___I to want to welcome you to the HT computer forum side of the fence as well. You may find what most of us have found in that you can currently receive what many consider to be the best value for your entertainment dollar hands down! Also, over a thousand posts in ~ 6 months? You are on a record pace â€¦ I also drive past your home on an almost daily basis on the way out to Braidwood, IL. myself.
___In any case, the ECS K7S5A can be the fastest and most rewarding board at any price or can be your worst nightmare. I am seeing it for just $55.00 - $57.00 via Pricewatch but quality control is not in this boards vocabulary given the many sporadic results reported over at OCWorkbench in particular. Having burned up (2) 1.4 GHz T-Birds on the darn thing is enough to deter me from recommending it to all given the latest released MSI 6380 and the Asus A7V133 are both running high frequency T-Birds w/ similar quiet air-cooled cooling solutions with no problems to date. This is just the last problem I had with this board. Wait until you install XP and it does not pick up std. PC setup until you bang F5/F6 for a while â€¦ HQ Intel inside boards simply donâ€™t have these issues that I have run into but the costs may sway you to look elsewhere. Anther problem with all AMD solutions is that the cooling solutions needed are a bit extreme and this even includes the just released XP Palominoâ€™s w/ ~ 20% less thermal output vs. their older siblings in the T-Birds. Even with the drop in thermal output, most here will drive these newer CPUâ€™s to even higher frequencies thus removing the thermal advantage they have over the (T-Birdâ€™s) at their stock clocks, I am sure
Case heat removal is now the big issue w/ both the T-Bird/Palominoâ€™s as well as P4â€™s IMO â€¦ As for the older KT133/266 MSI and Asus T-Bird/Palomino based boards, they have some HTPC compatibility issues vs. the I815 (PIIIâ€™s) and I850â€™s (P4â€™s) to date. I wonâ€™t discuss the I845 (P4) until it receives a HQ DDR based memory controller and hopefully in a dual controller format as well. If you are a tweaker to some extent, you can make the VIA KT266â€™s and 133â€™s work properly but there is no guarantee for future compatibility as well as still having some issues with todayâ€™s HTPC HW. The SiS735 based ECS K7S5A on the other hand worked with all the HTPC HW I could throw at except for the burned up CPUâ€™s and minor problems w/ quick fixes to date â€¦ If you do consider a P4 based board, please only consider those w/ the socket 478 configuration given the upgrade path is so much shorter with the earlier released socket 423 varieties as to make me cringe at a 423â€™s purchase. I see many others have already heeded this advice and they have probably given you enough info to read for a month already â€¦
___As for the nForce 420-D or otherwise, until they are in our hands, we simply will not know for sure. I will pick up the latest KT266aâ€™s and/or an nForceâ€™s when the prices drop a bit after their full release as there is still an oversupply of HW available with the economy the way it is. The expensive $145.00 + nForce 420-Dâ€™s and KT266a boards should be in the $120.00 or less range not to long after release I am guessing. The nForceâ€™s were listed on a European site just two days ago (I highly doubt you could have actually purchased one from them however â€¦) and for all I know, may be available in Taiwan or Japan today but I cannot find them here in the states just yet. The 266aâ€™s are finally being released but again, at a price that makes me want to wait a few weeks. I would expect to see the Soyo Dragon Plus to reign the king of the low cost boards upon release (low cost is a misnomer w/ $140.00 + prices but with an onboard 10/100 LAN, onboard Cmedia sound w/ AC-3 pass-thru/DTS via S/PDIF using either RCA or Optical, ATA100 + Raid â€¦) for the price. The high end will still more than likely be covered by the Asus or MSI nForceâ€™s or KT266aâ€™s boards with a possibly better feature list with probably an ever so slight increase in build quality to consider â€¦
___As for purchases, be very careful here. Some of the vendors already mentioned in this thread have either very high shipping costs, very poor reseller ratings, or force you to buy garbage HSâ€™s with your new CPU for another pure profit play. In the T-Bird/Palomino CPU arena, the air cooled solution may be your most important decision so please follow the forum as to what works and what doesnâ€™t. The CPU or your very own hearing you save may well be your own
___Anyway, my std. issue answer for most HTPCâ€™ers is that the Intel inside solution works for almost everyone whereas the AMD CPU on whoeverâ€™s chipset will work most of the time but expect glitches and or incompatibilities at some point in the build or uses into the future.
___Finally, some of my earlier suggestions are still valid but once the latest boards are in our hands for some serious DVD viewing and DScaler uses, (as well as a game or two
) maybe most will have a better feel for what the latest and greatest has to offer â€¦ I also want to mention that the latest and greatest does not necessarily make the best HTPC in terms of cost nor user friendliness. What today many would consider to be low performance HW is to me possibly the best and most solid HTPC HW you can purchase. You may very well be interested in getting you feet wet w/ a std. issue I815 chipset and a lowly 700 â€“ 1 GHz PIII which will not only suffice for todayâ€™s HTPC uses but can be done relatively inexpensively as well as having literally no compatibility issues to date.
___Good Luck with your HW choices, as they are becoming very numerous indeed.
___Wayne R. Gerdes
___Hunt Club Farms Landscaping Ltd.
___ [email protected]