nforce2 is the way I decided to go, and after a couple of days of fiddling, I recommend the motherboard I got: ABIT NF7-S version 2
The sound should be of good enough quality to do away with the need of more capable cards but for the most discriminating audio-philes. In my case, the built-in optical SPDIF made it a slam-dunk decision, as I am planning to pass digital audio straight out from the source (ATSC reception/DVD playback) to my receiver/amp. So, yes, digital audio-pass-through should be a snap. A friend of mine has the NF7-S also, and he says it does a pretty awesome job converting 2 channel stereo sound to 6 channel digital audio (by faking it, of course). That's neither here nor there for me, but the nforce2's chipset gets some nice reviews (like this one
As for Powerstrip, the usual recommendation is to stay away the GeForce/nvidia video set, which is what an nforce2 board with built-in video will have. I salivated briefly over the ASUS A7N8X line
, of which the A7N8X-VM
has built-in nvidia video, but I shied away for flexibility (upgrade video when needed), compatibility (GeForce reputation with Powerstrip--ask Karnis) and expandibility (3 PCI slots in micro-ATX form). So... I've babbled quite a bit here, but in short, if you drop an ATI Radeon card into an nforce2 motherboard, the limiting reagent with regards to Powerstrip is the ATI card, not the motherboard. Refer to Karnis' thorough--if a bit overwhelming for this rookie--Powerstrip guide at the top of this forum for all the settings you'll need for an ATI card's custom resolutions.