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Non-Integrated Motherboards? 78

Anonymous Coward asks: "Nowadays no matter where you look, most motherboards have built in everything. Built-in sound, video, LAN, and so on. Are there any reliable manufacturers that still make motherboards without the extras? One example: I want to build a high-end workstation for video processing. Often with on-board audio there are timing issues. Disabling the on-board features doesn't always work. When your on-board NIC fails, a piece of your motherboard is no longer working, not just a replaceable expansion card. What manufacturers are still making 'barebones' motherboards (and what models) without having to buy a server backplane?"
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Non-Integrated Motherboards?

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  • P4G8X made by ASUS. Though I have not read any reviews it comes with a 8x AGP slot, and it doesn't look like it has onboard features but I'm not sure. Its a good start and made for high-end workstations.
  • Some (many?) offer their motherboards with varying amounts of integrated stuff (I know Tyan does this, at least to a degree), but they are hard to find because most people like integrated stuff. That said, I know what you're going through. I've got a great old motherboard but the SCSI on it is completely useless. It really annoys me to have built in SCSI that doesn't work. The rest of it works fine, but it just seems "broken" anyway.
    • by ameoba ( 173803 ) on Wednesday December 25, 2002 @09:26AM (#4956607)
      Reminds me of an old machine I put together for my sister so she could learn Linux. We called it Gimpy.

      Gimpy started life as a 486DX-25, one of Dell's better models at the time; He lived in a FULL-tower case, with a large, expandable cache memory card and expandable onboard VGA controller (2MB). Gimpy had all the available bells & whistles that were available at the time of his birth, including a comprehensive self-diagnostic tool, built into the BIOS.

      I got Gimpy as scrap from school. Primarily he was given away 'cuz the IDE controller on his motherboard was fried; the self-diagnostics would paste a big, red FAILED and lock up immediately after starting to test them. Second, the not-entirely-standard sized AT power-supply was toast. ...not to mention that this was some time in 2000, and a 486 was considered beyond slow.

      Fortunately, being friends w/ the tech guy, I got all the goodies I could find that went along w/ Gimpy; enough RAM to bump him up to 24MB (!!!), a 486DX2-66, and a power-supply from an dead 386. The power supply was one that looked like it came from the original PC, you know... with the Big Red Switch on the back corner of the machine.

      The first step in bringing gimpy back to life was to get the juice flowing. With the sheetmetal panel enclosing the case removed, the PSU fit without a problem. Unfortunately, trying ot close up the case ended up covering the big red switch that turned the machine on (the orignal PSU had a cable going from a switch on the front-panel to the PSU; remember, this was pre-ATX soft-power). The obvious solution was to take a pair of tin snips & cut a hole in the case, resulting in a tower with a big red switch sticking out of it; classic ghetto-tech.

      Step 2 in bringing the beast back to life was getting some HDDs attached. Being a collector of old PCs & components, I dug through my pile of spare parts, and found a pair of 386 'servers' that had disc controllers & decently sized HDDs. The first was an ESDI controller with a 500MB-ish drive attached and this cool bank of 8 diagnostic LEDs that did this Night Rider pulsing thing during normal operation. The other option was a full-lenght, 16-bit ISA slow-narrow SCSI-1 card with the various SCSI drives I'd collected for it (a 300MB Quantum, a 500 from a microVAX-II, and an 80MB Quantum stripped out of a Mac).

      Purely for capacity reasons, I went with the SCSI.

      After this point, things were fairly simple. Toss a pair of floppies (3.5" and 5.25") on it & give it a NIC (a real NE2000, which got hooked up to my coax ethernet network), give it a monitor (IBM 8514; those things are tanks, I've had 2 and they NEVER die or go bad, you just get annoyed at the tiny screen). I then threw slackware onto it, and told my sister how to login & use man. ...eventually Gimpy got retired when my sister got a 'real' PC with enough power to run win2k, but she happily got through a year of APCS using it. Now he sits dormant as a reminder that you -can- get by with less than 100MHZ & use free hardware for useful jobs. All it takes is a little knowlege & a little creativity.
      • I know that this doesn't really help the original poster... A 486 won't do much useful video editing, but mod this guy up, somebody. I know I'm sick of hearing people bitch because 1.4GHz isn't enough to word process. This guy's got the right idea here.
      • [laughing] Man, you're even worse than me! :)

        I've got a client with no money who has an old 486 that's literally held together with duct tape. Til I run out of 486 parts to give her, it'll probably stay that way. Hell, it does what she needs, so why not??

      • 100MHz? Hell, I got by with a 12MHz 80286 with 2MB RAM running a copy of Coherent Unix 3.x in 1992. Linux wasn't really useable at that point, although it wouldn't have run on my 286 anyway. I had email working via UUCP and ftp working via an ftp-to-email gateway. Those were the days...
  • Abit does (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by Time Doctor ( 79352 )
    I've had good success with Abit's [abit-usa.com] motherboards in the past, and they always offer boards without the integrated crap. They're usually cheaper, too.
  • by Pyromage ( 19360 ) on Tuesday December 24, 2002 @11:56PM (#4955668) Homepage
    I've had great luck in the past ordering online specific models w/o frills. Also, many times local Mom & Pop shops can order specific boards from their vendors (PC King here in Chicago suburbs is working on hooking me up w/ that radeon 9700 non-pro that no retail store seems to carry).

    And as for network cards and such dying on the board, well, as bad as that is, I've seen boards with many PCI slots AND integrated stuff, so you don't lose anything by going integrated. The sound may genuinely be an issue, I do not know, but for example the network card, well you just throw a PCI card in. Onboard video has a notoriously bad rep, but believe this has been improving, and it's great to run a second moniter. I wish I'd purchased a mobo w/ integrated video and AGP slot (they ARE out there!), because I'm running 3 moniters. 3 video cards, network, sound, and tv tuner fill up a system real quick!

    Anyway, just remember, it may irk you to pay for things your not using, but at the same time, it's really annoying (and very very difficult to fix) when you run out of slots!
    • " Onboard video has a notoriously bad rep, but believe this has been improving, and it's great to run a second moniter."

      Nope, onboard video these days is typically AGP based, and if you put anything in the AGP slot it is disabled, which sorta puts a damper on it being used to drive extra monitors.
      • Ahh, I was not aware of that.

        And it still can be used to run another head, just not w/ an AGP board :) I was just kind of hoping it'd work, because as I said, I have use for it.

        Oh well, tnx.
        • In fact the AGP 3.0 (8x) specification allows for more than one AGP port :) So, atleast in theory, it should be possible to use onboard VGA and an AGP card at the same time these days.
      • speaking of wich, does anyone know of a board that has 2 agp slots. I have been running dual head for a couple of years now with one agp and one pci video card, but it would be nice to have a board with 2 agp slots.

    • Well... AGP + Onboard Video does NOT equal two monitors. On just about every motherboard I've seen the AGP and the Onboard use the same bus therefore you cannot run video out of each at the same try. An example would be the Epox 4G4a+ One of my friends tried this with a Geforce 2 + Onboard and it will only initialize one at a time. It cannot use both at once.
    • It's even more annoying when you find that the onboard component either doesn't disable cleanly (keeps hogging resources anyway) or won't disable at all even tho it claims it can be turned off, and has jumpers or BIOS settings for it. So while many can disable onboard just fine, you can't *count* on a clean disable for onboard components.

  • by PeekabooCaribou ( 544905 ) <slashdot@bwerp.net> on Wednesday December 25, 2002 @12:06AM (#4955695) Homepage Journal
    I've had the same question, and a product search on NewEgg.com brought up three results from ABIT and none from anybody else. I'm thinking about buying the KD7-E [abit-usa.com] in the near future.

    It looks to be a powerful board, but I would be making the switch from SDRAM to DDR, which doubles the cost of the upgrade to get any acceptable amount of RAM.
    • DDR doesn't cost much more than SDRAM, and both are extremely cheap at the moment. Thats not really a good reason to not upgrade, especially since it would be double the memory bandwidth.
      • Unless you already have a decent amount of RAM that will be obsoleted by the upgrade. Say you have 1GB of ECC SDRAM. You can get a new MB, and TWO CPUs for about $400, but 1G of good RAM will run another $500. Extremely cheap. Yeah right. I only have a $500 budget, it looks like I'm going to be swapping an awful lot for a while. Thank god I have a 3.4ms seek drive to swap on.

        - dave f.
  • Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheOnlyCoolTim ( 264997 ) <tim.bolbrockNO@SPAMverizon.net> on Wednesday December 25, 2002 @12:19AM (#4955735)
    I think it is going to become much harder to find motherboards with non-integrated parts. The reasons are integrated cost vs. seperate cost and cost vs. value perceived by the customer.

    The cheap AC97 sound chip that a lot of integrated audio uses costs something like $0.10 a unit. Let's imagine that the three stereo jacks in the back also cost $0.10, so there's a hardware cost per motherboard of $0.20. This can represent, to a Dell or Compaq type OEM, a huge savings vs. a PCI card that might cost them a few bucks per computer.

    To the customer directly buying a motherboard, it can seem (and usually is) an even better value to get a motherboard with integrated sound and maybe pay a buck or two (the marked up $0.20) than to pay at least $20 for a sound card at CompUSA...

    • The cost may not be directly related to the cost of the chips and jacks...integrated peripherals also require additional board complexity and thus more quality failures, additional assembly process time, board-specific drivers and BIOS programming, and of course the manpower required to implement the above and keep everything current. I doubt the additional cost is as low as you believe.

      It is cheaper than individual cards, mainly because of packaging, and Dell or "Compaq" (HP) don't have to open up the computer and put cards in, make sure they work, negotiate with different vendors, and stock a myriad of parts.
    • ...not to mention that most mobo chipsets, these days, have various integrated stuff already included in them. Asking to get a board w/o integrated sound & NIC is almost like trying to buy a car without a radio.
    • Why? Simple.

      Because I replace my processor every 6-12 months, and I usually have to buy a new motherboard as well then (socket changes, FSB changes, RAM type changes, whatever).

      And then I have to buy new HDD controller, FDD, keyboard, mouse, parallel, serial, USB, Firewire, health, whatnot controllers and connectors as well. Basically the whole southbridge and all the connectors at the back, which I bet are together 50% of the mainboard cost, don't need replacement, but I have have to replace them, because they are hardwired to the old board.

      Why not break motherboards in 2-3 parts?
      - A backplane with PCI and AGB slots
      - (plus maybe) CPU socket, northbridge and RAM sockets
      - southbridge with all this clutter and connectors etc.

      Frankly, it makes more sense to save the CPU socket (significant cost, I guess) and to solder the CPU to the mainboard than to hardwire the southbridge to the northbridge, at least when I look at my buying pattern.

      Apart from saving me a lot of money (as described above), it would give a lot more choice. Mainboard manufacturers wouldn't have to make a P3 board with audio and without, with video and without, with RAID and without, for SDRAM and DDR, same for P4 and Athlon and soon Hammer. The northbridge would be dependant on the processor and RAM type, and the southbridge would offer the gimmecks, and any southbridge could be combined with any northbridge.

      I, for example, would like to have an athlon or hammer, without legacy crap like parallel, serial, PS/2, FDD etc.. Just USB and maybe Firewire, health control, maybe a HDD controller, nothing else. If I am building a server, I wouldn't even need Firewire, but would like a cheap video card built in (console only), but no audio needed. And nothing from VIA please, I have been burned *way* too much by the KT133A.
      Now, try to find me a mainboard, stable and reasonably cheap, with my specs. I would totally expect to be able to relatively easily build such a computer, if most mainboards had north- and southbridge separated.

      And the north/south cross-vendor connection standard is simple: PCI (in a modern/fast variation, if needed). Not long ago, even VIA's own north- and southbridges communicated technically via PCI, so it's definitely possible.

      The only problem is physical: The ATX standard (case holes, screws etc.) assumes that the connection crap is on the mainboard.
      And the willingness of mainboard manufacturers to build such parts.
  • I don't really care about integrated components, why? Because they are usually such low quality anyways that they might as well be dead components...

    - Video - When was the last time you saw decent video coming from an integrated component. I know that nVidia was trying to combat this philosophy, but we all know that a good video card has to be at least 1/4 the size of the motherboard.

    - Sound - I know somebody who had integrated sound and some games just hated it (ie. no sound, or bugs with sound). Much like the video aspect, you need 1/4 motherboard components.
    However, I do have to agree that integrated sound isn't all _that_ bad if you just have some stereo speakers and aren't an audiophile.

    - Networking - I can't really comment on this, but I can say that from past experience, that unless you know what chipset you've got and it's good quality, it will suck. I have a 10/100mbps card which operates at 10mbps no matter what is at the other end (and I have tested the other end).

    - Serial/Parallel Bus - I suppose you want this on a seperate card too? Well, I too like the days when you had a vast range and choice of new/replacement serial cards (hell, back then you could have multiple ones for a whole range of different things.
    • Serial/Parallel Bus - I suppose you want this on a seperate card too?

      Don't worry, pretty soon you will have to. All the motherboard will have is like 5 USB ports and a video connector. Sound will be digital and encrypted too.
    • " Sound - I know somebody who had integrated sound and some games just hated it (ie. no sound, or bugs with sound). Much like the video aspect, you need 1/4 motherboard components.
      However, I do have to agree that integrated sound isn't all _that_ bad if you just have some stereo speakers and aren't an audiophile."

      That said, the NForce "soundstorm" integrated audio is rather good.
    • you don't know what your are talking about. learn about hardware before posting about it. there are absolutely no circuitry limitations with integrated components. Great video cards can be made extremely small... thats not the point. The reason they suck is because they share the memory bus with the cpu, which creates a huge bottleneck. integrated sound, however, is often extremely good. many motherboard makers are now choosing high quality 6 channel solutions due to the low price premium over crappy sound. also, integrated networking devices are generally faster than pci NICs, because they are optimized with the motherboard's chipset. a motherboard with integrated components is not sacrificing anything. not stability, not expandability, not speed, not quality, not anything. They are, however, offering people added functionality. a motherboard should have all the essential pc components, and its hard denying that sound and networking are pretty essential for most computers today.
      • there are absolutely no circuitry limitations with integrated components

        I know that, I mean that I feel more powerful if I have a huge grahpics card with a million components on it that I just don't see them stuffing onto the already crammed mb.

        integrated networking devices are generally faster than pci NICs

        Like I said, I have no experience with them, but anything is faster than mine anyway.
  • space issues (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheSHAD0W ( 258774 ) on Wednesday December 25, 2002 @12:42AM (#4955803) Homepage
    The new ATX-style cases don't give a lot of room for cards, especially when you have to fit in a big processor with a bodacious heat sink. As a result, there's a paucity of available slots. The cost of adding these extra interfaces to the system board is, on the other hand, minimal.

    I personally think it's just fine to have this stuff on the mobo, so long as they can be disabled in the BIOS set-up. Having an extra video interface in the machine can be useful for diagnostic purposes, for instance, if you didn't bring a spare card with you; I've used that myself.
    • Ummm.. Perhaps you are referring to Mini-ATX or Micro-ATX; the ATX form factor is not new - and the several computer's in house all seem to at least 5 PCI slots..
      • Nic
      • Sound card
      • Scsi controller or raid card
      • Video Card (but any decent x86 board ships with an AGP slot (unless the integrated video stole it)
      • USB or Firewire card...
      • Modem (some masochists still use em..)

      I'm really not seeing a shortage of slots..
      • Well, I haven't seen many with 5 PCI slots. I have seen a few with 4 plus an AGP slot...

        Also, you've named six devices right there. If you needed to put all of that in a system, you'd be out of luck. Even if you didn't need the modem (I usually do, as a back-up connection), you'd have nothing to spare if you needed to add anything.

        And the ATX spec is RELATIVELY new. (My IBM PC had the old, wide 8-bit slots.)
        • This [abit.com.tw] is my motherboard. It's old, I know, I haven't had much of a reason to upgrade from it. It has 6 PCI slots - One which shares the same hole on the back of the computer with an ISA slot. There's also an AGP slot. Nothing "Built-in" except for the IDE controllor, but that's alright it's ATA-100. As for expansion slots, I'm currently using the AGP slot, and 2 PCI slots (for Sound and LAN). I don't need anything more in my system. But still, I have lots of space for expansion.
        • If you haven't seen them, you certainly haven't been looking too much. Short of boards that cater to niche markets, 6 PCI slots seems to be the standard these days.
        • Well, I haven't seen many with 5 PCI slots. I have seen a few with 4 plus an AGP slot...

          Most mobos with heavily integrated features will offer 5 PCI slots and an AGP slot - some even have 6 PCI slots (these are troublesome, however, because the space requirements of all those slots forces the AGP slot very close to the DIMM slots, which can make it difficult to add/remove/change your RAM without removing the vid card - especially a G4 Ti4600). Again, I said most mobos - Abit, Asus, Gigabyte...

  • My personal fav is Tyan, I've never had a problem with a Tyan and their server boards can be had without the extras.

    I have built a few with ASUS motherboards, the last one did have on-board audio, I disabled it and it disappeared. The systems have been really stable and no problems.

    I have also had an incident with GigaByte. The issue with this board was ram related, the board would fail to see the ram all together, or only see a single dimm. The RAM tested fine with every other machine and I had the reseller test it too. I swapped the RAM out with junk generic and it started working. No Clue, it is however still running, so that's good right?

    • Unfortunatly, I do not agree with your recommendation for Tyan boards.

      My friend bought a Tyan S2460 (Dual-athlon board) which seemed fairly nice from the beginning. Had a few small issues with it, such as the BIOS needing to be flashed before it would work properly with Win2000, but not much. That is, until it ate itself hardware-wise. About 6 weeks after the initial purchase, he was running along playing a game and it shut off. No big deal, right? He had to go do something else, so he unplugged it and wandered off. Comes back and tries to power it on. It makes the worst noise and starts smelling. He rips the power out and pops it open - can't see anything wrong with it, though. On a whim, he decides to go for it - puts the power back in and fires it back up. Quite literally, in fact, as a small surface-mount IC situated almost underneath the AGP slot flames up and smokes. Needless to say, the board was toast.

      The sad part is when he went to warranty it, though. Tyan's warranty policies are pretty screwey, apparently. He would've had to mail it to the original retailer, who'd mail it to Taiwan, where it would be replaced and mailed to the original retailer, who would mail it to him. The shipping costs would have been as much as the board itself, as told quite plainly to him by the retailer's CS rep. Obviously, he never filed the RMA request, as he didn't want to take the chance of paying full-fare for another faulty product.
      • I take it the power supply was OK then. I haven't bought the Dual Athlon yet, that was to be my next system. I'm going to look for similar problems on google before buying now.

        As an aside most warrenties for computer stuff suck, I was unfortunate to own one of those nifty Kenwood 72X drives, sent it back and the replacement died oh and it seemed to kill the ide controller as well.

        Thanks for the info tho.
        • I just built a dual Athlon system with a MSI K7D Master L (MS-6501-030) [msicomputer.com] board, and it's been working quite nicely for me. Admittedly, it's only been for a couple of weeks, but first impressions are "nice and solid". The original rev of this board had problems with the on-board USB, so MSI throws in a 4-port USB 2.0 card. The latest BIOS fixes the problem, but they still give you the card.

          Regarding the original story subject, it has on-board Ethernet and sound, which is fine for my needs. Personally, I like the idea of having as much stuff as possible integrated, at least for non-critical applications. Less cards to fiddle with means less stuff to go wrong. I'm currently looking for a Mini-ITX sized system with video, two ethernet ports, IDE and pretty much nothing else built in. Everything seems to have USB and Firewire and be designed as a home audio server, and all I want is a faster, quieter firewall/Apache/mySQL/whatever box than my old P133.

      • Both the initial board and the replacement board (which took almost a year to get) died after a few weeks and just wouldnt boot up anymore.
        The retailer told me he wouldnt carry Tyan anymore because of the return rates.

        We're now stuck with a dead Tyan mobo and no more warranty :p
      • You know, I've had trouble with Tyan boards in the past -- BIOS problems (that kept the "on-board" SCSI from working), and a board that went up in a puff of white smoke one day. Never the less, I got the Tyan S2462 -- the higher end dual-Athlon board. I carefully followed AMD's specs for power and memory, and I haven't had any problems with it, save for the noise from all the fans to keep it cool. Maybe it's the fact that it's AMD's reference design and not Tyan's, I don't know.

        In response to the original question, I use the integrated Adaptec SCSI and 3Com LAN and they perform just as well as, if not better than, what I've seen using separate components (purely antedotial, as opposed to lies, damn lies, and benchmarks). I've overridden the on-board AGP video with my own card, and I don't even recall if it has on-board sound -- I think so (it has everything else), but in any case, I threw in my own sound card. My point is that if you get a high-end enough board, it may have everything integrated, but it will also allow you to gracefully override any of those components.


  • Not sure what revision they are up to, but the Soyo Dragon series has a full complement of slots in addition to a couple of integrated peripherals. I can nearly saturate a 10 Base T network with the onboard LAN. The sound easily disappears when you want another card.
  • As others have alluded to, it is very cheap, and easy, to add most of the integrated features on most motherboards. And, assuming you are talking about full-size, high-end boards, whether you get the integrated parts or not, you lose almost nothing. The integrated video will be disabled if you put a video card in the AGP slot (and yes, most chipsets now support integrated video and an AGP expansion slot), you can put a real sound card in if you like (or you might find the integrated sound perfectly adequate). If you get something with onboard ethernet, think of it as a bonus -- you just saved yourself a PCI slot (because, unless you're running a high-volume server, there is little practical difference between the various commodity ethernet chipsets -- well, unless you need gigabit).

    And this stuff is cheap, real cheap, to put on the board -- in the case of video, the only cost is the connector, the sound requires a ten-cent codec and the connectors, etc. You most likely won't save any money deliberately avoiding integrated hardware, and you could end up paying extra for the "privilege". So just get the board with the features you want and don't pay the slightest regard to the integrated hardware, it won't bother you if you don't want to use it.
  • PC crap is PC crap. That you get some of it for free and some you pay extra for does not make up for the essential commodity status of the hardware.


    • Thanks for that insightful comment. Very useful to all of us who were wondering just how much you don't like our computers.

      Please, at least pretend to stay on topic. Let me refresh your memory, the question was who makes non-integrated motherboards.. not why do we use Intel hardware.

      • Ok, how about this: PC hardware is a commodity business. Unless and until you can demonstrate that there's a market for "stripped down" motherboards, you aren't going to find any. There are no "boutique" PC hardware manufacturers, because it's not in the economic interest of the companies who produce motherboards. The number of people who demand that unnecessary hardware be left off is smaller even than the number of Slashdot editors who can spell.

        If the original poster is incapable of turning off the built in sound (!) on a PC motherboard, perhaps (s)he ought to be looking at purchasing hardware from an OEM, like Dell?

        • It's not that I disagree with any of that, by a long shot.. it was just that they were talking about where the hardware can be found, not why not to use that particular family.

          As to the last sentence.. well, if he can't disable the sound then it's either a real POS OEM machine already, or he's inept and should be using standard iMacs exclusively.

  • I used to not like on-board components. Simply because they limited choice in one way or another. And customizeability was key. So was performance, and an actualy video card or sound card was always 10 times better than an on-board one. However ABIT's new NF7-S and the nforce2 chipset. I don't mind an on-board video card if it's a GeForce 4. Especially since a GeForce 4 card will run you a few hundred. An on-board NIC is just a PCI slots savings and on-board sound means two sound cards for me. 2 sound cards can be more useful than you think.

    If you really don't want any onboard stuff ABIT, ASUS, SOYO, and all the other major board manufacturers make boards without built in stuff. But built in no longer means crap.
  • well... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Twirlip of the Mists ( 615030 ) <twirlipofthemists@yahoo.com> on Wednesday December 25, 2002 @03:22AM (#4956144)
    I want to build a high-end workstation for video processing.

    Not to sound contrarian, but you could always bypass all of these problems by buying a Power Mac. Dual processors, AGP graphics, built-in high-quality FireWire and Gigabit Ethernet, optional PCI cards for SDI and HD-SDI video I/O, optional internal ATA or SCSI RAID or external SCSI or FC RAID, and no audio sync problems. Plus, the power of UNIX, and you can run Shake, Final Cut Pro, After Effects, and ProTools.

    This is the part where you all mod me down as a troll, or flame me for recommending expensive hardware from a dying company.
    • Not at all - I was thinking the same thing. While a high-end PC can be built/set up to do this sort of processing, a high end Mac is already there, waiting to be bought.

      As much as I love my PC, I also understand that there are things that I don't intend to do with it, either..

      Honesty should not be modded down - it should be modded up... and me without any moderator points right now
      • Not at all - I was thinking the same thing. While a high-end PC can be built/set up to do this sort of processing, a high end Mac is already there, waiting to be bought.

        Yeah, after I posted I thought of something else I should have added. In my opinion, there may be an occasion where building your own PC from component parts is absolutely the right thing to do. But more often than not, the time and effort you spend building your FrankenPC outweighs any possible benefits you gained from doing it yourself.

        I speak from a certain degree of experience. A few years ago, I used to work for a company that sold, among other things, high-end video editing systems in the half-a-million-plus market. At one point we tried to diversify by selling hand-build low-end systems into the sub-$50,000 market as well. We assembled the computers from the best components available to save money, hand-picked the processors and I/O cards and whatnot, and then loaded them up with software like After Effects and Premiere and such. Our intent was to sell three or four of these little machines to every customer who bought a high-end system, and for a while it worked.

        The hitch was, we encountered amazing problems getting our hand-built computers to work right. I believe the guys we had doing it really knew what they were doing, but we had problems starting with driver incompatibilities-- I think the HD I/O board's driver was incompatible with the HIPPI NIC driver, or some damn thing-- and getting more troublesome from there.

        Long story short, we ended up losing money on every hand-build machine we sold, and we had some pretty unhappy customers for a while.

        So then the boss decided that that was enough of that, and we started selling pre-assembled ZX10 workstations to do the same job. We had to cut our profit margins on them a little, because a computer that we previously built for $6,000 in parts was now costing us $11,000 to buy, but we spent far less time making 'em work. It turned out to be a better solution for us. Or so we thought.

        Thing was, we still ended up with some unhappy customers. Even though the computers were pre-assembled and tested at the factory and whatnot, they still had problems. The HD I/O board set, from Matrox or some damn thing, wasn't reliable. The filesystems couldn't quite keep up and would sometimes drop frames. The audio I/O boards were plagued with AES sync problems, and the analog monitoring channels would sometimes just drop out for no reason until the operator rebooted. So even though our profits were up, our customers were still unhappy.

        When Apple came out with the next-to-last generation of Power Macs, the first dual-processor ones, we finally said, "Screw this." We started selling Macs straight from Apple with no additional parts other than some RAM and an HD-SDI board from a company whose name I can't recall right now, with After Effects and Photoshop and Final Cut Pro and (later) Shake. I think we made about a hundred bucks on each of them. But we sold 'em like crazy, and the customers loved them. We even replaced a few FrankenPCs and ZX10s with Macs at our expense in order to salvage a few customer relationships.

        (Incidentally, it was about this time that Intergraph sold their workstation business to SGI and the ZX10 stopped being available. So it's a good thing we made the switch when we did, otherwise we would have been up a creek.)

        As far as I know, that company is still selling Macs alongside their $500,000+ editing and effects systems.

        So that's where my recommendation comes from. If you want to get this kind of work done with the minimum of hassle, buy a Power Mac. Unless there's something that the Mac just can't do for you that a PC could-- which is unlikely, I think-- you'll be much happier with it.
  • by da_Den_man ( 466270 ) <dcruise @ h o t coffee.org> on Wednesday December 25, 2002 @03:23AM (#4956146) Homepage
    SOYO makes a fine board. Nothing integrated but the serial/parallel/usb/hdd controllers. I can get models with the video and LAN and sound, but I choose not to. Shuttle makes a few also. ABit does, as I look towards [mwave.com]MWave catalogs.

    Yes, Most come with the built on sound, but I turn that option off in the BIOS (the same way I can turn off the serial/parallel/hdd controllers also) and it doesn't affect any operation of the system, because as far as everything is concerned, when it doesn't show up on boot, it is not there.

    My question has to be...did you even attempt to look before you asked? You stated that you needed "high-end" boards, however the research I have done seems to illustrate that all the "low cost" systems and motherboards use this method, and the more expensive motherboards don't integrate a whole lot other than the standard that has been in place for years now.

  • http://iceberg.pchomeworld.com/cgi-win/mobotGen/mo bot.asp

    Put in what you want, or don't want, and it will tell you what there is out there.
  • Found these @ NewEgg (Score:4, Informative)

    by blankmange ( 571591 ) on Wednesday December 25, 2002 @08:01AM (#4956537)
    Abit KD-7 (very little integrated)

    Asus A7V333 or P4B553

    Gigabyte GA-8SG667

    You are right, however, in saying that non-integrated mobos are difficult to find...I have found that the quality of mobos is on the rise (in general) and the integrated features save me PCI slots for additional cards (and other crap I lust after, but would rarely use..).

    • > I have found that the quality of mobos

      Not my impression, for hardware in general and esp. for mainboards. I had maybe 10 problems this year (some of them with parts baught earlier), probably more than in the 10 years before.
    • The trick to finding 'em is to start looking at the expensive end and work down, rather than trying to seek upward from cheaper boards.

      There are also Tyan and IWill boards, particularly their higher-end models, with nothing integrated.

      BTW I've noticed just the opposite -- the more stuff is integrated (which generally means cheaper-made all around), the more likely the board will skimp on slots, often having only 2 or 3 slots. Whereas naked boards typically have the full 7 or 8 slots.

  • I got a SuperMicro P6DGE a few years back. One reason I got it was that there was very little built-in and I was trying to save some money at first, but still get a working, upgradable system. It came with dual CPU slots, but no onboard SCSI, video, sound, or NIC. I had most of those lying around already, and upgraded them over time. Onboard was the usual dual IDE and floppy controllers, dual serial ports, parallel port, USB, PS/2 keyboard and mouse.

    Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to find out the current specs for this board. At the time I got mine, it took up to two 550 MHz PIII's and 2 GB RAM. I've been satisfied with it.

  • Does anyone here remember AT motherboards? Nothing integrates except the keyboard controller?

    Add a card for your parallel port. Add another to get two serial ports. Add another for your bus mouse, another for your sound card, and another for your video card - if you are lucky, your mobo supported the VLB bus for your video card and/or ide controllers.

    Ah, those were the days... But back to the real world:

    Most integrated components can be BIOS disabled. Either that or just don't load the drivers for them. Seems simple enough.

System checkpoint complete.