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From Mike Orr
Answered By: William Park, Jimmy O'Regan, Huw Lynes
Searching for alternatives to my 450 MHz Master of Slowness. I could get a motherboard+chip for my empty case. Or I could get what I'm currently drooling over, a Shuttle. There's an Athlon 64 jobbie for $359 (SN85G4):
[Huw] Downsides to the shuttle (I have a P4 one myself):
you pay a premium for the form factor and they can have heat problems.
they are noisier than you would expect. it's built on the nforce3 chipset.
The ad seems to say it includes the CPU, although I'm surprised it doesn't say the speed. This compared to the $150-200 I'd spend on a regular motherboard and CPU. Which seems the better deal? Gentoo has an Am64 version. Does the 64 bit make enough difference to justify the $60 over a regular Athlon?
[William] Unless you need 4GB+ memory, then you probably don't need 64-bit. Since you're asking such question, you definitely don't need it. :-)
I would advise against Shuttle. They have heat problem, and their power supply is not the quality stuff.
[Huw] x86_64 is a better design than the old x86. Hypertransport makes enough of a differerence that an x86_64 system is pound for pound faster than a P4 system. But it really shines when you throw a lot of RAM at it. Being able to seamlessly address more than 2GB of memory is a very good thing. Of course with your budget that's just academic. If you still want one for the cool factor (which is justification enough IMHO) then get a motherboard based on one of the via chipsets not the nForce3. I'm basing this on what a dog the nForce2 was so it may not be entirely fair, plus I have a cheap via based Athlon64 at work that installed Fedora Core 1 (x86_64) out of the box with no fuss. This was decidedly different behaviour from some of the weird Opteron chipsets I've had to deal with.
What would be the most politically correct video card for this puppy? Meaning, which manufacturers are doing a good job of making their specs open? Matrox G400 has been my reliable standby, but I had good luck with an nVIDIA chip recently, and my current computer has an ATI 3D Rage IIC.
[William] Use what you have.
[Huw] Sadly there are no politically correct graphics cards. Capitalist running-dogs like myself prefer nVidia. Mainly because their engineers are helpful.
<mind control> Buy the Athlon64, you don't need it, but you want it. </mind control>
[Jimmy] Aw, you're not even trying. "Buy the Athlon64 now for the coolness, or invest in it for the ability to seamlessly address more than 2GB of memory" -- offer a choice that isn't, because the brain only listens to the 'or'. Standard sales trick.
[Huw] The 2GB limit is a major pain though. A certain badly written renderer which we shall not name has a favourite trick whereby it runs full speed at the 2GB per process limit and then dies in a small shower of zombied process. When the 64bit version comes out it'll have to find a new trick.
My main concerns are --
[Huw] x86_64 is definately faster than straight x86 but I'm not sure it's worth the price difference given that you are not going to be doing anything to take advantage of it's extra features. Personally I'd buy a P4 and spend the difference on a DVD-RW.
[Huw] The shuttles are not silent. The new PSU's are much quieter than the old ones. I know this because I was sufficiently irritated with the old one to upgrade. They are quieter than a standard off the shelf PC though.
I don't anticipate having more than 640 MB of memory, so the 2 GB doesn't apply. I thought Shuttle had solved the heat problem in their later designs; if that's not the case, that's another strike against it.
[Huw] The shuttle and its ilk are definite winners here.
Depends what's in the case. I have a P4, 512MB RAM, 120-GB PATA drive, CD-RW/DVD and a Fanless nVidia 5200. I haven't had any heat issues but I'm not sure I'd want to fill the spare PCI slot or put in a second hard drive. If you want to pack a lot of kit in then you are probably better off looking at more generic case designs.
Any gentle readers out there willing to give comparative heat and noise and raw high end power notes on the obviously smaller mini-itx form factor, write to The Answer Gang! -- Heather