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Cheaper SMP AMD Motherboards? 61

Posted by Cliff
from the holy-price-discrepancies dept.
[RNP]Venom asks: "With AMD prices as low as ever, it leaves several of my co-workers and I asking some common questions. With some 50+ Dual, Quad, etc.. Intel-based Motherboards/Chipsets, why is it we've not seen an influx of Dual-AMD equipment? I know we have at least 4 AMD Athlon cpu's sitting around the shop here that would be great to have in an SMP setup, however short of spending $200-$500 on a Tyan Product, or around the same mark for one of the few other products with dual-Athlon Support, what can one do? Where are the $50-$100 Dual-AMD CPU boards that Intel users enjoy? A Google search reveals little but Tyan and more Tyan. I thought their 'exclusive' was only 6 months? I figure the Slashdot readers would be the best to query on current or upcoming 'affordable' products in this area."
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Cheaper SMP AMD Motherboards?

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  • Dual AMD's? (Score:2, Funny)

    by qurob (543434)

    Wouldn't you need like a 600 watt power supply, and a cooling system rivaling the "Wild Artic" at Sea World?
    • by linzeal (197905)
      Need to hire a 'geek' in Michigan? Hire me [mailto]!

      I got 200 heads of chicken in that pen over yonder, go to it boy!

  • Market interest? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gmhowell (26755) <gmhowell@gmail.com> on Monday July 01, 2002 @04:15PM (#3802804) Homepage Journal
    This is conjecture, and I don't necessarily agree with the opinions:

    Most SMP machines are bought by large companies. They still view AMD chips as 'merely compatible' with Intel. They feel there may be incomplete compatibility. They are a lesser product. So, no interest, so nobody builds boards.

    Also, there are no games that take advantage of SMP (that I know of) so the gamer rags won't be interested. That pretty much leaves small companies and Linux/*BSD tinkerers. Heck, I'd like one someday, but I'm only one person.

    • Re:Market interest? (Score:2, Informative)

      by linzeal (197905)
      SMP helps games by offloading all the system tasks/drivers/network stack on one proc while you use another proc completely. I really wish they would hurry up with the physics co-procs!
      • Hadn't thought of that. But don't you then need a SMP OS? And doesn't that mean Win2k Pro or WinXP Pro? The costs seem like they are really starting to stack up. (But, with hardcore gamers, that doesn't really seem to matter.)

        • 50 bucks for windows 2000 last I checked the local geek boutiques.
          • Funny you mention that. I was at the white box shop, and talking to a guy who was thinking of putting together a dual Xeon, and he mentioned Win2k and also said the price wasn't bad.

          • Yes, the price of Windows has gone dwon considerably. However, you need Windows 2000 Pro (2 proc), Windows 2000 Server (4 proc) or Windows 2000 Advanced Sever (8 proc)

            I personaly want to get a dual sledgehammer.... but then i wouldn't need Windows 2k
            • 2000 server only supports 4 processors if it is any upgrade from NT4 server. If it's a clean install, it only supports 2. Advanced 2000 server will support 4 on clean install or 8 if upgraded fron NT 4 Enterprise. Not trying to nitpick but make sure people get more clearer info. Of course, you probably got your info from MS which is of course going to be a little misleading. Heck, that's true for more companies than just MS though.
    • Maybe we need a new section at slashdot. The petition. An electronic petition may not be anywhere as effective as USPS delivered missives, but it's gotta be better than nothing.

      What could be done is to set up a system where each registered member can sign each petition once. And send the petition to the proper company/organization/public official/etc. after a certain date/number of signatures is reached.

      Of course there are problems with this. With a relatively anonymous registration system, people can sign the petition with multiple accounts. And there's not really any way of auditing who's in what market/district/whatever without tightening the system. But still, it could give whomever the petition is directed to an idea about what people want.

      Of course sending thousands of names and email addresses to a company could just be an invitation for spam... all kinds of potential problems.
    • dont forget quake3
      • Does that take advantage of SMP? Wouldn't know. I... Don't have a copy of Quake3:)

        • smp was the greatest idea of the game, its said to actualy hurt performance in some setups, but basicaly i think it was carmack showing off what an awsome programmer he is just besides being able to build game engines
  • MP CPUs (Score:3, Informative)

    by perfectlynormalbeast (221743) on Monday July 01, 2002 @04:21PM (#3802852)
    You're AMD CPUs lying around probably wouldn't work in a dual setup anyway. You need Athlon MP cpu's to work.

    My view on why this hasn't taken off is that a single Athlon 2200 with DDR333 ram and other slick hardware will be nearly as fast as a dual Athlon MP2100 with DDR266 ram and cost fantastically less. The board isn't even the biggest problem. The chips themselves cost way more than their single cpu bretheren.

    We have dual systems at work because we're developing server software and need dual machines to test on, but for most users they're very hard to cost/justify. I miss the old PGA celeron 366 days, when you building a dual system actually saved money.

    One thing AMD could do to fight the battle with Intel would be to make all their CPUs dual capable. It's not so much a matter of cost, they just don't want to massacre their server market margins.
    • Re:MP CPUs (Score:2, Insightful)

      by linzeal (197905)
      You can still get normal palimono cores to work they just aren't certified and you will have to download a hacked bios.
    • The thunderbird core socket A athlons work perfectly in SMP mode on the Tyan boards. Also, the palomino chips also work on the Thunder K7 boards. The later palomino chips simply need a little modifications to some traces on the chips themselves, and they also work in SMP mode and even recognized as MP cpus! That just goes to show AMD uses the same core for both, they just charge a lot more money for the "certified" chips because they want better margains.
      • by BJH (11355)
        There's been more than one report on l-k of problems most likely caused by people using XPs where they should have used MPs, usually in floating point processing. Frankly, the only people interested in running XPs in an SMP box are skinflint gamers - anybody else would hand over the bucks for MPs (they're not that more expensive) in the knowledge that they're pretty much guaranteed to work.
    • I'm writing this from a dual XP 1800+ bought in last April, on an Asus A7M266-D motherboard. So it does work. Now, with their latest core changes, I might not be able to get the same thing and get it to work (XPs). See more competent sites for more info.

      The only modification I needed to do was to drill (yes, drill) the mounting holes around the 2 sockets because I wanted to put heavier heatsinks. The holes are just not drilled on the Asus board; I think it ws something to do with EMI being too strong with the holes drilled, but I could be mistaken. Oh, and it's been as stable as it could get (80% of the reboots were because of grid power failures). But it does get hot. Quite hot.

      As to the speed, it (as always) depends on what you're doing. I use my box primarily for development (compiling), desktop, games. If I really wanted to have the fastest for games, I'd replace my GeForce2. For the rest, compiling 2 or more files at the same time is faster than 2 or 3 speed grades and faster clocked memory (especially if it's CAS 3 instead of 2.5 or 2).
  • by questionlp (58365) on Monday July 01, 2002 @04:24PM (#3802876) Homepage
    ASUS (A7M266-D) and IWill (MPX2) also make dual Athlon motherboards, though I'm not sure how much they cost. I think Abit and Gigabyte have announced if not released dual Athlon motherboards. Yes, they are not as cheap as the dual Socket 370 (or even Slot 1) motherboards on the Intel side of things, but part of the cost disparity is the complexity of the 760MP/760MPX chipset (the chipset requires two sets of traces to the two processors since the EV6 bus protocol is point-to-point rather than shared like the AGTL/GTL/GTL+ used by the Intel processors) and the 64-bit PCI slots.

    I'm guessing that a lot of the dual P3 processor motherboards are only 4-layer whereas the dual Athlon boards are more likely to be 6 (or even 8) layers due to the enormous number of traces and the power comsumption required for all of the components.

    BTW - You can run a dual Athlon setup with a ~430W power supply, just make sure that it is one of the AMD (or motherboard manufacturer) recommended ones and can reliably provide enough current across the necessary voltage rails.
    • ASUS (A7M266-D) and IWill (MPX2) also make dual Athlon motherboards, though I'm not sure how much they cost.

      My ASUS was GBP 200.

      BTW - You can run a dual Athlon setup with a ~430W power supply

      I'm using a 340W.

      My notes about life with the A7M266-D [rikkus.info]

      I'm very happy with my dual athlon box. I need the CPU grunt to compile lots of C++ code all day (g++ is horribly slow, as is the Linux linker.)

      Why didn't I buy Intel ? Simple. To get an equivalent level of performance, I'd have had to pay twice as much.

      Rik

      • I didn't think a 340W power supply would cut it. The two power supplies that I have used on a dual Athlon setup were a 430W then upgraded it to a 550W. Of course, the server has 2x2000+ MPs, 1GB of RAM, 5x 7200RPM IDE hard drives, Adaptec 2400A IDE RAID controller. The 430W power supply had little trouble maintaining a decent +12V level, the move to the 550W resolved that problem and it has another fan to help suck some of the heat out.

        I'm looking into a dual Athlon system myself (right now, I have a dual P2-400 system... only reason is that dual AMD K6-2/K6-3's were not possible and there were no other decent alternatives) but I may wait a little bit longer until either the T-Breds get settled down or when the Bartons (supposedly with 512K L2 cache) is released and settled down.
        • That's all very impressive, but I don't think the problem is that the power supply can't handle the load. If this was true, why would it be fine if the motherboard had been powered down completely, but refuse to start if the motherboard was still 'active' ? I only have 1 IDE hard drive and a CD-ROM. Watching lm_sensors, there is no noticeable fluctuation in voltage levels when I crank the box up to full load.

          I have heard that this is actually a motherboard bug, not fixable with BIOS upgrade. Don't quote me on that though, it's second hand information and I haven't been able to verify it yet.

          Rik
          • A power supply can continue to provide acceptable power to the motherboard and the rest of the components, but depending on the load and the fan speeds (all of the case fans have temperature sensors to adjust the fan speed as necessary) the voltage may or may not fluctuate outside of the acceptable range.

            In the case of the 430W power supply, the voltage captured by the monitoring software got outside of the slightly modified safe voltage range when the server was under a lot of load (all of the hard drives were cranking and both CPUs were pegged at around 90%). All of the fans that were monitored were running at full speed... The 5V rails were kind of fine and was able to provide the power needed to keep the processors crunching, but the 12V rails (which power the hard drives, fans and other items) wasn't fairing so well. Instead of spending a lot of time researching, we replaced it with an Enermax 550W power supply and it seemed to help keep the voltage within a comfortable range. The 430W power supply was not wasted but used to replace an older 330W power supply that we know couldn't handle multiple 10K RPM hard drives and dual P3's :)
      • Thanks for the MB notes on your site. I was lookin to buy one of those suckers, and you might have saved me some elbow grease getting things running smoothly. I bookmarked your site as well, because some of the other docs seem worth reading. :)

    • I have an asus 266D. It runs very nicely (albeit hot) and has for some time. It cost me ~$150 about 3-4 months ago. I have an Enermax 400W which has been fine, even with a gf2 64m and 3 hard drives in the box.

      Einux [einux.com] is a proper company that sells dual athlon machines in 1-2u cases for companies.

    • I bought the ASUS A7M266-D last April. It cost me $CAN 380 + shipping + tax. My previous computer was a dual PII-400 with an ASUS P2BD. The motherboard cost me $CAN 390 + taxes 2 years ago. Both of these boards don't have any kind of integrated NIC, video, SCSI, nor raid. Just a solid, barebone motherboard. So the cost argument is not necessarily bad: the 10 bucks difference plus inflation makes it OK. BTW, that same board (A7M266-D) has lowered to around $CAN 330 around here since then.

      For the PSU, I use an Enermax 465. I know a couple people had problems with some Enermax PSU and dual Athlons (no specifics, sorry, it's been a while), but I didn't. And it's been running almost 24/24 for 3 months.
  • Hi..
    to re-ingite the debate between Intel and AMD, I dont subscribe to the age-old and well beaten viewpoint that AMD's architecture is better. There are only two known ways to improve performance : parallelism and clock speed. AMD has chosen the former while Intel chose the latter. Who's to say which is better ?
    next AMD's current Athlon MP and XP processor dont rule. They are beaten hollow by Intel, considering that Intel Xeons have 128KB more on chip cache and not to mention atleast a 700MHz clock speed advantage. Along with the PC1066 RDRAM, they rock. AMD is nowhere nearby, still stuck with DDR266.
    Throughbred will have the same core as Athlon XP , but will be manufactured as 0.13nm , thereby providing slightly higher clock speeds and cooler operation. But I dont see that beating Intel, since Intel will easily be out with 3G+ procs by them. Rumours abound that Intel has a 10G+ procs in its labs...is that true ???
    The only hope is for AMD is the hammer series due next year. Then we will have some interesting comparisions to make. That leaves the current Athlon Mp's at the end of the cycle. Not worth it, since u wont be able to upgrade the procs any day. and resale value sucks.
    If you are buying a dual-proc box, stick to Intel Xeons with PC1066...u shud easily be able to upgrade later on. though of course, u shud have the moolah to do it.
    • This 10GHz processor story is a rumor from someone who visited intel labs and had a look on prototype 10GHz ALU, not processor. And i believe it's also a hoax.

      Truth is that for example IBM has some semiconductors in lab with higher clock speeds then 10GHz, but they are fiber recivers, transmitters and stuff like that, but for sure - not x86 compatible processors. And things what are new in labs, aren't expected in public yet...
    • I don't think it's as cut and dry as that. First, I do scientific computing. So, when I look at the floating point performance of the two, the AMD chips rate very well... and extremely well on a price/performance metric. Intel chips perform very well where the application has been optimized for SSE, but for straight FP the Athlons are really nice.

      >>AMD is nowhere nearby, still stuck with DDR266.

      Then you'd better hurry up and buy your Intel boards with RDRAM b/c Intel is doing away with it [anandtech.com] and going with dual channel DDRAM. Guess it can't be that bad, huh?

      The problem with the market right now is that it seems AMD is having all their engineers work on Hammer and so the Athlon line is slowing. In the meantime, the P4 is starting to hit its stride after its initital poor showing (remember the initial benchmarks that showed the P4 1.4GHz getting beat by a 1GHz PIII?).
    • So I can buy two Intel Pentium III Xeon CPUs at 0.7 or 0.9 GHz (which will likely not scale linearly, and thus will not give me twice the power of just one of those chips); or I can buy one Pentium IV or AMD Athlon at twice the effective clock speed and a much cheaper motherboard, etc. (Heck, I can buy an Intel Celeron at 1.7 GHz!)

      To quote Robert Bruce Thompson [hardwareguys.com] (Google cache [216.239.51.100]) from the end of May:
      There has been a stunning turn-around in dual-processor systems. In early 2001, most Intel processors were dual-capable, SMP Intel motherboards were widely available inexpensively, and AMD had no dual-processor solution at all. Now, the situation is almost exactly reversed. Intel's mainstream processors, the Pentium 4 and Celeron, are no longer dual-capable. If you want to run dual Intel processors, your only real choice is the obsolescent and hard-to-find Pentium III or the expensive Xeon, and Intel no longer manufactures mainstream dual processor motherboards. Conversely, all mainstream AMD processors (prior to the Athlon XP/MP silliness) are dual-capable, and inexpensive motherboards based on the excellent AMD760MP and AMD760MPX chipsets are widely available.


      All trademarks are held by their owners.

      P.S.: It's very strange to type "0.9 GHz"!
    • next AMD's current Athlon MP and XP processor dont rule. They are beaten hollow by Intel, considering that Intel Xeons have 128KB more on chip cache and not to mention atleast a 700MHz clock speed advantage. Along with the PC1066 RDRAM, they rock. AMD is nowhere nearby, still stuck with DDR266.


      I think when it comes to Dual processors that they DO rule. Currently dual-proc P4 boards are running in the mid 300s, and that's for the low-ball dealers on pricewatch - so we're talking OEM box, crappy warranty, etc... By the time you go retail you're talking around >390. If you want to get a better than "the cheapest P4 motherboard" you're going to be paying even more.

      For $400 you can get an Asus A7M266-D & 1 Athlon MP - which is a much better deal.

      Basically AMD is back to playing to the low-cost market, but that should be familiar territory to them. Now they can offer good performance though :)
    • You compare Xeons to XPs and MPs. Fine with me, just don't forget to compare the Xeons with Hammer when it comes out (because Itanium won't stand it). Oh, and check here [anandtech.com] for a database comparison of Xeons and MPs. Interesting, no? You can check the rest of the article if you absolutely need some charts with a Xeon on top.

      Thoroughbred is here now [pricewatch.com]. Where's that 3GHz+ proc? Oh, and here's [anandtech.com] a link to the report of the 10GHz ALU. Remember, it's not a complete processor, just a small part (Arithmetic and Logic Unit).

      For the Hammer, I agree: it's where AMD's future is. But the Tualatin PIII was also doomed from it's conception. As was the PIV 423 platform.

      And what's wrong with just keeping the computer together for a couple of years? My dual PII-400 has 3 years this month: never changed the procs (in part because to go higher than 600MHz, I'd have to change the MB because mine doesn't play well with CuMine CPUs). So far for "upgradeability" in the future...
  • Those dual Athlon systems are going to be hot commodities come winter.
  • by zsazsa (141679) on Monday July 01, 2002 @04:34PM (#3802958) Homepage
    ASUS A7M266-D [asus.com.tw]
    Gigabyte GA-7DPXDW [gigabyte.com.tw] and GA-7DPXDW-C [gigabyte.com.tw]
    MSI K7D Master [msicomputer.com]

    The problem with these boards is that they aren't really any cheaper than the Tyan boards (last I checked.) I think the reasons for the high cost are the AMD 760MP/760MPX chipset and the fact that AMD processors suck a lot more juice than the P3s and Celerons that worked on the cheapie Intel dual boards.

    Ian

  • AFAIK AMD processors are still not ready for heavy multiprocessing yet... I think it's better to wait for hammer series that should have good support for SMP > 2 processors. On other thought, i may be wrong...:)
  • I'm going to be upgrading a compute heavy web server to a dual (or even quad!) AMD system soon. Does anyone have any good links for reasonable vendors that can preconfigure dual and quad AMD systems (as a good starting point)?

    -Sean
    • Re:Where to buy? (Score:3, Informative)

      by alienmole (15522)
      If you want quad CPU, you have to go Intel - AMD doesn't support quad. Quad systems tend to be very expensive, though (anyone who knows differently, please tell me!) You might be better off going to a server farm solution with a number of cheaper boxes, if possible.

      Dual CPU systems are a pretty ordinary item these days - any reputable vendor that sells them should be fine. There, you have a choice of AMD or Intel. As the submitter of this topic points out, though, if you're specifying parts yourself (even if someone else is building them for you), at the lower end you'll find the Intel solution can be quite a bit cheaper overall, because of the low cost and wide selection of dual CPU Intel motherboards.

      So if you're looking for a low cost, high performance dual CPU setup, Intel is the answer. But if you must have AMD for whatever reason, find a vendor who'll sell you something similar to the Ars Technica God Box [arstechnica.com]. The Tyan Tiger MPX motherboard is excellent.

  • by grayrest (468197)


    Asus A7M266-D AMD762 DDR (AMD Dual MP) [monarchcomputer.com] -- $199

    Gigabyte GA-7DPXDW AMD760 RAID DDR (AMD Dual MP) [monarchcomputer.com] -- $250

    MSI K7D Master MPX AMD762 DDR (AMD Dual MP) [monarchcomputer.com] -- $205

    Tyan K7 (S2462UNG) AMD760 SCSI DDR (AMD Dual MP) [monarchcomputer.com] -- $409

    Tyan (S2462NG) AMD760 REG DDR (AMD Dual MP) [monarchcomputer.com] -- $305.00

    ...More Tyan Thunders, all over $300...

    Tyan Tiger (S2466-4M) AMD760-MPX DDR (AMD Dual MP) [monarchcomputer.com] -- $209.00

    Tyan Tiger (S2460) AMD760 DDR (AMD Dual MP) [monarchcomputer.com] -- $168.00


    Prices and links to Monarch Computers. I was quite surprised with the prices, I thought they'd be in the $125-$150 range. I my dual AMD shopping at Monarch (built a dual MP 1600+ on a tyan tiger mobo in december for a friend), you can hit pricewatch for price comparison, but I've found Monarch to be fairly representative.



    As you can see, there are quite a few motherboards on the market, you can get reviews of most of them off http://www.amdmb.com . Of all of them, I recommend the cheapest Tiger with the older 760 chipset. I know that reviewers have gotten both non-MP athlons and durons to run on the system. I'm not sure if current XP processors will work, there was talk three months ago about AMD thinking about locking out the SMP capabilities out of the XPs, but they did not do this with older versions. The main difference between the XPs and the MPs is that the MPs are certified for SMP operation, if you want a cheap and powerful server (which appears to be your goal) then you probably don't care that your chips are uncertified. The newer 760-MPX chipset (last I heard) still has isses with the southbridge's USB 2.0 and most motherboards ship with an add-in card. I can't recommend it because I'm not sure if the chipset checks for MPs or not.


    Of course, YMMV.

    • Prices and links to Monarch Computers. I was quite surprised with the prices, I thought they'd be in the $125-$150 range. I my dual AMD shopping at Monarch (built a dual MP 1600+ on a tyan tiger mobo in december for a friend), you can hit pricewatch for price comparison, but I've found Monarch to be fairly representative.
      As stated in an earlier post [slashdot.org], the reason why the motherboards cost so much is that the 760MP/MPX chipsets are quite complex and expensive (the northbridge has around 900+ pins if my memory serves me right) and due to the number of traces required by not only the northbridge but also the 64-bit PCI slots.
      The newer 760-MPX chipset (last I heard) still has isses with the southbridge's USB 2.0 and most motherboards ship with an add-in card. I can't recommend it because I'm not sure if the chipset checks for MPs or not.
      The southbridge only has USB 1.1, not 2.0, but it did have some problems with the USB controller. A second stepping (B, IIRC) has been in production and on several motherboards and it has fixed the issue with the USB controller. Unfortunately, it looks like the MP and the MPX chipsets are running into issues with the Promise FastTrack ATA RAID controllers (one mention of it here [2cpu.com].
    • Yeah, but the MPX chipset gives you 64bit/66MHz PCI slots, whereas the MP only has 64bit/33MHz. Why limit yourself to half the bandwidth?
    • I was doing research a couple weeks ago to find a new motherboard. I was impressed with the Monarch deals, but I finally opted to buy the Tyan Tiger MP S2460 from NewEgg because they still were offering the 1.2 Ghz Palomino cpus for only $79. This new system is 2-3 times faster than my dual Pentium III Coppermine system. It is amazing to see these 1.2 Ghz Athlons cream the 1.0 Ghz Pentium III chips. I regret buying that D6VAA motherboard now :(
    • I purchased a couple of Abit KG7 boards and XP 1700 and 1900 procs from Monarch around November 2001 and had a hell of a time trying to get them returned when the boards they shipped were bad. It took me two months to get it all straightened out. Their support is slow, and they also don't pay much attention to what the customer has to say. *sigh* But their popularity has grown (their prices are certainly some of the best) and maybe the darker stuff that nobody wants to think about or deal with (RMA!) is much better.

      My two cents..
    • The Iwill MPX2 [2cpu.com] is another.
  • Wrong Component (Score:5, Informative)

    by Perdo (151843) on Monday July 01, 2002 @05:44PM (#3803422) Homepage Journal
    So you spend 200 bucks on an MPX motherboard and 150 each for a pair of 1800mp CPUs. (2*1533mhz)

    Or spend 100 bucks on a Dual Pentium III motherboard and 150 each for a pair of tulatin Pentium IIIs that are not performance comparative. (2*1133mhz)

    The first Dual Pentium 4 motherboard starts at $400 and $200 each for the processors... at the same performance level that AMD provides for $500

    $400 for the crappy intel.
    $500 for the AMD
    $800 for the good intel, that performs no better than the AMD, so you just want to pay $300 for the name.

    Their absolute top end systems perform comparatively MP 2100+ vs. Intel Xeon 2.4GHz [anandtech.com]

    $1400 for the Xeon, $700 for the AMD MP.

    Don't forget the Rambus Tax that doubles the price of any memory you purchase for the Intel system. No, there are no DDR solutions for the Xeon yet.
    • Re:Wrong Component (Score:2, Informative)

      by megabeck42 (45659)
      >> No, there are no DDR solutions for the Xeon yet.

      Actually, yes, yes there are. Of course, they are registered ECC DDR solutions, but - they are DDR.

      Behold, The SuperMicro P4DP6 [supermicro.com]

      There are a number of Intel E7500 based boards from Tyan and Supermicro. However, IMHO, the Rambus is a better option for the P4, which, after all, was designed for Rambus and takes a hit with SDRAM.
  • ...because cheaper. Avoid the MPX chipset as plague.

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