Price Guides, September 2005: Motherboardsby Anand Lal Shimpi & Howard Johnston on September 16, 2005 12:00 AM EST
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It's time again for a new edition of our motherboard price guide. Just like in our last edition, mail in rebates (MIRs) are plentiful this week but the prices are only reflected in the price engine itself. We'll be sure to mention any great rebate deals explicitly. Be sure to check out the RTPE at labs.anandtech.com for up to the minute pricing. Also, you can visit our Motherboard Forums for the latest discussions on all the latest motherboards.
There were a few rumors going around that Chaintech was getting out of the motherboard business, but they were quickly dispelled by Chaintech. Although Chaintech does have a new majority shareholder (Walton Advanced Engineering), they will continue to produce motherboards, video cards, and now memory modules under the Walton Chaintech name.
This week we finally start seeing boards based off the ULi M1695 chipset shipping in the retail channels. Boards based off this chipset benefit from both PCIe and AGP 8x slots, making it great for the transitioning gamer. Read on for more info on the latest ULi offerings!
Athlon 64 Socket 939
On the Socket 939 front, things haven't changed much since our last Price Guide. There are plenty of PCIe boards to choose from. If you're looking build a new system, PCIe is the way to go. With new high end cards like the NVIDIA 7800GT and GTX coming out first as PCIe exclusive and AGP several months later, there's no good reason to go for an AGP board unless you've already invested a lot in a high end AGP card.
Prices of SLI motherboards have seemed to level off a bit since our last guide. One of our favorites, the MSI K8N Neo4 SLI [RTPE: MS-7100-030] is the price leader this week at $99.99 after a $25 MIR. If you're adamant about not waiting for rebates to come in the mail, the Biostar N4SLI-A9 comes in at $103.49. We, however, would front the extra $25 for an MSI board and wait for the rebate. (Even without the rebate, we're a little hesitant to go with the Biostar unless you have no interest in overclocking. Biostar is hit-or-miss in terms of overclocking support in our experience.)
If you're not interested in extreme gaming performance, you can ditch the SLI and save a few bucks. Springing for an nForce4 Ultra motherboard buys you a few more fancy features like the Creative Labs Sound Blaster 7.1 audio codec. The Chaintech VNF4 Ultra VE [RTPE: Chaintech VNF4 Ultra VE] continues to be our recommendation for the value Ultra board at $82.00 this week.
Another alternative is the DFI nF4 Infinity [RTPE: DFI Infinity]. It costs a few dollars more, but the overclocking options are better than most of the other boards in this price range. Take out the rounded cables, UV reactive motherboard colors, and a few other tweaks, and you turn the LanParty into the Infinity. We have some articles using the board due in the next week or two, and for under $90 we've been impressed with the stability and overclocking options.
Although VIA doesn't have the same presence they used to in the AMD chipset market, there are still a few deals to be found. The Gigabyte GA-K8VT890-9 [RTPE: GA-K8VT90-9] remains the best value this week at $84.17. We do prefer the options on the nForce4 Ultra over the KT890 for the same price, however.
As we mentioned earlier, this week we started seeing the first board with ULi's M1695 chipset finally start to ship. The Asrock 939Dual-Sata2 [RTPE: 939Dual-SATA2] we recently reviewed has shown up at a few retailers for under $75. The great thing about this board is that it features both PCIe and AGP 8x making it a perfect board for those who've invested in a high end AGP card looking to upgrade.
Finally in the AMD Socket 939 segment we have the "legacy" nForce3 motherboards with AGP slots. As we've stated numerous times in the past, we don't recommend purchasing boards without PCIe unless you have no intention of upgrading your system in the future. If you've spent a pretty penny on a high end AGP card then we'd recommend looking at the new ULi M1695 motherboards we talked about above. For AGP-only, the MSI Neo2-F [RTPE: MS-7025-020] still represents a good value for a nForce3 motherboard.