After the conclusion of my nuptuals last weekend, I was pleasantly surprised as I received a number of lovely hats made of money. Several of these hats are going to cover various obligations and interests, but one of these hats has landed on the PC upgrade arena.
It’s time to modernize my poor little gaming box. My current PC specs are:
Asus CUSL2 mobo
512 megs PC133 SDRAM
Geforce 4 4200 - 128 meg
SB Live value
I’m looking to upgrade to the following: Asus A7N8X mobo
Athlon XP 2700 (333 FSB)
1 gig PC2700 DDR RAM (2 x 512 as the mobo supports dual channel)
New 400w power supply to support the different connections required by an Athlon setup.
I’ve been having issues lately with the SB Live not always working right in games, so I plan on taking advantage of the built in 6-channel sound hardware on the motherboard. That board is based off the Nforce II Ultra 400 hardware - so in theory, down the road, I could just plunk a 400 FSB chip and PC3200 ram in there to boost it. I will of course keep the Geforce 4 in there.
As far as memory goes - is it worth going with a special name brand? Is it worth getting CAS 2 ram instead of the CAS 2.5 that I generally see? I’m fairly ignorant when it comes to memory.
I’d also like any other feedback about this setup - does anyone else have experience with this board or chip? Is it decent for overclocking? Are there better ways to spend the money? (These upgrades are just over $400 in total)
You’ve got pretty much the same computer as me if you do this upgrade (I have a weaker CPU–2400). I have the deluxe A7N8X and love it. Sound is great for me. I don’t miss my SBLive Value at all. I would go with a more expensive brand name whether you get the fast stuff or not. XP is really picky about memory timings, I have noticed.
I don’t have any serial ATA drives, and don’t plan on getting any soon, and that was the only difference I could see between the standard and the deluxe versions. Are there any other differences to justify the $50 price increase?
I just installed the Deluxe motherboard. Its wonderful. Really fast, great sound and network adapters, and it stays surprisingly cool. Plus no fan on the Northbridge to go wrong!
Don’t forget to plug in your speakers when you boot up so you can hear the errors :-). That one thing alone has been the cause of multiple unnecessary RMAs for NewEgg I’m sure.
If you are not using the serial ATA (which I read still has some issues, so you probably don’t want to until the next BIOS revision anyway) make sure to disable it with the jumpers.
Make sure you use quality unbuffered cas2 memory. I’m using Corsair - Fry’s had an ad typo and were selling 512Mb for $80 a stick last saturday (half price). Munchkin would probably be just as good, and its cheaper. This board is picky about memory.
The BIOS won’t report your CPU correctly, so make sure you set it at 200% if you have a 3200 or 160% if you have a 2500 barton.
I have the Deluxe as well. Built in sound is great, no problems (I can’t say that about any of the Creative Labs sound cards I’ve owned). I am running a 2800+ XP Barton now with 1GB of Corsair PC3200 RAM. The BIOS reports the processor fine for me (I originally had a 2700+ and just recently plopped in the 2800).
EDIT: Oh, and don’t forget to get good cooling for your AMD CPU. Not the crappy stock heatsink/fan that comes with it if you buy a retail CPU. Get an aftermarket job, from a cooling company (I’m using a Thermalright SLK 800 but there are many to choose from), and get one that cools better than the stock. These Athlons run HOT.
I didn’t think the 2700+ XP was a Barton; it wasn’t reported as one when I had it installed, though the 2800 is reported as one. Dunno. I do know that the 2800 Barton has a lower nominal clock speed than the 2700 which leads me to believe that it is a different architecture at some level.
The main difference between the Deluxe and Standard is in the South Bridge. The Standard uses the MCP southbridge and the Deluxe uses the MCP-T. That’s about the extent of my hardware knowledge but here’s a link to a description of the difference on Tom’s Hardware
Basically the -T gets you a second network connection, Firewire, and the fancy nForce2 audio. So, if I understand this correctly, you’re actually only getting Realtek onboard audio with the Standard A7N8X.
Firewire is also really nice for external hard drives and the like. I much prefer firewire to USB 2.0 – it seems faster and more reliable. But that’s just my perception, and it could just be that I have a crappy USB 2.0 card. :(
I find the audio on the deluxe to be very good, and while I have no experience with the Realtek on the non-deluxe version my experience with the nForce2 audio has been so good I’d really recommend it. The firewire port I don’t use, and the extra NIC I don’t use either but I guess it’s nice to have them.
It has been a while since I did the comparison, but I think what decided it for me was the better quality sound and second NIC. I don’t really use the Serial ATA RAID or the Firewire, although the firewire port is nice to have if you ever get a digital camera or any of the new disks. You can even do IP networking with them, although I have not tried it.
Just a word on the sound. I am not sure how big a difference between the vanilla and deluxe models. I know it was my first try at ditching my PCI sound card and going with onboard sound, so I wasn’t taking any chances. The last VIA board I had just hated my SBLive card so I didn’t have much to lose.