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Well because of $$$ I have to drop to a micro atx case for my HTPC. I just cant see myself paying $250 for just a Kanam case. Anyways I found a case now I need a good motherboard. I dont know whether to go AMD or Intel, I dont have too much preference. What I do want is all the bells and whisltes a motherboard can give (usb 2, firewire, 5.1/7.1 (if possible) audio, etc. Any suggestions? I plan to pop an AMD 2600-2800+ or P4 2.53-2.8 depending on which type of board I get of course. Thanks in advance.
 

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I've also been looking for an AMD based nForce2 MicroATX board and have found only one currently available, the Biostar M7NCG ( review ). I think other ones should be available soon... not sure when. Anyone get the Biostar board yet?
 

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I've had the Biostar mATX board for a month now and am very happy with the stability & performance, however I haven't stressed it much. I am also glad that I'm not still holding out for the AOpen board like others are who want TV-out, overclocking ability, and a couple of other extra features. I don't believe the production version of the Biostar can be overclocked like the review board at Tom's Hardware.

Link to nForcers headquarters thread on mATX boards
 

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Thanks for that link, now I realize that there are other mATX nForce2 boards available. I'm trying to figure out what is the best one for my needs... I just bought a Cooler Master ACT-600, which apparently is on clearance now (nice deal, also use coupon case2etc at checkout). My current HTPC functions as a DVD Theater (75%) and Big Screen Gaming PC (25%) to feed my AE100 projector through VGA and my HE100 reciever through S/PDIF.


I'm unclear which of the available models have the S/PDIF out and what the differences are in the on-board audio. Anyone know?


As for video, right now I have Radeon 9000 which is great for DVDs but doesn't have the horsepower for newer games. I'm wondering if I get a board with the integrated GeForce 4 MX video and then add my Radeon 9000, if I can boot to one or the other by switching in the BIOS and using PowerStrip. Then I can use the 9000 for DVD viewing and the Geforce4 MX for my occasional gaming needs, which are going to be limited to lower resolutions such as 856x480,800x600 and maybe 1280x720. The alternative is to get something without on-board video and then get like a 9500 Pro, at an extra $150 cost.


To round the system out I'm getting a XP2100+ , a pair of 256MB DDR 2700 sticks, and probably a Glacialtech Igloo 2410 CPU fan.
 

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Going from a Radeon 9000 to a Geforce4 MX for your gaming needs would be a step down IMHO.


Petey
 

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Yeah, I was considering the Chaintech board but it is somewhat undesirable compared to other mATX boards due out soon. The onboard audio is lame, there's no fireware and I think it doesn't come with the S/PDIF connector. The AOpen MK79G-1394 with built in 1394 was a candidate, but they've announced that it is not going to be shipped to the US. The Biostar M7NCD should now be shipping, word is that it has the MCP-T southbridge. That looks like the one to go with, I'm waiting to order one. I don't know of any other mATX nForce2 SPP MCP-T boards available in the US.
 

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If you considering non-nForce boards, Asus has the P4B533-VM i845g board in mATX format. I'm not sure if we'll see any of the new i875/i865 canterwood/springdale chipsets in mATX format. I thought I would just get a somewhat lowly 2ghz CPU, but it looks like if I want to run ffdshow, i'll need more horsepower.
 

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FYI, the new version of the Biostar M7NCG, v1.4, is now shipping. I received mine from Newegg a couple of weeks ago. This new version has all the overclocking features enabled. Also, unlike some of the earlier shipments, all the external brackets are now included:


- 2 port firewire

- 2 port usb

- spdif with both optical and coaxial out
 

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I built my HTPC box around one of Iwill's motherboards:

http://www.iwillusa.com/products/Pro...?vID=47&CID=94


At the time I put the system together this thing was barely available,

but it was convenient in that 6-ch audio [w/dig outs]/ethernet/firewire

was all built in. Plus it supports the (newish at the time) 478 pin P4.

Biggest downside is probably the limited number [2] of PCI slots.


- Kevin
 

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I know that you're looking for a mATX motherboard with a lot of extras. However, you may want to consider choosing a board that offers the most speed, then adding those extras (especially for gaming).


As I've read some of the threads on this forum and others, I've noticed that some key pieces of software are more tailored to Intel, like directshow, XP, and Media Player 9. If you decide to go with an Intel CPU, then the fastest memory you can use with a mATX board is PC1066 RDRAM. The only mATX board to support this memory is the Intel D850EMD2. I'm currently using this board on my HTPC (with an ATC-600) and it's rock-solid stable and FAST!


This board comes with USB2.0 and onboard LAN (must specify D850EMD2L). It doesn't have firewire or great sound, but an audigy 2 could fix both of those problems. The Audigy2 is great for gaming and will offer less CPU utilization during extreme gaming. It's INTERNAL firewire port can also work well with the ATC-600 firewire cable if you're willing to modify it.
 

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I've been looking at the Intel D845GERG2LK. It has 845GE chipset for 400 & 533MHz FSB, and onboard gigabit networking, but no firewire. The nearly same board with 10/100 networking is only $10 less, so why not go for gigabit? My media server is gigabit already.


Has anyone else used this one?


- Mike
 

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I've not used that particular board, but I've just used my third Intel motherboard. There is an utter lack of pain to using a vanilla Intel product. I was an AMD fan for years but right now I would not even consider for an instant using any AMD or nForce solution, unless I had to have a particular feature not present in the Intel equivalent. Everything installs and works first time - because all the code was QA'd on Intel. The difference is utterly astounding, the struggle goes away - the tiny price premium is completely worth it.


I wasted many years as a fan of AMD - I still like the Corporation and buy into the little guy trounces big guy performance story - but for an HTPC I'd never again use anything but vanilla Intel.


Gary
 

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Gary McCoy,


I'm guessing you've used VIA based motherboards for your AMD chips? Especially in the past, VIA has made some shoddy, buggy chipsets. They're better now, but I think VIA is to blame for most of the poor perceptions of AMD processors. I've never run into a problem that was the fault of the actual processor.


My last several PCs have been nforce & nforce2 based, and they have been completely trouble free. Nvidia seems to have this QA thing down better than VIA.


I have to agree with you that nothing seems to be more reliable than an Intel chipset + Intel motherboard + Intel CPU. However, I would disagree that it is a tiny price difference.
 

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You are correct in that I have used VIA chipsets and struggled with them.


However, I do see a miniscule price difference because the Intel machine I typically reccomend or use myself is one that runs at roughly 3/4ths the state-of-the-art clock speed, and is based on a Celeron not a Pentium. Therefore I realize the benefits of Intel compatibility without any significant price penalty - in fact, probably $20 or less. There is no HTPC application short of PC gaming with 3D games that a Celeron will not handle.


Following this formula, my current reccomendation for mATX would be an Intel D845GERG2L and a 2.2Ghz mPGA Celeron. This combo would be slightly over $200. If you want to step up to a 2.4Ghz P4 (totally unnecessary for a HTPC) the cost goes up another $100.


Gary
 

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Quote:
If you want to step up to a 2.4Ghz P4 (totally unnecessary for a HTPC) the cost goes up another $100.
Unless you intend to use ffdshow or do other pre- or post-processing, which are very CPU intensive. In fact, CPU horsepower has a real effect on picture quality. I agree that the hottest PC is not necessarily the best HTPC, but think that a 2.4-2.53Ghz P4 is probably the price v. performance sweet-spot for HTPC Intel CPUs right now.
 

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I just got my Shuttle nforce2 with igp MN31N ($95)and a Casetronics cs4117 case today ($57). Will be putting it together tonight and hoping that the MyHD will fit in the horizontal PCI slot - the sp/dif sound works ok and the onboard graphics are sufficient as the only room left is a short pci slot.

EDIT - (see below ) - no SPDIF and the MYHD is 1/4 inch too long and is blocked by the DVD drive
 

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I actually ordered the MN31N today myself...Ralph, did it indeed come with external SPDIF connection or just the internal header on the motherboard? I bought a CA10 spdif in/out that says its for the XPC's but appears to have the same pinout as on the MN31N. Damn thing cost 30$ and the motherboard was only 95! I also bougt the el-cheapo AOPEN H400A case I believe...not especially beautiful looking but for 45$ and supports full height cards, it seemed a good deal. I'm looking forward to playing with the nforce audio capabilities (bet it takes a loong time to get things right with this puppy though!)

-Trouble
 
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