27, 2007

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Table of Contents
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  1. Hardware Leaderboard
  2. CPU and CPU Cooler
  3. Memory
  4. Motherboard  Intel Platform
  5. Motherboard  AMD Platform
  6. Video Card
  7. Sound Card
  8. HDD
  9. PSU
  10. Case
  11. References
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1. Hardware Leaderboard
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The purpose of this section is give a quick view of one of the best HTPC systems on various categories. Sound card is not included assuming you use the onboard S/PDIF. These are just core systems and you need to add a case, optical drive, keyboard/mouse, etc.

The price is the lowest one among those from reputable US resellers I could find using Google Product Search. Shipping is excluded ($0 to $10 per item).
  • Low-End System

    The following system has enough power to play back every kind of HD contents smoothly without overclocking. The processor can be overclocked very well if necessary.

    • Processor: AMD Athlon 64 X2 3600+ ADO3600DDBOX 1.9GHz Socket AM2. $69
    • Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-M61P-S3 GeForce 6100/nForce 430 ATX. $73
    • Video Card: GIGABYTE GeForce 8500 GT GV-NX85T256H. $98
    • Memory: Corsair Value Select PC2-5300 2GB VS2GBKIT667D2. $65
    • Hard Drive: Samsung SpinPoint P120 250GB SATA SP2504C. $63
    • Power Supply: Antec EarthWatts EA 380. $41
    • Coaxial S/PDIF Bracket. $7 (DIY; Please read the section "About S/PDIF")
    • Total Cost: $416



  • Midrange System

    The following system has enough power to play back every kind of HD contents smoothly without overclocking. Once the processor is overclocked, the system will perform at the same level as a much more expensive system and will be an all-purpose machine. The motherboard is one of the best in this class (FSB 1333MHz, SLI, 3 PCI slots, RAID, two native IDE controllers, Gb LAN, ALC888, IEEE 1394, good overclocking).

    • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E4300 1.8GHz Socket 775. $113
    • Motherboard: MSI P6N SLI-FI nForce 650i SLI. $108
    • Video Card: PNY Verto 8600 GT 256MB PCIe VCG8600GXPB. $150
    • Memory: A-DATA Vitesta DDR2-800 2GB Kit ADQVE1A16K. $81
    • Hard Drive: Samsung SpinPoint P120 250GB SATA SP2504C. $63
    • Power Supply: Antec NeoHE 430. $67
    • Total Cost: $582



  • High-End System

    The processor is powerful and overclocks very well. The motherboard comes with dual PCIe x16 graphics, dual Gb LAN, wireless LAN and supports DTS Connect.

    • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 2.4GHz Socket 775. $224
    • Motherboard: ASUS P5B Deluxe/WiFi-AP Intel P965 Express. $193.
    • Video Card: eVGA GeForce 8600GTS Superclocked 256MB 256-P2-N765-AR. $200
    • Memory: G.SKILL DDR2-800 F2-6400PHU2-2GBHZ (1GB x 2). $115
    • Hard Drive: Samsung SpinPoint T166 500GB HD501LJ. $115
    • Power Supply: Corsair HX520W. $105
    • Total Cost: $952




    I am a bit hesitant to recommend a microATX system with IGP because none of the current IGPs is powerful enough for playing back high-bitrate H.264 Blu-ray Disc movies even with an expensive CPU. If you want a microATX board, you may choose a cheaper motherboard (e.g. BIOSTAR TF7025-M2, $70 or Foxconn G9657MA-8KS2H, $85) and add a GeForce 8500 GT card. But then the microATX is not a money saving solution any longer.

  • MicroATX System  AMD

    • Processor: AMD Athlon 64 X2 3600+ ADO3600DDBOX 1.9GHz Socket AM2. $69
    • Motherboard: BIOSTAR TF7050-M2 GeForce 7050/nForce 630a mATX. $90
    • Memory: Corsair Value Select PC2-5300 2GB VS2GBKIT667D2. $65
    • Hard Drive: Samsung SpinPoint P120 250GB SATA SP2504C. $63
    • Case & Power Supply: Antec NSK2400 (Antec SU-380 PSU included). $86
    • Coaxial S/PDIF Bracket. $7 (DIY; Please read the section "About S/PDIF")
    • Total Cost: $380



  • MicroATX System  Intel

    • Processor: Intel Pentium E2160 1.8GHz Socket 775. $84
    • Motherboard: abit F-I90HD Radeon Xpress 1250 mATX. $115
    • Memory: Corsair Value Select PC2-5300 2GB VS2GBKIT667D2. $65
    • Hard Drive: Samsung SpinPoint P120 250GB SATA SP2504C. $63
    • Case & Power Supply: Antec NSK2400 (Antec SU-380 PSU included). $86
    • Total Cost: $413



  • Home Media Server (2TB Storage Space with RAID 5)

    The new ICH9R supports up to 6 drives in the RAID array (vs. only 4 drives with ICH8R). Since the case has only 5 internal 3.5" drive bays, you need one 3.5" to 5.25" mounting bracket.

    • Processor: Intel Pentium E2160 1.8GHz Socket 775. $84
    • Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-G33M-DS2R Intel G33 Express + ICH9R microATX. $135 (?).
    • Memory: Corsair Value Select PC2-5300 2GB VS2GBKIT667D2. $65
    • Hard Drive (OS): Samsung SpinPoint P120 250GB SATA SP2504C. $63
    • Hard Drive (RAID 5): Samsung SpinPoint T166 500GB HD501LJ. $115 x 5 = $575
    • Case & Power Supply: Antec NSK6500 (Antec SU-430 PSU included). $100
    • 3.5" to 5.1/4" drive bay mounting bracket for 3.5" hard drive: Addonics AAHDMK53: $6
    • Total Cost: $1028

___________________
2. CPU and CPU Cooler
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The most demanding task for a high-definition HTPC is playing (i.e. decoding) H.264 encoded movies. H.264 contents playback experience depends on:
  • CPU processing power
  • GPU assist on the decode process
  • Playback software and the video card driver
So necessary CPU processing power and hence your CPU choice heavily depend on the video card you use.
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3. Memory
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There are three major memory specifications for the desktop PC: DDR-SDRAM (JESD79, June 2000), DDR2-SDRAM (JESD79-2, 2003), DDR3-SDRAM (JESD79-3?, to be released in mid-2007). All three adopt the DDR (double date rate) technology that enables two data transfers per clock cycle. Thus the memory (bus) clock can be expressed in two units
  • MHz (mega hertz)
  • MT/s (mega transfer per second)
with the simple conversion formula: MT/s = 2 x MHz. For example, DDR2-800 is 800 MT/s in effective frequency and 400 MHz in actual frequency.

The primary difference between DDR and DDR2 is that DDR2-SDRAM runs its I/O (input/output) bus at twice the speed of the memory cells thus enabling higher peak throughputs and runs at a lower operating voltage 1.8V compared to DDR's 2.5V due to an improved manufacturing process. Further DDR3-SDRAM runs its bus at four times the memory cell clock and runs at 1.5V thus consuming lower power. For exampel, memory clock / I/O bus clock / data transfer rates is
  • DDR-400: 200 MHz / 200 MHz / 400 MTps
  • DDR2-800: 200 MHz / 400 MHz / 800 MTps
  • DDR3-1600: 200 MHz / 800 MHz / 1600 MTps
As for actual performance, there is not much clock for clock difference between DDR and DDR2, and between DDR2 and DDR3 under the currently avaiable memory controller P35. If you are interested, please read for example Anandtech and iXBT's recent articles in references.

The majority of the current desktop motherboads support only DDR2-SDRAM, so you will buy DDR2-SDRAM modules. Intel's new Bearlake chipset supports both DDR2-SDRAM and DDR3-SDRAM and a few upcoming motherboards with this chipset support DDR3-SDRAM. However DDR3-SDRAM chips are still too expensive and they won't be the mainstream standard until 2009 according to HKEPC Hardware.

When choosing DDR2-SDARM memory modules, you need to consider three factors:
  1. Speed (DDR2-553, DDR2-667 or DDR2-800)

    In Core 2 Duo systems, memory is connected to the CPU via the front side bus (and the memory bus) whose maximal theoretical bandwidth is

    1066MT/s x 64bit/8bit = 8.533GB/s.

    (Pentium 4 and Core 2's FSB is 64-bit wide.) That only equals the bandwidth of dual-channel DDR2-533 or PC2-4200:

    533MT/s x 64bit/8bit x 2 (dual channel) = 8.533GB/s.

    (DIMMs have a 64-bit data path.) Therefore there is no big performance growth if you use memory faster than DDR2-533. This is confirmed by various benchmark tests in the AnandTech and X-bit labs articles. The story for Athlon 64 systems is slightly different. Because of the superior on-processor memory controller, AM2 has a wider memory bandwidth and its performance depends more on memory speed than Core 2 Duo. But playing movies is insensitive to memory subsystem and there won't be much performance difference even if the memory speed changes.

    However if you overclock your system, then your memory will run faster as the memory frequency is proportional to FSB (in the Intel platform) and you will need faster memory modules. Please read Appendix III. Calculating Memory Frequency when Overclocking to see what memory frequency is necessary when overclocking the system. In general DDR2-800 modules are recommended for mild overclocking.

  2. Size (1GB or 2GB)

    You won't see any system performance difference between 1GB and 2GB. If budget permits, choose 2GB. Otherwise 1GB is enough. You can add another 1GB later if necessary. You should buy two sticks of 512MB modules for 1GB or two sticks of 1GB modules for 2GB to enable the dual channel mode.

  3. Compatibility with the motherboard

    You should check the hardware compatibility list of each motherboard or ask the memory manufacturer about compatibility before shopping memory modules.

There are plenty of good memory kits. I picked up only a few DDR2-800 memory kits. High-performance memory kits (targeted for overclockers) usually require higher voltage than the JEDEC specification (1.8V) and hence are compatible with a smaller number of motherboards. So I avoided this type of memory (that means there is no high-end recommendation). The source of "Compatibility" is Newegg.com customer reviews. A-DATA and G.SKILL kits are available only at Newegg.com in US.
_________________________
4. Motherboard  Intel Platform
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The best chipset for Core 2 Duo is Intel P965/G965. So my first picks are from motherboards based on them. The NVIDIA nForce 600i Series chipsets are also very nice, but its main target is enthusiast SLI gamers. If you are going to use your HTPC also as a gaming machine, that could be your choice. The position of Intel 975X is subtle. It was released seven months earlier than 965, but it is still the only "performance" chipset for Core 2 Duo (P965/G965 is a "mainstream" chipset). As a consequence motherboard manufacturers tend to add rich features to 975X motherboards, that could be a plus for some. (High-end P965 motherboards also come with lots of features, however.) Intel 945P/945G motherboards fall in the low-end sector. Performance-wise, there isn't so big difference between 945 and 965.
_________________________
5. Motherboard  AMD Platform
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There are many chipsets for the AMD platform. Among them NVIDIA nForce 570 Ultra (discrete graphics) and AMD 690G (integrated graphics), which supports HDMI/HDCP, are best suited for a HTPC. There are AMD CrossFire chipsets (480X/580X) and nForce SLI chipsets (570/590 SLI), but these are intended for gamers. Nevertheless I selected SLI/CrossFire boards instead of Ultra boards because these boards often come with better features. As for AMD chipsets, the southbridge (SB600) is still weaker than NVIDIA. Performance-wise, there is no difference between high-end boards and budget boards. High-end boards just offer better features.
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6. Video Card
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The most important criteria for choosing a video card for HTPC are:
  • Hardware assist for decoding HD contents (of all three formats MPEG-2, H.264, and VC-1)
  • HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection) support
  • Picture quality
How about HDMI? HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) is an high-definition digital audio/video interface that is replacing analog audio/video and older digital standards such as DVI and has become the de facto standard interface in the consumer electronics market. HDMI 1.0/1.1/1.2 provides 4.9 Gb/s bandwidth and the current HDMI 1.3 provides 10.2 Gb/s that has enough headroom for 1080p at 60Hz and 8 channel/24 bits/192 kHz LPCM audio (e.g. sounds decoded from the new digital audio codecs Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio) as the following simple calculation shows:
  • 1920 x 1080 pixels x 60 Hz / 0.95 (5% overhead) = 131 MHz (megapixel/s), 131 MHz x 24 bits = 3.14 Gb/s
  • 24 bits x 192 kHz x 8 channel = 36.9 Mb/s
HDMI video is compatible with the existing digital standard DVI and in fact one form can be converted to the other via a simple adapter. So there is nothing new. In contrast HDMI audio completely takes over the aged digital standard S/PDIF which supports only stereo PCM and 5.1 Dolby Digital/DTS with the maximum bandwidth around 12 Mb/s.

Unfortunately HDMI audio has not been realized yet in the PC world and we are still confined to S/PDIF. As a matter of facts, every HDMI video card simply passes S/PDIF signals from a sound card or onboard audio codec over the HDMI connector. Thus there is no real advantage of the current HDMI solution over the existing DVI + S/PDIF solution. Recent IGPs (ATI Radeon Xpress 1250 for Intel and AMD 690G) are no exception. Right now the only way to take the full-rate lossless multichannel sounds from the PC is use analog outputs.


The upcoming ATI HD 2000 series GPU has a built-in audio controller that makes it possbile to grab audio outputs directly through the PCI Express bus, but the audio quality is still at the level of S/PDIF.

Video card recommendations from these points of view are the following.
____________
7. Sound Card
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This section is still under construction.
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8. HDD
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Factors to consider when selecting a HDD, besides capacity, are performance, noise and heat dissipation, reliability and warranty period. I picked some of recent models in each drive capacity, in particular from the viewpoint of low noise and low heat dissipation. Currently a 250GB or 320GB drive is the sweet spot and good for the single drive setup (possibly with a partition for OS and the other partition for data). A 160GB drive is good for storing OS, along with separate large drives for storing data.
______
9. PSU
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There are several important factors to consider when selecting a power supply unit: total power output, +12V line output (combined), quality and efficiency, quietness.

Total power output

First you should calculate the total power consumption of your system by using, for example, eXtreme PSU Calculator. A typical maximum power consumption of each component is:
  • CPU: 65W (TDP, thermal design power, of Athlon 64 X2 Brisbane core or Core 2 Duo)
  • DDR2 DIMM: 5W
  • Motherboard: 40W
  • GeForce 7600 GT: 36W (peak 3D), 23W (peak 2D), 15W (idle)
  • GeForce 8600 GTS: 47W (peak 3D), 31W (peak 2D), 21W (idle)
  • GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB: 103W (peak 3D), 69W (peak 2D), 56W (idle)
  • DVD drive: 30W
  • SATA drive: 12W
  • PCI TV tuner card: 30W (ATI Theater 550 Pro)
  • PCI TV tuner card: 44W (NVIDIA DualTV MCE)
  • PCI sound card: 10W
  • 80mm fan: 2W
For example, if the system consists of 1 x GeForce 8600 GTS card, 2 x DDR2 SDRAM, 1 x DVD drive, 2 x SATA drive, 1 x PCI TV tuner card and 2 x fan, the maximum power consumption is ~245W. This number is obtained simply by adding the maximum power rating for each components. However it is almost impossible for any application to draw, say, 80% of the maximum power from each component simultaneously. Therefore a typical power consumption of such a system when playing back movies are 100W~200W and a 430W PSU is enough if the PSU is rated honestly.

Total power output of an overclocked system

When you overclock the CPU, its power consumption is calculated by the following forumula:
  • Power Consumption = Cdynamic x V^2 x Frequency
where Cdynamic is a constant dynamic capacity that is determined by the CPU microarchitecture and depends on the number of transistors and their activity during CPU operation (source: Intel Developer Forum; cf. X-bit labs  Getting Ready to Meet Intel Core 2 Duo), V is the applied voltage, and Frequency is the operating frequency of the CPU. The factor V^2 is just Ohm's law. The factor "Frequency" is due to the so-called switching loss  the amount of heat emitted from a transistor when it goes from one state to the other (at the order of 10^(-16) joule). Each transistor in the CPU would emit 1 x 10^9 times that amount of heat per second if the CPU frequency were 1GHz and 2 x 10^9 times that amount if the CPU frequency were 2GHz. Thus the total amount of heat is proportional to the frequency.

For example, if you overclock Core 2 Duo E6600 (2.4GHz, 1.25V, 65W) to 3.2GHz with vcore 1.45V, then the power consumption is calculated as follows:

65W x (1.45/1.25)^2 x (3.2/2.4) = 117W

Quietness and efficiency

Quietness is one of the essential factors in selecting PSU for a HTPC and higher efficiency is the key to cooler, quieter PSU operation. There are many "quiet" PSU's, but only a few of them are truly quiet. In the following recommendations, I cited efficiency and noise levels measured by Silent PC Review. Please read the SPCR articles in the reference section for their meanings.
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10. Case
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There are several factors in selecting a HTPC case: form factor, ventilation, noise control, functionality and appearance. But it is not easy to recommend a HTPC case based on these criteria partly because there are not enough review articles on each case and partly because everybody has his or her own requirements of functions and appearance. So I just list several HTPC cases by well-known manufacturers for your reference. I did not include tower cases except Thermaltake Mozart TX (simply because there are too many ones), cases currently not available in US, and slim cases that do not accept standard-height PCIe/PCI cards or an ATX PSU.

Personally I would choose Origen AE X11 V2, SilverStone Lascala LC20M, Grandia GD01MX, or Crown CW01 from the midrange, and SilverStone Lascala LC17 or Lian-Li PC-C30 from the low-end sector.
JuMz 08-14-2006 12:51 PM

You forgot my board!

Aopen i945Gtm-VHL

Mobile Core 2 Duo for Socket M (They just updated the bios to support the Core 2 Duo, I have running it with a Core Duo)

stylinlp 08-14-2006 03:42 PM

What does FFA stand for and mean? I think from looking over your list your talking about putting together an HTPC that has a builtin video card. Why would someone want to do that is beyond me. Unless (leap of intuition) thats the only way a HTPC will be able to play back HDDVD BlueRay movies?

renethx 08-14-2006 04:21 PM

JuMz,

I added the Aopen board. Thanks for the remark.

stylinlp,

I don't know what FFA is. (SFF means "small form factor".) I don't care about integrated graphics, but it happens that every Conroe & Merom microATX motherboard comes with it.

flud 08-14-2006 06:38 PM

Per Anandtech, the ASRock 775i865G (Intel 865G) Rev. 2.0 supports Conroe processors and the dual channel DDR performance isn't bad. This board is a great option for folks who want to continue using DDR and AGP cards.

Anandtech link

JuMz 08-15-2006 08:20 AM

Perhaps you should mention that the board I stated above uses SO-DIMM DDR2...

renethx 08-15-2006 05:05 PM

flud, JuMz,

Thanks for the suggestion. I added it.

BTW the correct model number of 775i865G is 775i65G.

renethx 08-28-2006 05:33 PM

The original post was a list of microATX motherboards supporting Core 2 Duo chips, titled "Core 2 Duo (Conroe & Merom) MicroATX Motherboards - A List of". I added ATX motherboards to the list and wrote a short guide to chipsets too. I hope this helps you to choose a right motherboard.

Raviolissimo 08-31-2006 05:56 PM

Great List !

does anybody here have experience with the
Intel 965 micro-ATX motherboard ?

Newegg has it for about $120. my first post so it won't let
me put the URL.

thanks !

renethx 08-31-2006 06:27 PM

Welcome to AVS Forum and thanks for the information. You mean Intel DG965SS Shrewsbury, right? I added the link to NewEgg. GIGABYTE GA-965G-DS3 (ATX) is also in stock.

renethx 09-03-2006 06:22 PM

I attached the file Core_2_MB.pdf (a spreadsheet of motherboard specifications) to the first post.

Valnar 09-04-2006 05:39 AM

Quick question. So if I want to build a Core2Duo PC, is there any reason to choose the 975x chipset over the 965?

Robert

smoothtlk 09-04-2006 06:04 AM

renethx, would you mind posting the actual spreadsheet? Would like to sort and add my own notes to help shopping.
thanx many for putting this together!

jimwhite 09-04-2006 08:06 AM

the consensus is that the 965 will yield higher performance through more versatile overclocking...


renethx 09-04-2006 10:41 AM

Valnar,

IMO there is no reason to choose 975X over P965 unless you need ATI CrossFire support. Technologically speaking P965 + ICH8R is better than 975X + ICH7R. However 975X was aimed at enthusiasts and gamers and 975X motherboards come with bells and whistles and full overclocking options at higher prices. So they may appeal to some.

hotwater9 09-05-2006 08:00 PM

Thanks for the wealth of concise information!

The Aopen i945GTm-VHL does not show up on newegg anymore. Any idea why?

chavel 09-05-2006 10:04 PM

I'm thinking about building a system based on the P5B deluxe. I found this thread on a digital photography website http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/re...ssage=19561642 that looked to have some people who knew their way around this board.

maxleung 09-06-2006 12:25 PM

It IS possible to run SLI (not Crossfire) on the 965 chipsets - but it requires hacked NVIDIA drivers. One card will run at 8x and the other 4x on the PCIe slots, I think, but as long as you use the SLI bridge the performance is just as good as having 8x lanes on each slot.

I've seen benchmarks and photos of people running quad SLI (two 7950GX2) on 965 motherboards.

So, SLI can still be an option - unofficially! If you want to use the 2nd videocard without SLI it will run on 4 lanes unfortunately - and I doubt that is fast enough for HD playback.

I think the Asus P5B Deluxe is the best 965 board out there right now - with the Gigabyte DS3 a close second. The nice thing about the Asus P5B Deluxe is that it supports DTS Connect and DD Live (unofficially).

maxleung 09-06-2006 12:31 PM

chavel, that is a very good thread by the way. steve_ has done a really good job explaining the OC process, in relation to the Core 2 Duos. Excellent!

chavel 09-08-2006 08:40 PM

I'm just a couple of minutes away from buying Steve's system from dpreview.com, except that I'm not going to follow his advice and save a hundred bucks by going with the E6400. I decided that with the cost of the system appoaching a grand that I might as well try the E6600 2.4 CPU instead. This is going to be my first attempt at overclocking and I think that I will try and land in the sweet spot of 3.2 GHz (8X @ 400 GHz) for starters. Here is what I'm putting together:

E6600 CPU
P5B.dlx Asus MB
CORSAIR XMS2 5400C4 2GB memory
Scythe INFINITY CPU Cooler
ASUS EN7600GS video
Antec P150 w/Neo 430 HE PS

Wish me luck.

renethx 09-09-2006 07:59 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by hotwater9 View Post

The Aopen i945GTm-VHL does not show up on newegg anymore. Any idea why?

I don't know why it is out of stock and was removed from the Newegg.com site. The board is still available in many retailers. Check PriceGrabber.com.

FOXCONN 975X7AB-8EKRS2H (that features Digital PWM) was also removed from Newegg.com. It is available at a few retailers: PriceGrabber.com.

renethx 09-09-2006 08:02 AM

I added information of a few BIOS overclocking options of each motherboard and updated the spreadsheet accordingly.

Right now ASUS P5B Deluxe has the performance crown (according to this AnandTech article), then ABIT AW9D-MAX (read this AnandTech article), ASUS P5W DH Deluxe, GIGABYTE GA-965P-S3, DS3, DS4, DQ6 follow.

Besides Steve_'s posts, a few of overclocking guides are
Forums
include lots of useful information on overclocking (although they are mostly aimed at hardcore overclockers).
is another interesting post.

renethx 09-09-2006 09:19 AM

ASUS P5B-VM (G965, mATX) is available at ZipZoomfly.com and Intel DG965WH (G965, ATX, Intel Media Series Desktop Boards) is availabe at Newegg.com and ZipZoomfly.com.

AnandTech informed that they would have a microATX board roundup geared towards SFF and HTPC usage with Core 2 Duo and AM2 at the end of the month.

despat 09-10-2006 10:34 AM

I've upgraded my Dell XPS M1710 from T2400 to T7600 (merom). I would like to put the T2400 (yonah) in a good desktop board that supports SLI and/or Crossfire and also support 4G DDR2 Ram. Is Aopen i975Xa-YDG (though only supports 2G RAM) the only board supporting mobile chips or do I have any other choices?

renethx 09-10-2006 04:06 PM

Aopen i975Xa-YDG is the only mobile chip board that supports SLI and/or Crossfire.

chavel 09-10-2006 08:23 PM

Besides Steve_'s posts, a few of overclocking guides are
Forums
include lots of useful information on overclocking (although they are mostly aimed at hardcore overclockers).[/quote]
____________________________________________________________ ____
Thanks for the helpful links especially the Core2Duo OC Guide. Speaking of hardcore overclockers, did I go overboard by ordering the Scythe Infinity HSF for a "mild" 3-3.2 GHz OC with the E6600 on the P5B-dlx? I'm a little intimidated by the size of the thing and I'm scared that it might tear my nice new P5B-dlx in two.

renethx 09-11-2006 01:27 AM

Scythe Infinity ... 125 x 116 x 160mm, 960g ... Well, I feel this is a bit huge after seeing these pictures. IMO, a modest cooler such as Thermalright XP-90(C) is enough as 3.0-3.2GHz can be achieved with default voltage or with only slight increases in voltage. (Actually XP-90C removes heat very effectively.) Discretion is required when reading hardcore OC sites.

jrpavel 09-11-2006 02:56 PM

The other thing that it would be useful to add to this list of specs is the built-in sound capability, particularly as some codecs have better Vista support (Realtek) than others (SoundMax).

renethx 09-11-2006 04:42 PM

Thanks for the suggestion. Actually I included all the audio codec names other than Realtek because I thought they might cause problems when installing OS other than Windows 2000/XP. These codecs are from Analog Devices Inc. (its audio section is called SoundMax; AD1988A etc.; in many ASUS boards), SigmaTel (STAC9221D etc., in all the Intel boards) and C-Media (in an ASRock board). You can see a complete list of audio codecs in the attached spreadsheet. Maybe I will add all the codec names to the first post for the convenience of viewers. Anyway thanks for your opinion.

P.S.

The same is true for LAN controller. I only mentioned Attansic LAN controllers in the first post (again in ASUS boards!; I have never heard of this company). The other controllers are from Intel, Marvell, Realtek and VIA and I thought they should be OK with Linux or Vista, but I am not sure. Please tell me if I am wrong.

As for Vista, a driver for every controller will be released once Vista is officially released.

jkaiser 09-11-2006 05:43 PM

I see Tomshardware has a pre-release review on the Core 2 Quadro supposedly to be released next month.

http://www.tomshardware.com/2006/09/...age/index.html

renethx 09-13-2006 09:37 PM

Has anyone noticed this board?

ASUS P5B-V DH Deluxe/HDMI

Quote:
The P5B-V DH DELUXE/HDMI is a home entertainment solution that comes with a HDMI card onboard. In addition to supporting multiple audio formats, HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) also enables digital video, such as HDTVs. By delivering audio and video via a single cable, HDMI simplifies cabling and provides consumers with the highest-quality home theater experience. With the bundled HDMI-to-DVI adapter, users can connect the P5B-V DH DELUXE/HDMI to DVI display with ease.

Here "a HDMI card onboard" is a bit confusing. There is no HDMI port on the back panel. So HDMI is perhaps on a separate card (to be inserted in the PCI Express x16 graphics slots). It's ATX though.

Update

After having seen this picture, this picture and having checked the AM2 board ASUS M2N-VM DH, I was convinced that ASUS is going to use a MIDI card to be inserted between 6 audio ports and the Wifi card. It's not a card to be inserted in a PCIe x16 slot.

renethx 09-18-2006 08:09 AM

I uploaded the Excel worksheet as several people asked me to do so. New additions to the spreadsheet are details of onboard video (VGA, DVI, TV), RAID levels, NCQ, Hot-Plug.

Two boards were added: ASUS P5VDC-MX (mATX, VIA chipset) and ECS 945GTY-M (MoDT).

Many boards have arrived in US. I updated links to retailers.

Shiva_T 09-18-2006 09:11 AM

Excellent list renethx, great work.

Good candidate for a Sticky, IMO.

Tulli 09-18-2006 09:44 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by renethx View Post

Has anyone noticed this board?

ASUS P5B-V DH Deluxe/HDMI


http://forums.hardwarezone.com/showt...4#post20292334

renethx 09-18-2006 10:06 AM

Thanks, Shiva_T. I don't know if this is worth sticky or not, but for this thread to be a sticky, more recommendations are needed and then moderators decide if they want to sticky this or not.

Anybody who wants this to be sticky, please post your opinion here.

sthapit 09-19-2006 09:08 PM

just thought i'd add this link coz i found it pretty handy -

http://indigo.intel.com/mbsg/Default.aspx

renethx 10-02-2006 09:48 AM

I have added:
  • A section on an overview of Intel chips
  • A section on SiS chipsets.
  • Links to Intel documemtation pages at the end of each subsection "Chipset".
  • A bunch of Conroe compatible boards

    • ABIT SG-95 (SiS662)
    • Albatron PX975X
    • Albatron PX945P (V2.0)
    • Albatron PM945GZ
    • ASRock ConRoe945PL-GLAN (Core 2 Duo E4xxx and Pentium E1xxx only)
    • ASRock 775XFire-eSATA2+ (945PL; Core 2 Duo E4xxx and Pentium E1xxx only)
    • ASRock 775i945GZ (Core 2 Duo E4xxx and Pentium E1xxx only)
    • ASUS P5GZ-MX (zeus)
    • ASUS P5VD2-X (VIA PT890)
    • DFI 662-TMG/G (SiS662)
    • ECS PX1 (P965)
    • ECS 945G-M3 (V3.0)
    • Foxconn 945P7AD-8EKRS2H/8KS2H
    • Foxconn 945PL7AE-8KRS2H/KS2H (Core 2 Duo E4xxx and Pentium E1xxx only)
    • Foxconn 945G7MD-8EKRS2H/8KS2H/KS2H
    • Foxconn 945GZ7MC-KS2H/RS2H
    • Foxconn Q9657MC-8KS2H
    • Foxconn 946GZ7MA-8KRS2H/8KS2H (Core 2 Duo E4xxx and Pentium E1xxx only)
    • Foxconn 6627MA-8EKRS2H (SiS662)
    • Jetway 945PCAP
    • Jetway 945PLCAP
    • Jetway 965PDAG
    • Jetway 965GDAG
    • Jetway 946GZDAG
    • Jetway 775GT1-LOG (nForce4 SLI)
    • Jetway 775GT1-LOGE (nForce4 SLI with IEEE 1394)
    • Jetway 775GT2-LOG (nForce 570 SLI)
    • Jetway P4M9AP (VIA P4M890)
    • Jetway P4M9MP (VIA P4M890, mATX)
    • MSI 945P Neo3-F
    • MSI 945PL Neo-F V2.2
    • MSI 945GM3
    • MSI 945GZM3 (PCB 2.0)
    • MSI P4M890M
    • PCCHIPS P23G (V3.0) (VIA P4M800 Pro)
    • PCCHIPS P27G (V3.0B) (VIA P4M800 Pro)
    • PCCHIPS P29G (V1.0) (VIA P4M890)

    Many of Albatron and Jetway boards may not be available in US.

Jarretth 10-05-2006 12:45 PM

that is one sick list of information

notanatheist 10-07-2006 09:30 PM

As far as 975 vs 965 from Intel is concerned, the 975 still uses an Intel controller for the IDE connector. The 965 boards use a Jmicron IDE controller which isn't exactly pretty to work with under linux.

FWIW, I love my 975XBX and Core2Duo E6400. I've never seen a machine run so smooth.

SpeedyHTPC 10-11-2006 09:49 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by despat View Post

I've upgraded my Dell XPS M1710 from T2400 to T7600 (merom). I would like to put the T2400 (yonah) in a good desktop board that supports SLI and/or Crossfire and also support 4G DDR2 Ram. Is Aopen i975Xa-YDG (though only supports 2G RAM) the only board supporting mobile chips or do I have any other choices?


How did you do this? I believe the XPSM1710 is a E1705 Inspiron. Do I have the same socket as you?

Gaining VT with the T2600 means nothing . Gaining VT and E64MT means something.

AndreyZH 10-14-2006 12:35 AM

This is a great resource on motherboards! I understand it cannot cover all the manufacturers in all details, yet I recommend to add few more sections in the main post.

1. It will be helpful, if someone is looking for a specific feature behond the manufacturer list selected here. At some point I was creating my own list ( http://www.buildmediacenter.com/html/mb02.html ), yet list here in this post is much more impressive and comprehensive.

2. Another suggestion is to add a section on mentioning the TOP 3 HTPC choises... based on meeting some criteria, like SPDIF audio and DVI/HDMI connectors on the back panel. These are truly media center motherboards, even though for high-end you may still need a videor card, but for some people even for HDTV the onboard video will be enough (when no overscan is required).

3. After being an HTPC enthsiast for some time - my interest shifted into the space of slim formfactor cases, passive cooling, mini-ITX motherboards. MicroATX is also an option, yet there are already capable smaller mini-ITX boards, so the only advantage microATX boards may have is that they are less pricy. The m-ITX COMMELL LV-677 for example has PCI-E onboard and few other boards will be avalilable soon from other manufacturers (including Intel with a board in mBTX form factor). So, if there is an interest to make this post even more compelling, a list of mITX manufacturers may help. At some point of time I found these companies, so you can add these names if you like.
== Mini Form Factor Motherboards==
www.adlinktech.com
www.commell.com.tw
www.gms4sbc.com
www.ibase-i.com.tw
www.bcmcom.com
www.lippert-at.com
www.transmeta.com
www.liantec.com
global.aopen.com.tw
www.aaeon.com
us.dfi.com.tw
www.freetech.com
www.kontron.com
www.msicomputer.com
www.ibt.ca

renethx 10-14-2006 08:16 AM

AndreyZH, thanks for the great suggestions! Right now I am working on "Athlon 64 Motherboard List - With a Short Guide to Chips and Chipsets". I will incorporate your suggestions as much as I can after finishing the work.

dabl 10-17-2006 10:38 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by AndreyZH View Post

...Another suggestion is to add a section on mentioning the TOP 3 HTPC choises... based on meeting some criteria, like SPDIF audio and DVI/HDMI connectors on the back panel....

Seconded. As amazing a resource as this is, what would be truly useful are some top picks which include spdif out.

Speaking of spdif, I noticed this 'option' doesn't seem to be offered at newegg.com for several (any?) of the motherboards.

What gives? Must one purchase this seperately from the manufacturer or are there other vendors who are generally more clued in on this?

--Don

renethx 10-17-2006 10:03 PM

General guideline for selecting motherboards with DVI, HDMI and/or TV out
  • Socket 775 (Intel desktop processors)

    There is no motherboard with onboard DVI, HDMI or TV mostly because Intel is pushing MoDT (mobile on desktop) as HTPC. So the choices are:

    • DVI
      • Buy a 945G/G965 board and an ADD2 DVI card (that costs around $15 shipped at eBay)
      • Buy an external graphics card
      • Wait for the Bearlake-G+ chipset (Q3 2007).

    • HDMI
      • ASUS P5B-V DH Deluxe/HDMI (not released yet) is the only board that comes with an HDMI card (and an HDMI-to-DVI adapter). I have not seen an ADD2 HDMI card yet. So right now the only other choice is buy an external graphics card with HDMI out.

    • Analog TV
      • The only choice is buy an external graphics card.

  • Socket M (Intel mobile processors; so-called MoDT)

    ABIT iL-90MV comes with HDMI out. AOpen i945GTm-VHL and MSI 945GT Speedster-A4R come with DVI out and TV out. These are microATX boards. There are several mini-ITX boards with onboard DVI, MIDI and/or TV. However mobile processors are very expensive with low performance as compared with desktop processors.

  • Socket AM2/939 (AMD Athlon 64)

    The situation is better than the Intel platform. There are many motherboards with onboard DVI, HDMI and/or TV. AM2 boards are:

    • ATI Radeon Xpress 1150 (codenamed RS485; based on Radeon X300 graphics core): DFI INFINITY RS485-M2/G, ECS RS485M-M, MSI K9AGM-FID, PC Partner RS485MKM-A94S, Sapphire PE-AM2RS485M

    • ATI Radeon Xpress 1250 (codenamed RS690; based on Radeon X700 graphics core; support for HDCP): DFI RS690-M2/G

    • NVIDIA nForce 6150: Albatron KM51PV-AM2, ABIT NF-M2 nView, ASUS M2NPV-VM, DFI INFINITY C51PV-M2/G, MSI K9NGM2-FID

General guideline for selecting motherboards with S/PDIF out

You should buy a motherboard with an S/PDIF out on the rear panel. Many motherboards come with onboard S/PDIF connector, but it is very hard to find an S/PDIF bracket that matches the connector.

Update

SPDIF PC Bracket with Digital Optical & Coaxial Outs $14.99 at VidaBox should be compatible with most of onboard S/PDIF connectors. If your board has a 4-pin S/PDIF header instead of a 3-pin header, you may purchase a 4-pin header conncetor from FRONTX (free shipping, I guess).

renethx 10-20-2006 11:26 PM

Finally AnandTech posted the first of a series of articles on a P965 roundup:

AnandTech: Intel P965: Mid-Range Performance Sector Roundup

AnandTech also announced an article on microATX boards, both C2D and AM2 along with the new NVIDIA chipset (perhaps nForce 6100-4xx) to be published in November.

renethx 10-24-2006 12:04 PM

Has anybody noticed the difficulty in accessing the first page of the thread? It takes an unusually long time to load it (30 to 90 seconds). I contacted Admin. He said that the too long original post was the issue and suggested to create a new thread and split the original post into multiple posts in the thread. I will do so soon. That perhaps means that all the subsequent posts in the present thread will disappear. I am sorry for inconvenience.

Update

A moderator told me that it's not abnormal. I will wait for a while before making a new thread. It seems that loading time is certainly a bit longer but varies from time to time.

JKohn 10-24-2006 01:04 PM

AVSForum in general can be extremely slow at times (I've even gotten occasional "server is too busy" errors), but I haven't noticed this particular thread being especially bad even though I've been visiting it regularly.

As an aside I ended up order the Foxconn 965P board (the one without RAID/firewire). Maybe a bit of a risk compared to some of the more wellknown vendors, but I really wanted a serial port on the back-panel and wasn't willing to pay $190 for the ASUS P5B-Deluxe when it's crammed full of features I don't need. Hopefully I won't have any problems. I wish it had firewire but I guess I can always add a controller later if it becomes an issue. At least it has eSATA.

renethx 10-25-2006 08:39 AM

Yeah, loading the thread is very quick now. It seems that it was a temporary problem.

I once built a nForce4 system with a Foxconn board. It was cheaper than many boards from ASUS, MSI, GIGABYTE, but the board's quality was good. Tech support was also good. Actually Foxconn is one of the biggest motherboard manufacturer in the world and it is manufacturing even some of Intel's motherboards and the reference design models for the nForce 590 SLI chipset.

Casper42 10-25-2006 03:19 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by renethx View Post

Has anyone noticed this board?

Here "a HDMI card onboard" is a bit confusing. There is no HDMI port on the back panel. So HDMI is perhaps on a separate card (to be inserted in the PCI Express x16 graphics slots). It's ATX though.

I didnt see it at first, but the link you supplied, look very carefully to the right of the 6 Audio Connectors.

It appears Asus is using a proprietary Slot and a Card to provide the HDMI connector.
You can see a faint grey outline around the HDMI Female port just above and a little left of where the wire from the Antenna? goes into the machine.

If you google this: P5B-V DH Deluxe
and then click on Images, there are several sites out there (mostly non english) with better pictures. One of them includes a picture of a board that looks very similar to this one except is completely missing the extra pins for this proprietary connector - called P5BQ-V. Another one had a DVI Card in the same slot, thus their claim to have a "HDMI to DVI Adapter" makes a little more sense.


But all in all, I dont see why everyone is so up in arms over a PC with a HDMI output when the onboard video in this thing sucks anyway. Granted you are able to pump your audio through the same cable, but cant you just get a cable that converts DVI and Coax Digital into a HDMI input for your TV? Or God Forbid, use a normal DVI to HDMI cable and then a second cable for Coax or Optical SPDIF.

Would much rather use a GF7xxx with a DVI to HDMI Cable than the GMAX3000 personally.

Now if they could do HDMI on a nForce590 board with the GF6150 onboard video, now your enticing me a little more.

snooby 11-04-2006 10:52 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by renethx View Post

As ICH8 lacks PATA controllers, almost every motherboard (including Intel's own) with this chipset has an additional storage controller to support PATA devices. Intel has neglected the fact that 99% of the current optical drives are still of the PATA interface. This will cause problems when installing Linux from an optical drive.

Quote:
Originally Posted by notanatheist View Post

As far as 975 vs 965 from Intel is concerned, the 975 still uses an Intel controller for the IDE connector. The 965 boards use a Jmicron IDE controller which isn't exactly pretty to work with under linux.

What type of problems can I expect when installing (or using) Linux due to the IDE controller?


Thanks for this great resource, renethx!

madpoet 11-05-2006 05:08 AM

I'm building an HTPC/Game rig... Asus P5B Deluxe, Conroe 6600, 2GB PC1066, 2 SATA 300 in RAID0, and a GeForce 7950GT all in an Antec solo. Got some very nice air coolers, so I'm hoping to OC up to around 3.4-3.5 without noise becoming an issue. Thanks for this thread

renethx 11-05-2006 08:48 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by snooby View Post

What type of problems can I expect when installing (or using) Linux due to the IDE controller?

A typical problem is that the IDE controller is inaccessible when installing linux.

http://www.mail-archive.com/opensuse.../msg04757.html

Valnar 11-17-2006 08:05 AM

Just to save some reading for everyone....

If you are looking for the absolute best, most compatible, fully featured, no holds-barred Core2Duo motherboard for HTPC use, just get the ASUS P5W DH Deluxe. Why? It may be overkill, but it has everything an HTPC needs. Here are a list of my reasons over and above the typical ones to use a Core2Duo CPU on any motherboard:

* Intel 975X chipset instead of 965 - Has integrated Intel IDE controller instead of Jmicron controller. Works better with both Windows and Linux.

* Dual Gigabit LAN
* Dolby Master Studio sound - Excellent integrated audio.
* TI 1394a firewire - Best there is. Not that crappy VIA chip.
* ASUS DH Remote - Can you say, cool?
* Fanless design
* Most tweakable C2D board out there

And most importantly....
* Three usable PCI slots - By looking at the placement of the PCI slots, you can actually use all three. The PCI-E video card won't interfere with the 1st PCI slot. For those users with multiple tuner cards, like myself, I need all three.

I've looked all over and no other mobo comes close.

I see only two negatives:
* You're going to pay dearly for it.
* Need a full-sized ATX HTPC case.

Robert

madpoet 11-17-2006 08:21 AM

Actually, I disagree. The new 680i motherboards are better. I've had the P5W and now use the eVGA 680i. More features, more fun, more expensive

Big Worms 11-17-2006 08:23 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by madpoet View Post

Actually, I disagree. The new 680i motherboards are better. I've had the P5W and now use the eVGA 680i. More features, more fun, more expensive

But not by much. Plus it gives you the option of SLI, but HTPC that really may not be necessary.

Valnar 11-17-2006 08:31 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by madpoet View Post

Actually, I disagree. The new 680i motherboards are better. I've had the P5W and now use the eVGA 680i. More features, more fun, more expensive

Hmmm. Remains to be seen.

Will the manufacturers design the PCI-E slots around the fact that some may prefer the 3 PCI slots? Most don't. And we need to wait for Anandtech to come out with chipset power usage. I'll give you that the nVidia 680i is clocking faster speeds than the Intel chipsets, but for this application, any C2D is overkill for HTPC use.

Robert

madpoet 11-17-2006 08:52 AM

Not if you want to have software decoding of HD DVD and BD disks

trueimage 11-18-2006 04:36 PM

agreed on the HD DVD side. That's why I'm thinking aof building a C2D system... what is the best mATX 965 chipset mobo? or a reason I shouldn't go with 965?

Casper42 11-19-2006 07:41 PM

So I'm getting ready to revamp my HTPC MCE 05 machine. Currently I'm using a bastardized HP EVO D530 SFF that I stuffed into a different Case (Heat issues in the SFF Case).

I am thinking of getting the following and wanted to see if anyone had any different or other reccomendations.

Debating between SilverStone SST-LC16M, Zalman HD135 and Zalman HD160
- I like the look of the 16M but am worried about Video Card clearing the DVD Drive
- The Zalman HD135 has the same clean look with less Video Card clearance issues
- The Zalman HD160 internally seems great, but the front seems alot less clean than the others.

Intel E6600 C2D
Asus P5B-E
Corsair XMS2 2GB Kit (TWIN2X2048-6400C4)
Asus EN7300GT Silent -OR- Asus EN7600GT/HTDI (HDMI Out)

Already have a 250GB SATA2 drive and a Plextor SATA DVD Burner.
Transplanting my WinTV-PVR-500 MCE


I figure that has plenty of CPU and RAM and the Mobo and Graphics are good but not overkill. I'm running a 6200TC AGP in the current machine and while its good enough to drive 1080i on my old Pioneer, it (for some reason) is NOT powerful enough to properly run the VGA or DVI connector on the back at 800x600 AND the HDTV connector at 1080i.

I also have an MSDN account so I will probably attempt to go straight to Vista Premium once I get all these parts together.

What do you guys think?

Valnar 11-20-2006 03:02 AM

According to this thread here and this post, you may be better off with a motherboard that has the Realtek ALC883 or ALC882 codec for sound. The AD Soundmax isn't as good for S/PDIF use, if that is your goal.

The spreadsheet attached to the beginning of this thread shows which motherboards might be a suitable alternative. The Gigabyte boards are great.

Robert


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