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Many Questions - Motherboard / Memory / CPU / Sound


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#1 TNF

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Posted 05 October 2014 - 11:52 AM

Hi, bear with me please.........

 

I have a few questions following up on MB and CPU research you guys have helped with.

The more I look at these items, the more questions I have.

I am upgrading my current gaming/photo editing machine, including MB, memory and CPU.

 

I have a lot of newb questions, so please read carefully.... there are a bunch in there.

Hopefully someone is bored enough to read this and answer ;)

 

My wants:

Ideally I would love a system that could play BF4 (and soon, BF5), and other games at high FPS, and crunch my photo editing quickly.  I have very little interest in overclocking.

Good audio would also be nice, but I know a sound card is an option... if there is room for one.

I am using a full ATX case:  Thermaltake Chaser MK-1 so any board should fit.

 

 

MOTHERBOARD:

I could spend weeks looking at every compatible motherboard I have seen online, it's too overwhelming trying to compare.  So I have to narrow it down by manufacturer, to even give myself a chance.

From advice here, and other opinions I have come across, ASUS seems to be one of the better brands and I figure that's good enough for me considering it has the features I need.

I am open to other brands still, so I figure I will list the features and maybe get some specific recommendations.  ASRock? Gigbyte?  They are fine if they have more of the features I need.

 

Desired features:

  • AM3+  FX/Phenom II/etc.  (Phenom II for now, FX for later).
  • Multiple PCI/PCIe slots for at least 2 cards (video and possibly audio)
  • USB 3.0 header for front panel support.
  • 6/Gbps SATA
  • Good audio (if possible)
  • Numerous fan connections
  • Those are the obvious things most boards have, but any other features I should look for?

What is the difference between (and what do they mean) AMD 760G and AMD 970?

 

 

MEMORY:

Is DDR3 240 pin memory going to fit in any DDR3 MB with 240 pin connector?  (I see lists of "compatible motherboards" that don't always mention very many MBs).

If I have 8GB (2 x 4GB matching), and want to upgrade to 16, I should use the same brand/model... correct?

I know it would work no matter what I use, but for best performance stay identical?   Or is that a myth?

Also, is 3 X 4GB (12 GB) a reasonable option?  Only filling 3 of the 4 slots ?

 

 

SOUND CARD:

Let's say I have a motherboard advertised as 'great audio', like the Biostar Hi-Fi line... and I have a different motherboard with generic audio on board.

If I plug the same sound card onto each board, will my sound be identical?

I assume the sound card takes over the audio completely.... but...  is my sound card getting the best digital audio signal no matter what motherboard I use?

 

I would love an MB with emphasis on quality audio, but not at the cost of losing other features.

 

 

 

The way I understand things, any lag I notice in games... is either internet or video card..... and unlikely the memory or CPU.   Is this correct?

I will be upgrading video card later, but currently it is the best part of my system, lol.

 

Thanks to anyone who offers answers/advice.


Edited by TNF, 06 October 2014 - 08:17 AM.


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#2 DJBPace07

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Posted 06 October 2014 - 09:01 AM

CPU:  I've been using AMD for years (FX-8150) and I'm seriously considering going back to Intel.  AMD has largely given up on high-end performance CPU's, look at the age of the current FX processors. The i5 4670 is roughly the same price as the FX-8370 with near equal performance for less power.  If you are going to be throwing eight threads at the CPU, the FX would be an excellent choice, but few programs do that.  If you're gaming and really want to push the CPU power, the i7's out compete the FX line. 

 

Motherboard:  It really isn't that complex.  To start with, make sure the CPU you want is supported, then, you need to determine which chipset you're wanting.  WIth AMD, the 970 series is aimed at a solid, though basic, experience with the 990FX extending its capabilities to include multi-GPU support.  The 900 series chipsets are the only ones that support all of AMD's FX features.  With Intel, the Z97 boards are aimed at the performance niche.  As for manufacturers, Asus and Gigabyte are two of the best, in my opinion.  ASRock is a good value brand, but their boards can be a little thin.

 

Memory:  If the motherboard has a specific speed marked as O.C., that is considered an overclocked speed.  Some motherboards will default to the fastest non-O.C. speed if the installed memory is marked as O.C. on the motherboard until you specifically set up overclocking.  That RAM you picked up should work on an AMD board,  The Intel compatible moniker probably means it supports XMP on Intel boards, but there shouldn't be any issues running with AMD.

 

Sound card:  You can move a dedicated sound card from one PC to another, just pull it out of the PCI/PCI-E slot and put it in another.  If it came as part of the motherboard, it cannot be moved.  For the majority of people, on-board audio will do well for most people.  However, if you make music, are an audiophile, or want more features with the card, a standalone card would be a good idea.  I use the Asus Xonar D2X, but there are others.  HT|OMEGA is also a good maker of audio cards.  I would get a standalone audio card and move it as I changed motherboards.

 

If you have questions about upgrading, this part of BC is probably your best bet.


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#3 TNF

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Posted 06 October 2014 - 09:40 AM

Thanks DJB, I have a couple follow-up questions (in red) based on your advice:

 

 

CPU:  I've been using AMD for years (FX-8150) and I'm seriously considering going back to Intel.  AMD has largely given up on high-end performance CPU's, look at the age of the current FX processors. The i5 4670 is roughly the same price as the FX-8370 with near equal performance for less power.  If you are going to be throwing eight threads at the CPU, the FX would be an excellent choice, but few programs do that.  If you're gaming and really want to push the CPU power, the i7's out compete the FX line. 

 

I have no reason to avoid Intel, but it would make this upgrade a lot more expensive.

I was thinking of sticking with my Phenom II X4 965 for the time being, and just upgrading MB & memory... then upgrading to the highest end FX processor when I "need" to, later. 

That would be a cheaper way to go, of course.

I think what you're saying is that that's not the best future-proofing route to take, which I understand.  Tom's Hardware considers the AM3+ "End of life".

 

I just wonder if I were to get an FX-8350 or something, in a year, and plan to use it for 2 or 3 years, will I be too far behind the curve in gaming capabilities.

That's not a question, since I know it can't be answered.... just one of my concerns.

 

 

 

Motherboard:  It really isn't that complex.  To start with, make sure the CPU you want is supported, then, you need to determine which chipset you're wanting.  WIth AMD, the 970 series is aimed at a solid, though basic, experience with the 990FX extending its capabilities to include multi-GPU support.  The 900 series chipsets are the only ones that support all of AMD's FX features.  With Intel, the Z97 boards are aimed at the performance niche.  As for manufacturers, Asus and Gigabyte are two of the best, in my opinion.  ASRock is a good value brand, but their boards can be a little thin.

 

The multi GPU support with the 990FX.... is that the way to go if I wanted to run Crossfire later?  Would the 970 not do that?

I know I could research that... but since you mentioned it I thought I'd ask.

Also, based on what you said, I should avoid the 760 series if I want to upgrade to FX later?

 

 

 

Memory:  If the motherboard has a specific speed marked as O.C., that is considered an overclocked speed.  Some motherboards will default to the fastest non-O.C. speed if the installed memory is marked as O.C. on the motherboard until you specifically set up overclocking.  That RAM you picked up should work on an AMD board,  The Intel compatible moniker probably means it supports XMP on Intel boards, but there shouldn't be any issues running with AMD.

 

I looked up the "O.C." designation in the mean time, and edited that out of my original post, lol.... I found exactly what you just told me.  If there is a 1600(O.C) desingation on a MB... then you have to manually set the MB to run that memory at 1600 MHz... otherwise it will run at the highest "native" frequency, like 1333 MHz.

So since my memory is 1600.... I will get a MB that runs the 1600 without having to manually set it (without the "O.C." designation).

 

Also, looking on the G. Skill web site, I see that memory will run on Intel or AMD.   Sometimes I ask things before realizing I can find the answer in the right spot.

The mention of Intel in the specs I saw just had me concerned.

 

 

 

Sound card:  You can move a dedicated sound card from one PC to another, just pull it out of the PCI/PCI-E slot and put it in another.  If it came as part of the motherboard, it cannot be moved.  For the majority of people, on-board audio will do well for most people.  However, if you make music, are an audiophile, or want more features with the card, a standalone card would be a good idea.  I use the Asus Xonar D2X, but there are others.  HT|OMEGA is also a good maker of audio cards.  I would get a standalone audio card and move it as I changed motherboards.

 

I guess what I was trying to say here was not if I could move a sound card, but.... if I use the same sound card, on 2 different MBs (one advertising great audio, and one not) would my sound be the same, because of the identical dedicated card? 

 

I think that is still confusing, so maybe what I need to ask is:     If using a sound card, does that totally overrule the audio portion of a motherboard? Or can a poor motherboard actually reduce the quality of a sound card?  And can a motherboard with great on-board audio, make a sound card sound better?

 

My assumption is that the motherboard just provides a straight digital signal to the sound card.  No better or worse than any other motherboard.

I realize my questions may have been poorly worded.

 

My concerns come from my youth as an audiophile... knowing that no matter how great your speakers are, if your amp isn't great then the sound isn't going to be good.

And... that no matter how good your amp is... if the diamond needle on your turntable isn't high quality, the sound being sent to the amp is poor quality.

Etc.

 

And yes... I just said turntable. 

I'm an old guy, that turned onto gaming late in life, lol.

 

 

 

If you have questions about upgrading, this part of BC is probably your best bet.

Thanks.

 



#4 jonuk76

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Posted 06 October 2014 - 12:15 PM

Just a further bit of info for you on memory speeds.  In most current PC's (including AMD FX series and Intel Core) the memory controller is actually part of the CPU, rather than built into the motherboard.  So really the relevant question is more what speeds does the CPU support.


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#5 TNF

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Posted 06 October 2014 - 08:32 PM

Just a further bit of info for you on memory speeds.  In most current PC's (including AMD FX series and Intel Core) the memory controller is actually part of the CPU, rather than built into the motherboard.  So really the relevant question is more what speeds does the CPU support.

 

Yeah, but for now I'm just talking about the motherboard designations themselves.  What the motherboard allows with my X4 965 CPU

 

 

thx


Edited by TNF, 07 October 2014 - 06:00 AM.


#6 TNF

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Posted 07 October 2014 - 06:09 AM

I guess all that's left are:

 

  • the sound card question:  If using identical sound card on different motherboards, will the sound be equal or will the motherboard have influence on the sound ?
  • If motherboard is "dual channel", is running (3) 4GB memory sticks counterproductive vs. (2) or (4) ?
  • The explanation behind this comment: "the 970 series is aimed at a solid, though basic, experience with the 990FX extending its capabilities to include multi-GPU support".       Is there a reason to avoid a 970 board if I think I may want to run Crossfire someday?


#7 DJBPace07

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Posted 07 October 2014 - 08:14 AM

A follow-up to your follow-up questions:

 

CPU:  You can certainly get an FX-8300 series CPU for your motherboard if it supports it, but once you start swapping out motherboards, it may be best to move on to the i5 or i7 Haswell lines due to the upgrade costs.  The current FX generation is fairly old with new processors coming out for it being refreshes rather than new architectures.  Those refreshes use architectures from 2012 (Piledriver) and not the 2014 Steamroller architecture, new FX chips based on a more recent architecture may be a year or more off.  AMD may try to consolidate their AM3+ and FM2 sockets in successor platforms.

 

Motherboard:  The layout of a 990FX board is to allow for Crossfire.  Technically, if the motherboard maker added two PCI-Express X16 slots on a 970 board, you could use it for Crossfire, but this would result in a bottleneck.  The 990FX has more PCI Express lanes to accommodate multiple graphics cards without a bottleneck. If you believe you may use Crossfire in the future, you may want a 990FX board.  However, Crossfire works best with high-end cards and multi-GPU setups can have driver and game compatibility issues, on top of the increased heat and power draw.  I would get the highest performing single GPU I could afford and not touch multiple GPU's.  I've used both SLI and Crossfire, they are often more trouble than they are worth.  Although some boards do have electrical compatibility and support for the FX line, you don't get all of the features of an FX CPU unless you use an AMD 900 series chipset.  With RAM, dual channel means it works best in groups of two, but you can use three sticks, though one obviously cannot take advantage of dual channel.

 

Sound card:  If you use a discrete audio card, it will override the on-board audio by default, however, the plugs for the on-board audio will still be active and you can use them with the motherboard's on-board system, you may have to tell Windows to use this instead of the add-in card, but it is possible.  For me, since I use an add-in card, I disable the on-board audio in my motherboard's BIOS since there can sometimes be conflicts with two different audio systems being active at once.  One reason some people use add-in cards is to get the audio hardware off the noisy environment of the motherboard for better sound.  With audio, it is garbage in, garbage out.  If the digital audio file is of low quality, the audio hardware in the computer is low quality, or the speakers are low quality, you will have low quality audio.  The quality of the audio depends on the weakest component in the audio system.  If you are using an add-in card and move it from one PC to another, the audio quality should remain the same.


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#8 TNF

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Posted 07 October 2014 - 11:59 AM

A follow-up to your follow-up questions:

 

CPU:  You can certainly get an FX-8300 series CPU for your motherboard if it supports it, but once you start swapping out motherboards, it may be best to move on to the i5 or i7 Haswell lines due to the upgrade costs.  The current FX generation is fairly old with new processors coming out for it being refreshes rather than new architectures.  Those refreshes use architectures from 2012 (Piledriver) and not the 2014 Steamroller architecture, new FX chips based on a more recent architecture may be a year or more off.  AMD may try to consolidate their AM3+ and FM2 sockets in successor platforms.

 

Motherboard:  The layout of a 990FX board is to allow for Crossfire.  Technically, if the motherboard maker added two PCI-Express X16 slots on a 970 board, you could use it for Crossfire, but this would result in a bottleneck.  The 990FX has more PCI Express lanes to accommodate multiple graphics cards without a bottleneck. If you believe you may use Crossfire in the future, you may want a 990FX board.  However, Crossfire works best with high-end cards and multi-GPU setups can have driver and game compatibility issues, on top of the increased heat and power draw.  I would get the highest performing single GPU I could afford and not touch multiple GPU's.  I've used both SLI and Crossfire, they are often more trouble than they are worth.  Although some boards do have electrical compatibility and support for the FX line, you don't get all of the features of an FX CPU unless you use an AMD 900 series chipset.  With RAM, dual channel means it works best in groups of two, but you can use three sticks, though one obviously cannot take advantage of dual channel.

 

Sound card:  If you use a discrete audio card, it will override the on-board audio by default, however, the plugs for the on-board audio will still be active and you can use them with the motherboard's on-board system, you may have to tell Windows to use this instead of the add-in card, but it is possible.  For me, since I use an add-in card, I disable the on-board audio in my motherboard's BIOS since there can sometimes be conflicts with two different audio systems being active at once.  One reason some people use add-in cards is to get the audio hardware off the noisy environment of the motherboard for better sound.  With audio, it is garbage in, garbage out.  If the digital audio file is of low quality, the audio hardware in the computer is low quality, or the speakers are low quality, you will have low quality audio.  The quality of the audio depends on the weakest component in the audio system.  If you are using an add-in card and move it from one PC to another, the audio quality should remain the same.

 

 

 

CPU:

I have to think this through.  I have the Phenom II and want to upgrade MB/memory now... then upgrade CPU later... so that's why I was stuck with AMD.

I guess now I have to decide if it's worth it to upgrade later, to the outgoing (old) tech with the FX top of the line processor...or just wait a bit and go Intel instead.

 

No matter how many answers I get..... I end up with new questions  ;)

 

 

Motherboard:

I have always been of the mindset to just get the best single video card you can afford.  I once inherited a gaming machine running G Force 8800 GT in SLI.

I noticed video issues in BFBC2, that went away when I removed one GPU.  I guess I wanted to leave the option of Crossfire open, but maybe it's just not worth it.

If I go AMD I will go with a nice 970 MB.

 

 

Sound Card:

Thanks for that explanation.  I just don't know enough about motherboards to know if a sound card would overrule whatever quality of audio the MB would offer.

It seems that I should just turn the MB audio off if going with a dedicated card.  I wouldn't have thought of that until I ran into a problem.

 

 

I think right now, I am leaning toward getting a nice 970 AM3+ board that will run my Phenom II for now... and a high end FX CPU later.

Loading it up with memory, and maybe a sound card.

And hoping that will carry me through a couple more generations of games, at decent settings... like BF 5/6, Far Cry 5/6, and whatever Adobe offers up later while screwing up Photoshop ..... when they come out in a few years.

 

 

Thanks again DJB (and jonuk),  I appreciate the help.... as always.


Edited by TNF, 07 October 2014 - 12:03 PM.


#9 bludshot

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Posted 07 October 2014 - 04:32 PM

1 video card is always better than 2 (considering price, performance, issues). Forget crossfire/sli.

 

imo, get onboard sound and then see if it's good enough for you which it probably will be. Then, if it's not, you can buy a sound card later.



#10 TNF

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Posted 07 October 2014 - 06:38 PM

1 video card is always better than 2 (considering price, performance, issues). Forget crossfire/sli.

 

imo, get onboard sound and then see if it's good enough for you which it probably will be. Then, if it's not, you can buy a sound card later.

 

Hi Bludshot, 

 

I guess I just wanted to know I wasn't keeping myself from going Crossfire by choosing the wrong motherboard.  But.... I get what you're saying.  

It's been my approach all along, and DJB said the same thing.    I will just go with the best, single GPU I can afford.

 

As for sound, I know for most things the onboard sound should be fine.  But I do spend a good amount of time listening to music from my PC, and wasn't sure if I should look into MBs that advertised better audio... or just focus on the other things instead and then get the sound card if needed.

 

Thanks for your input.



#11 TNF

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Posted 07 October 2014 - 07:35 PM

Any thoughts on this board by MSI ?  

 

Or MSI in general ?

 

I know it's a bit dated but....    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813130790

 

Audio Boost 2: Reward Your Ears with True Quality

Sound Blaster Cinema 2: Realistic Surround Sound Experience

 

 

I also noted when clicking around the MSI web site, I could find a list of AMD motherboards, but when you click to see details, the pages have been removed.

Have they pulled out of the AMD segment?

Looks like they might be Intel Only now.


Edited by TNF, 07 October 2014 - 07:40 PM.


#12 jonuk76

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Posted 07 October 2014 - 09:58 PM

It looks a well featured motherboard, there's a review here you might want to have a read through before making a decision.  They do criticise the boards audio as being average...  I don't think MSI are stopping making AMD boards (and this one seems to be recent release).  Their Intel Socket 1150 range is much larger than the AM3+ range, but you'd expect that.

 

If what they say about the sound is a put off, given the price of the board you are looking at, you might also consider this or this which are both well equipped motherboards.  You can see reviews of them here: Gigabyte  ASUS


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#13 DJBPace07

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Posted 08 October 2014 - 06:44 AM

With motherboard manufacturers, I usually see consistency with boards made by Gigabyte and Asus, MSI is more hit-or-miss in terms of quality.  If you're looking at AMD 970 boards, I'd consider the ASUS M5A97 LE or the GIGABYTE GA-970A-D3P.  If you want just a basic audio card that's a little better than on-board audio, the ASUS Xonar DGX would be good.  If you're wanting a more audiophile card, the HT | OMEGA CLARO II.


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#14 TNF

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Posted 08 October 2014 - 08:47 PM

It looks a well featured motherboard, there's a review here you might want to have a read through before making a decision.  They do criticise the boards audio as being average...  I don't think MSI are stopping making AMD boards (and this one seems to be recent release).  Their Intel Socket 1150 range is much larger than the AM3+ range, but you'd expect that.

 

If what they say about the sound is a put off, given the price of the board you are looking at, you might also consider this or this which are both well equipped motherboards.  You can see reviews of them here: Gigabyte  ASUS

 

Thanks for posting that review.  I had seen decent things said, but honestly was wanting your opinions here before taking the time to fully research it.

As for the 990FX boards, they are a tad more than I was hoping to get away with spending.

 

Any opinions on PCIe 3.0?  Is there much of a need for it?   Seems I'd have to go to 990FX to get the 3.0

 

I keep seeing this ASRock 970 Extreme 4 but one thing that has me concerned is that the 1600MHz memory is listed as "OC", so I would have to manually make the MB read it at that speed (thanks to DJB for explaining that).

I like everything about that board otherwise. Good amount of slots and I like the on-board sata connections on that 90 degree angle.

 

Any thoughts?



#15 TNF

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Posted 08 October 2014 - 08:54 PM

With motherboard manufacturers, I usually see consistency with boards made by Gigabyte and Asus, MSI is more hit-or-miss in terms of quality.  If you're looking at AMD 970 boards, I'd consider the ASUS M5A97 LE or the GIGABYTE GA-970A-D3P.  If you want just a basic audio card that's a little better than on-board audio, the ASUS Xonar DGX would be good.  If you're wanting a more audiophile card, the HT | OMEGA CLARO II.

 

Thanks for the thoughts on MSI.  Strange how I don't see any new AMD boards on their site.  Maybe I'm missing them but I have sure tried.

As for sound, I guess I'll just wait and see if I need a card, instead of trying to find a board with great sound.

 

I am looking at the 2 boards you mentioned.  I bet I will end up with one of those.  Or the ASRock I mentioned in the previous post.

 

As I asked there, I'm just not sure if I need PCIe 3.0... or if I might soon and regret not having it.

I say that because I just don't know enough about this.  Maybe it's a non-issue.

 

ASUS M5A97 ... are you recommending the LE version for any reason other than cost savings?  I also see a regular version and an EVO version.

The Gigabyte GA-970A-D3P... any reason not to go with the UD3P version?  Price is so close.... and I have read people recommending the UD3P over the D3P.

 

 

 

Thanks again.


Edited by TNF, 08 October 2014 - 08:55 PM.





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