Socket 940 Roundup: Motherboards for the Athlon64 FXby Wesley Fink on December 18, 2003 1:39 PM EST
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While the Athlon64 FX is clearly the fastest processor currently available, several developments have made finding motherboards to use with these FX chips something of a problem. First of all, the FX chip has had very limited availability until recently. Now, we are seeing greater quantities of the expensive FX chips, but even those few manufacturers producing Socket 940 boards have been caught with out-of-stock product because they underestimated AMD production. Second, the Socket 940 Athlon64 FX requires Registered DDR 400 memory instead of the more common unbuffered DDR that most already own. This became an even bigger handicap when AMD let it be known at the 9/23 introduction that the FX would be launched in a new 939 socket version in the first half of 2004. The new Socket 939 version will allow use of regular unbuffered memory instead of the more expensive, harder-to-find registered DDR memory required by 940 boards. It now seems that the 939 should appear somewhere in the March/April 2004 time frame.
Whatever the liabilities of the Socket 940 Athlon64 FX motherboards, there is no disputing that the Enthusiast community has recently embraced the FX chip. Recently, an FX-based board was the first to crack 30,000 on the FutureMark 2001SE Hall of Fame. With this kind of attention to the FX processor, and about 3 to 4 months until Socket 939, it was time for a closer look at the performance of Socket 940 motherboards.
When AMD launched the Athlon64 FX on September 23rd, the only motherboard readily available was the Asus SK8N, a board developed for the Opteron and based on the nVidia nForce3-150 Pro chipset. The MSI K8T Master, which was also developed for the Opteron and based on the VIA chipset, also went through some revision and emerged as an FX motherboard. AnandTech evaluated the MSI board in its review of the ElitePC Titan FX gaming system. Gigabyte also introduced a Socket 940 board for the FX, and we reviewed the nF3-150 Pro Gigabyte K8NNXP-940 in October. Asus has recently introduced a second Socket 940 motherboard, based on the VIA chipset, called the SK8V. The SK8V is just now entering the marketplace.
These 4 motherboards are the only Socket 940 motherboards that you will likely find for sale. A few others like Leadtek have shown Socket 940 products, but they have been very difficult or impossible to find, at least in the US. There also have been many BIOS revisions to these boards as they have developed and matured. In fact, these seemingly endless updates have delayed this Socket 940 roundup several times as we ended up retesting boards with the latest BIOS update, offering improved performance and added features. Our goal is to find the best Athlon64 FX board that you can buy. Is there a clear winner among the four motherboards that can be bought for the top-of-the-line FX processor?