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Discussion Starter #1
I now need to buy a MB and CPU for my HTPC. I am leaning toward the following:


ECS P4VXMS Mboard with a 1.4ghz Pentium 4


I am thinking about buying 512 MB PC150 memory for this MB.


Any comments?


I presently own 4 AMD Athlon and I think I want to give Pentium a try again because of some reliability issues I presently am having.


-Jym-
 

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Have you tried any of the new motherboards for the Athlons? I have an ECS K7s5a (Sis 735) board, and it runs like a champ. I love it just as much as I loved my old BX board. I think now is not the time to leave the AMD camp, because they are finally getting the chipsets right.

Josh
 

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I was going to go the P4 route, but now I am going to wait and see how the new NForce boards stack up. The dual channel DDR memory and onboard Dolby Digital encoder have me intrigued.
 

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Josh,


I have the ECS K7S5A board as well and it is just as stable as my old 440bx. And half the price. I noticed that SIS has a ddr P4 board coming as well. The SIS 645 chipset which can take DDR 333 memory and unlike VIA, it is perfectly legal with Intel. If the ECS version is as stable as the K7S5A board then I might just give the P4 a try. I won't ever go with Rambus until it is proven that it is actually worth it, bang for the buck. So far it isn't. I also won't go with an sdram P4 board because it just sucks the performance right out.


Jym,


Because of the above reason I would be very hesitant of an sdram P4 board. Especially if you don't already own the memory. If you aren't in a hurry I would wait a month or two and see how the DDR chipset boards pan out for the P4. Early benchmarks show that they match the performance of the 850 rambus boards and with DDR 333 actually beat it on some benchmarks. The Sdram boards like the i845 suffer greatly due to lower memory bandwidth.
 

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for just watching DVD's and playing games I think an Athlon based board would help the pocket. The gaming community stays up to date on what is the fastest and smoothest and right now I can not find one review that will suggest a P4 over an Athlon. The only downside is the heat the AMD's put out. However if you have the right fan (I have an Antec jet cooler) it would not be a problem.

In other words, you do not get more bang for the buck with Intel.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I am fully aware that Athlon is the clear bang for the buck winner. My issue is stability. I have several Athlon systems and 3 pentinum 3's with 2 of them being laptops. Bang for buck is really important to me but time is getting really, really valuable.


A completely unscientific analysis the Pentiums are more stable. I really only care about stability.


I am now leaning toward a fast Pentium 3. Any recommendations on which MB


-Jym-
 

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I have 2 athlon systems with no problems. Only problem I have had was a driver with the sound card. I have had these 2 computers for over 7 months now. On a sidenote, as a PC/LAN analyst for Disney (all intel) had several major problems with their 733's and the chipset that came with them (Compaqs). Compaq didn't want responsibility nor intel(their chipset). Disney World had to halt a rollout of 2000 PC's based on this. So I wouldn't quite be so sure of stability.
 

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I'm another Athlon convert. After numerous hassles with a highly reviewed Athlon MB with a TB 900, I was ready to go back to the Intel camp. I happened to read a write up on the ECS k7S5a, and it was so cheap I gave it a try. It has been the most stable system I have built or purchased, (pretty much all Intel) including a few from respected manufacturers that ostensibly have the resources to get it right.

I suspect that the new generation of chipsets and BIOS improvements have changed the established order. Just be careful with Memory, Power Supply, and Heat management, which are good general rules for both Intel and AMD.
 

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Hi All:


___Unfortunately and has been reported in this forum as well as many HW tech forums around the net on numerous occasions, the ECS K7S5A is not an all-around good choice. Some are simply luckier than others … Having dealt with a headache of an ECS K7S5A myself including (2) burned up 1.4 GHz T-Birds on them, many had the Windows 2000/XP FD corruption problem until a new BIOS’ was released ~ a month ago, the Hot/Warm/Cold boot problem was a problem in that the manual describing KB power jumpers off w/ the bios KB power Off leading to that problem on early boards, many are receiving instability as well as unbootable systems and not due to underrated PS’s or improper cooling. Intel chipsets do not display this kind of behavior in the numbers I have ever seen including the SDRAM MTH fiasco on I820 boards early last year! The ECS forum over at OCWorkbench is a great place to see the problems first hand up close and personal on a board that has been out for less than 3 months. Show me a place where you can find as many problem posts w/ an Asus CUSL2/TUSL2 which have been available for over a year in the case of the CUSL2, and I will bow out gracefully … Would you like to show off your HTPC - HD FP on Thanksgiving day to maybe 20 family members and hope that it boots or would you rather almost guarantee as much with a much more reliable setup from the start. $56.00 for a board and $115.00 for a CPU make for one of the fastest setups available is a good deal but reliability of the system is much more probable when you spend a bit more up front …


___Good Luck


___Wayne R. Gerdes

___Hunt Club Farms Landscaping Ltd.

___ [email protected]
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I agree 100%. I have Athlon systems and they just don't seem as stable as my Pentium III systems. It is not a matter of bang for the buck.


I don't believe it is only my preception. I believe Pentium IIIs are more reliable.


I bought a tusl2 and pentium III 866-133.


-Jym-
 

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I would NEVER trade an ECS K7S5A for a VIA chipset P4 mobo as mentioned in Jim's first post. With an Athlon XP 1500+ it's great, stability wise, and due to this processor's lower consumption than regular Athlon's you can get away with cheaper/more silent cooling and generic power supplies.


The P4VX is fast without the need for Rambus (unlike i845 boards) but I HATE VIA. My ECS system is absolutely stable, when compared to another Athlon I have on a VIA KT133.


I should warn you however that this board has some weird IRQ assignments, particularly with ACPI enabled. Without ACPI and the latest BIOS I've found no problems, using rev 1.0, internal sound, SM56 modem!!! In the end, the only stabler system I've ever owned was a BX mobo with a Celeron [email protected], but with this system I had to play "swap the PCI" to find a suitable slot for the SM56.


just my 2 cs...
 

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I just finished setting up my new HTPC with an ECS SIS735 and AMD 1800+, 512M ddram this past weekend. So far everything seems to be stable I've only had one problem and that is the audio cuts out every so often. I just put the upgraded drivers in so hopefully that will take care of it.
 

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Gruz1,


Dropping audio is a classic symptom of Athlonitis, and the top reason why it was not recommended for use with HTPC. I hope you're able to get new drivers that will fix the problem.


Kei Clark

Digital Connection
 

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What everybody is passing on is the CPU and MB combo question.

Via makes chipsets for intel cpu's. AMD makes chipsets for their own CPUs. If you go with the right combination for either camp you will be fine. My original post stated that you get more bang for the buck. If you have a MB with and AMD chipset and athlon MB you will be fine. HAs anybody read any articles on this combo not being stable? I have read a lot on the new intel chipset not accepting certain video cards. If you are an intel fan, fine. But don't knock down AMD just because a third party messed up a chipset.

If you go to gamer's website that have daily reviews on both camps, you would find that the AMD with AMD chipset can hold it's own. And you would find that Intel with it's new chipset has problems.

Do your research before you buy.

Goto these websites that have tested just about every combo. They also overclock their CPU's and test for stability (which is more than I can say about what I read in this forum).

Think outside the box
 

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Kei, that dropping audio only worked with the audiophile card (in my systems). I have 2 other soundcards that do not drop audio at all. I think that it could be a driver problem on midiman's behalf.
 

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Hi Paul:


___You are speaking with individuals that have built and or use AMD 760 chipset based HTPC’s, VIA based chipset HTPC’s, and now SiS735 based HTPC’s. We are not simply building gaming or general use computers but computers that are to output a professional quality audio and visual display and cannot have so much as a single stutter or glitch since it can be seen by anyone watching. Gaming and general use PC’s are not scrutinized anywhere close to that level from any of the HW sites and that is why you have to be wary when using an AMD inside solution. You can save a hundred or two for a similar performing setup vs. the Intel inside solution but for stability, compatibility, and build quality, nothing touches what many of us use and have used for more than a year now in the form of the I815E/Ep Asus CUSL2’s and HQ HW surrounding the PIII’s. If you cannot use an M-Audio card, I would say you definitely have an incompatible HTPC platform. I cannot think of an Intel inside BX, I815, I820, I840, I845, or an I850 that has had problems with any M-Audio cards I have used for HTPC use myself. In defense of the I845’s although I would not purchase one until the –D’s arrive and only if they are not crippled, the SDRAM based P4 platform is supposedly as mature as the I815’s are today with only slightly faster performance if you were using a P4’s w/ a 400 - 500 MHz clock advantage. The I850 with a P4 is most certainly over the top with RDRAM but was just ousted last week as the fastest gaming platform by the XP 1800+’s themselves. It doesn’t get any simpler than this. HTPC’s have very little to do with performance nowadays because the SW we use is so much below what the HW can use it is not a prerequisite anymore. On the other hand, I would not dare recommend a Compaq or Dell using a PIII or P4 on whichever Intel chipset for HTPC uses either because they are not built properly for our needs. When you want the best all-around audio-visual experience with the least problems, you choose Intel because it works and works darn well for our purposes. Will your Intel inside PIII/P4 solution on an I845 or even the outrageously expensive I850 w/ RDRAM have the frame rates of an Athlon XP + on a VIA 266a? Once again, until last week, the 2.0 GHz P4 and RDRAM was on top but at an outrageous price. This week the XP is but on the AMD/SiS/VIA chipsets available today, it makes very little sense to risk the embarrassment of an audio stutter when you have 20 people over for a DVD marathon and …


___Thinking outside of the box is easy when you own or have built PC’s/HTPC’s using more than half the chipsets in use today. First hand experiences is how I know where some of these chipsets faults lye. Its just that until we get another new chipset, the AMD inside is not that great of an HTPC use choice just yet. I have had hopes for the KT133 all the way to the latest KT266a and have been dashed so many times. The 266a’s are already showing signs of stability problems for some if you happen to watch the Anandtech MB forums, the SiS735 is a poor quality release even though many are using the ECS K7S5A with good success, the AMD built chipsets have always had compatibility glitches, and the Ali based boards have had all of the above depending on release. Having I815E/EP chipset based systems that routinely run 150 MHz FSB without a hint of instability and than running a SiS735 to that same level is … well, do it for yourself and you will see how close to the edge your AMD based chipset is today.


___Where does this lead us? I am truly hoping for the nForce based AMD inside solutions to be the HTPC HW choice of the future for not only the given performance, but for the stability and compatibility we have come to know from the Intel inside solutions as well as the cost that the T-Birds w/ DDR have been going for lately. The problems … Ace’s is showing some nForce OC instability vs. the KT266a boards they have tested in the recent past. This does not bode well for that chipset either but hopefully, we will have exactly what we are looking for in $125.00 1800+’s and $125.00 nForce equipped HTPC/Gaming rigs in the very near future … As for your Antec Jet Cool, do a search on the Alpha 8045 or Silverado to find out what a great and quiet T-Bird cooling solution you can currently own today.


___Good Luck


___Wayne R. Gerdes

___Hunt Club Farms Landscaping Ltd.

___ [email protected]
 

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Paul

Quote:
Kei, that dropping audio only worked with the audiophile card (in my systems).
Could be. Once I heard the CD music quality of the M-Audio cards vs. the Sound Blaster, I knew right away that there was no way I would go back to AC97 and can't dispute your theory. I can't imagine my HTPC being crippled now without DTS or DAD 24/96 music capabilities, as I enjoy these features immensely. I did notice, however, that Gruz1 did not state what sound card he was using.


I didn't mean to hit your nerve with my response. I have nothing against AMD, heck, I used to build quite a few of those systems for customers on a budget prior to changing the direction of Digital Connection to specialize in HTPCs. I still order processors and motherboards for my daughter's teenage friends who's sole purpose in life for owning a PC is for games. If it wasn't for the fact that I am **tired** of the battles we have fought with AMD solutions I would keep on supporting AMD. In fact, I support them simply because they bring sanity to the market and keep Intel's pricing in line. But cheap price is not our top priority, and certainly there are many manufacturers I would not touch with a ten foot pole for the sakes of saving a few dollars, and many of them build motherboards and sound cards.


I don't doubt that many of us PC geeks can get these systems working to their satisfaction, and many do. The problem is that I don't build HTPC's for my own consumption. I have to consider my customers first and foremost, and how they would handle the little gotcha's that seem to pop up more frequently on AMD platform than Intel's.


Do I sound AMD unfriendly? I like to think not, but I am colored by my experience. Who isn't? Would I move to AMD if the problems reported are fixed? Probably, but it would take someone like xcel to state so publicly before I'd even re-consider it because I no longer have the time or patience to see for myself firsthand.


Kei Clark

Digital Connection
 

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Guys, I'm sorry for being defensive about this issue. I also build PC's for HT locally here in Orlando and have tried and tested many different combos (intel, amd) and with peripherals. My customers and myself do not notice any incompatibilities after I tweak the computer. The only thing I have noticed is that some sound cards do not play nice with the Via chipset. The Sis chipset works with every sound card so far. The video card is a different story. The geforce cards I put into systems where the customer wants to use his HTPC for gaming as well as movie watching. They are not as DVD friendly as ATI's cards. I have put a pc together where the geforce 2 ultra was put in the AGP slot and a radeon pci card also installed for movies. I have not tried the newest intel chipset myself, but have read from manufacturers' websites that certain AGP cards will not work with this chipset. My opinion is that the AMD platform can defintely be used as a HTPC if configured correctly. It also seems that because the AMD platform is fairly new as compared to Intel in terms of processing speed that a lot of DIY'ers don't have much experience with configuring the bios and system settings on this platform. And this is where the problem exists. The stability of a system depends on who is setting it up.
 

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I forgot to add that the Sis chipset with the ac97 sound will cause stuttering if you don't turn it off in the bios when using another sound card. Many people forget to do this and then complain about the stuttering. this codec was not designed for movies and surround sound. More for everyday wav use. If you turn it off in the bios and install a quality sound card, then you are OK. I have built 2 computers using this MB, one of which is one of my test systems, right now with an audiophile 24/96 sound card. No problems for over a month now. Until Intel drops prices for it's cpus and chipsets I will always be tinkering and testing new combos and hardware.


Remember, alot of people are using these systems with different O/S's and not turning off a lot of processes that are not needed with a dedicated HTPC.


My cousin, who is a programmer for Microsoft also told me that there should be no difference in the two if the software was written correctly (DVD player, drivers) and that the PC has is tweaked for any specific purpose.
 

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Hi Paul:


___Not to beat a dead horse but stability is not just that it can run for days, weeks, or months on end. Its that you can use any sound card and that includes some of the best vs. any AC97 variant to date without any problems whatsoever. Here are just two pieces of information I pulled form a headlines as well as a KT266A review I ran across in the past two days of HW site perusing:


Posted over at OC Workbench’s front page today: In fact, given that it supports DDR333 and is comparatively more stable than the SiS735, the SiS745 has become the favorite of top-tier makers.


___What does this tell you about today’s SiS735 today?


Posted over at Anandtech on the second page of the VIA KT266A Initial Roundup - October 2001 yesterday: We've been making a lot of comparisons to the i845 lately mainly because the chipset and motherboards were very mature upon their launch. These three boards are also doomed to that same comparison. Although they clearly outperform the i845/Pentium 4 solutions, the maturity level of these initial motherboards just isn't there yet.


___What does this tell you about the just released KT266A’s?


___I read this kind of thing on an almost daily basis! After using the AMD based HW with professional level M-Audio cards in particular, how can you say the AMD inside is as stable or compatible? Your customer comes in and says I want an HTPC with the professional sound quality of an M-Audio AP2496 or soon to be released Delta Theater and you tell them what? My children are all using T-Birds on VIA and SiS based chipsets and have no problems with the std. gaming and general use they subject them too. Well, the burned up T-Bird(s) ticked me off so I RMA’ed that board … My parents general use PC is built around an extremely quiet and robust Intel PIII 750 at 1.0 GHz. My sister’s main HTPC is built around a BX chipset based PIII [email protected] whereas her son’s brand new HTPC is based off the SiS 735 K7S5A w/ a 1.4 GHz T-Bird at 1.45. This is not about AMD or Intel bias, but is about professional level audio and visual quality experiences. Subjecting someone to an HTPC built from non-compatible or sub std. HW is a travesty at best and will more than likely force the new HTPC’er to search for other lesser quality solutions like a simple progressive scan STB and off the shelf Quad Scan scaler once they are subjected to their first incompatibility as you yourself have already found.


___In response to your second posting above: Many MS programmers regularly visit our forums as well and if you speak with them privately, you will find out all about the AMD inside problems also. Ask a MS USB programmer in particular ;) As for the SiS K7S5A, I did not have to disable the onboard sound to achieve stutter free compatibility with the M-Audio AP2496 in it but have seen the strangest behavior including the loss of the two CPU’s. As for HTPC compatibility from an Intel based HTPC, I routinely run two sound cards/two video cards now that I am hooked on the PCI based Radeon’s/M-Audio cards for HTPC uses and the GeForce’s/Creative Live Value’s for all my gaming needs. I unfortunately do not have enough slots to cover the 3Com/USR 56k PCI HW controller based modem, Intel 10/100 NIC, Hauppauge capture card, and the HiPix DTV-200 with the latest Radeon compatible drivers as well :(


___Good Luck


___Wayne R. Gerdes

___Hunt Club Farms Landscaping Ltd.

___ [email protected]
 
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