___I am not a large fan of the AMD/VIA solution for HTPC use for a variety of reasons but there are two things going for them nowadays. One is their stability from the MSI KT133 boards up through the KT133Aâ€™s from a variety of manufacturers are as stable as any Intel BX or I815E I have built. Freezing up will not happen with some of todayâ€™s VIA/AMD KT133A solutions for no reason from my experiences with them. The second item is the inexpensive cost and variety of MBâ€™s available. No one can miss the T-Bird cost advantage vs. anything Intel can offer currently as well.
___The Gigabyte 71XE4 is already a somewhat outdated board with its ATA33/66 controllers and Irongate chipset. I would suggest that if you are looking for a T-Bird board that you wait a few weeks for the VIA 266 DDR solutions to mature and become available. If you instead want the most rock solid and least costly AMD/VIA board, take a look for the MSI K7T Pro 2A with native ATA100 controllers. Both the Gigabyte and the MSI are locked into the now outdated 100/200 MHz DDR FSB with a 1.2 GHz T-Bird being the max you can throw at them currently. You can OC a bit to 1.3 GHz on the MSI if you need to. As for the stability, the MSI was reportedly the most stable AMD solution available until the KT133Aâ€™s were released and having built two of the K7T Pro 2Aâ€™s, I can vouch for their stability as well. I have seen the MSI offering for as little as $80.00 on the web if you were interested in cost alone. If it were my money however, a KT133A based Asus A7V133 would be a good first choice with the KT266 boards in my sites to follow once the growing pains are overcome. The AMD chipsets although fast seem to garner no support from AMD themselves. If only AMD would jump in with both feet and compete in the chipset market as readily as they are in the CPU arena, we would all be much better off.
___Let me again restate my distrust of the AMD/VIA solution for HTPC uses. My sons ASUS A7V133 has proven its worth in a number of benches for both performance and stability as well as DVD playback using a variety of sound cards but when they (AMD/VIA) give you a problem, they are truly one of the most frustrating builds you will ever encounter.
___Wayne R. Gerdes
___Hunt Club Farms Landscaping Ltd.
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