Price Guides June 2005: Motherboardsby Kristopher Kubicki & Larry Barber on June 19, 2005 1:00 PM EST
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Clinging to AGP for the low end makes the least amount of sense. Low end AGP video cards generally cost more and perform poorer than NVIDIA's TurboCache series while board prices between moderate nForce4 4X and nForce3/K8T800 are negligible. Socket 754 motherboards with PCIe are totally the way to go. ASUS and MSI have the strongest showings right now - and our recommendation for a good budget nForce4 Socket 754 motherboard goes to MSI's K8N Neo3-F [RTPE: MS-7135-010]. The Neo3-F also features one of those unusual AGP sockets that route via the Southbridge - so even the fence sitters will have a reason to grab this board.
Of course, feel free to completely ignore our advice and grab an AGP budget motherboard. The K8N Neo3-F we recommended above has more functionality than most of these boards and at a better price.
K8T890 motherboards are pretty much your only alternative to nForce4 on the AMD scale of things right now, but keep in mind that dual core processors still don't work on these motherboards. Since K8T890 boards are usually value oriented anyway (and dual core Athlon 64s are anything but value oriented), we haven't talked much about this problem yet. Given a similarly priced nForce4 motherboard, we would recommend the NVIDIA option to avoid buying a new board if you do eventually end up with a dual core upgrade. It's unfortunate that K8T890 has dual core problems because some motherboards, like the ASUS A8V-E Deluxe [RTPE: A8V-E Deluxe] and the Abit AX8 [RTPE: Abit AX8], are very solid all around motherboards for the price.
Perhaps the most disappointing updates we've heard in a while include the continuous problems plaguing Xpress 200 Crossfire. Xpress 200 (a.k.a. R*400, R*480) had an extremely low adoption rate that didn't extend outside of Tier 1 motherboard manufacturers for very long. At Computex, we saw a plethora of manufacturers ready to jump on board to the "Crossfire" craze for ATI's multiple VPU solution. Sadly, months have gone by without working samples much less retail products. We were slightly lucky at Computex when Anand had the opportunity to benchmark a reference system. Since the most optimistic manufacturers are telling us mid July before a single retail motherboard ships, hope Crossfire is nothing short of incredible by the time it actually shows up. ATI has an interesting opportunity to replace VIA as the number two AMD core logic manufacturer (Xpress 200 actually works with dual core processors), but ATI also has a track record of missed opportunities.
If we are going to talk about ATI as a major core logic manufacturers, we might as well mention ULi too. ULi made quite a stir at Computex with some of their new north bridge technology, but since shipping products are a few weeks (months?) off, it's way too early to say whether or not they have a chance of competing against NVIDIA or ATI in the near future. We have heard of several manufacturers that like ULi's products, but can't adopt them due to the SKU overlap with VIA and NVIDIA products.
There is still some fight left in Socket 462 in the form of Sempron combos. A decent KT880 [RTPE: KT880] motherboard runs around $50 with a Sempron 2600+ [RTPE: SDA2600DUT3D] usually running about $70. There are some bundle deals at various merchants as well, so check out our forums for more details.