Price Guides August 2005: Motherboardsby Kristopher Kubicki and Howard Johnson on August 6, 2005 1:32 PM EST
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Welcome to another edition of our price guides. There are lots of Mail in Rebates (MIRs) this week, and while they do not show up on our tables embedded inside the Price Guides, they do show up on the price engine itself. Check out RTPE at labs.anandtech.com and see if you can spot some rebates yourself.
There were some very exciting changes in merchant pricing this week. MSI dominated the motherboard prices left and right - certainly a swift change from our usual recommendation of DFI and ASUS. MWave has been partially responsible for the new trend with some very good pricing on just about everything. ChiefValue and NewEgg are also doing their share of mopping up.
There have been relatively few product launches since our last guide. AMD's Athlon 64 X2 3800+ launched last week and for the first time in many years AMD managed to not paper-launch a processor! You can check out the new Manchester processor here - which is currently running around $394 shipped. AMD's new chip does a number on Intel's domination of the low end dual core prices and we have an analysis of the two chip prices near the Intel section of this guide. And no... no Crossfire boards this week.
Athlon 64 Socket 939
Our bot has managed to pick up another dozen or so nForce4 products, and prices have adjusted accordingly to the new competition. Last time we looked at motherboards VIA's K8T890 series had just began to fill retail store shelves, and since then we have picked up a few more motherboards as well. As we have explained in the past, the choice to buy a new motherboard these days should be very cut and dry in favor of PCIe options. GeForce 7800GTX showed up a few weeks ago, and aside from being a spectacular card, it's also spectacularly limited to PCIe right now (and probably will be for several more weeks to come). The 7800GTX has a little brother, 7800GT, which will also launch and ship next week. Our sources indicate there will be copious amounts of PCIe 7800GT cards first, and AGP versions will follow much later. Like with other recent video card launches, the AGP cards will also probably carry a premium at first. So you could buy an older nForce3 or K8T800 AGP motherboard and stick with the more expensive AGP options, or you could follow our advice and grab a Socket 939 PCIe motherboard.
Since our last guide, SLI motherboards have dropped in price quite substantially. A particular favorite of ours, the MSI K8N Neo4 SLI [RTPE: MS-7100-030], dropped $20 since our last guide to $125. Other notable motherboards include the MSI K8N Neo4 Platinum SLI [RTPE: MS-7100-020] which won our Editor's Choice award several months ago. A few merchants have a $25 mail-in-rebate on this motherboard - which places the Platinum board only $15 more than the non-Platinum version. The only real difference between these two motherboards is the dual Gigabit Ethernet - so if you don't need that you actually can save some extra cash with the non-Platinum version. If you simply want the cheapest SLI board out there, Biostar's N4SLI-A9 comes in at $114, which is less than several Ultra boards. It's similar to the ASUS in that two slots separate the PCIe X16 slots. We can't vouch for performance, overclocking, or stability at this time, however, so you might be better off spending the extra $12 for the MSI board.
Of course, you can save even more cash by ditching SLI and just going for an nForce4 ultra motherboard instead. MSI's Neo4-F [RTPE: MS-7125-030] is a great board for $86, but you won't get a lot of bells and whistles like the Creative Sound Blaster 7.1 codec. If you have a third party sound card already, it doesn't make sense to pay the extra money for the nForce4 Ultra chipset nor the Creative codec instead. Chaintech continues to set the low price bar for nForce4 Ultra motherboards, and not surprisingly the VNF4 Ultra VE [RTPE: Chaintech VNF4 Ultra VE] hails as our all around socket 939 pick for the 5th month in a row. At $82, you would be real hard pressed to find a better nForce4 Ultra motherboard. Let's take a look at the price trend on this board since it's launch:
Chaintech nForce4 Ultra (939) VNF4 Ultra VE
We shouldn't completely neglect VIA, although with the low nForce4 prices their "value" positioning isn't all that great. K8T890 boards are a lot cheaper than they were six weeks ago, though none of the boards strike us as particularly outstanding. The Gigabyte GA-K8VT90-9 [RTPE: GA-K8VT90-9] leads the pack around $90, but for $8 less you can get a tried and true Chaintech VNF4 Ultra. You could take a bit of a risk and go with the $65 Chaintech MK8T890. Low prices often come with lower quality mosfets, capacitors, etc. so we're a little cautious. Then again, the VNF4 Ultra isn't bad and the VIA chipset is cheaper, so that may account for a lot of the price difference. $210 will get you the Chaintech and Venice 3000+, which isn't too shabby.
If you're planning a new purchase, don't forget to check out our latest AMD roadmap! We have details on AMD's socket upgrade path, including future plans for the M2 socket. As mentioned earlier, we have given less and less attention to AGP motherboards over the last few months; unless you spent a lot of money on a high-end AGP card in the past year, the best bang for your buck is to upgrade to a PCIe card (specifically a 6600GT PCIe or a 7800GT PCIe) then worry about a new processor/mobo. You're not going to do a new Athlon 64 X2 much justice by sticking a Radeon 9600 Pro in an nForce3 motherboard.
However, for those of you who have 6800, X800, or other current generation AGP cards (maybe you got it as a gift?), nForce3 is still clinging to life. Again MSI seems to dominate the prices this week; the Neo2-F [RTPE: MS-7025-020] and the Neo2 Platinum [RTPE: MS-7025-010] took a fairly big drop in price over the last few weeks. The Neo2 Platinum actually has a $25 mail-in-rebate right now, but it's still going to cost you $120 out the door. Unless you really need Firewire, the Neo2-F is actually a much better deal.