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Old 01-22-2014, 12:51 PM   #1
yooden
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Best Mainboard?


(This smells like a FAQ, but I couldn't find anything useful. Any pointers are of course welcome.)

I have a cascade of problems that lead me to consider a new mainboard for my workstation. The basic problem seems to be that my GCA (Matrox G550) is more than a decade old and can't do RandR. I considered to replace it with a Radeon HD 5450, and since that would need a reinstall anyway (and since I have a defective sensor), thought about replacing my mainboard. That in turn might make the GCA redundant if proper on-board graphics are provided.

My question to you is: What is the best mainboard for a workstation to buy at the moment? Which manufacturer generally has the best Linux support?

Some things to consider:
- Any recent CPU will do in terms of computing power.
- I would prefer to have the option of using 16 GB RAM.
- I have no interest whatsoever in 3D or other graphic shenannigans beyond what I need to run my desktop and watch movies.
- Dual-head is essential. My screens (Iiyama ProLite E4315 and Eizo S2402WFS) have VGA and DVI ports, and are too smart to know about DRM. Both work fine and I intend to use them until they brick.
- I use an excellent keyboard with a DIN connector. It works fine with various converters (DIN → PS/2 → USB), but a PS/2 port would be appreciated.
- I very much prefer open source drivers for my hardware.
- Could UEFI be a problem?
- My other requirements are pretty standard: A couple of internal SATAs, a couple of USB ports, NIC, etc.
- Low power consumption is appreciated.
- ATX

Thanks in advance for your help!

Last edited by yooden; 01-22-2014 at 01:16 PM.
 
Old 01-23-2014, 11:22 AM   #2
ukiuki
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If you are going to get just a better video card go with Nvidia because it does have a better support under GNU/Linux, prefferably something with 256MB or more, 512MB would be better for videos.

What problems exactly are you having with your current machine, and what are the specifications, RAM, CPU, could you post please?

Regards
 
Old 01-23-2014, 11:46 AM   #3
metaschima
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If you don't run the newest games, an Intel processor with onboard Intel graphics will run pretty much any movie you can find. Graphics cards are very expensive, so I would only buy one if I was a hardcore gamer, which I am not. Playing open-source Linux games with Intel onboard graphics works just fine.

I recently bought two motherboards, an ASRock and a Gigabyte, both with the H87M chipset. They are both running fine so far, and were relatively cheap (less than $100). I'll post them on the HCL when I am sure they are good.

For CPU I am using a Intel i5-4670, which is running very well. More than enough power for me and $100 cheaper than the i7.

I only have 8GB of RAM, and it's more than enough.

UEFI should not be a problem. I haven't had any problems with it so far. There's a compatibility mode anyway, if you need it.

Last edited by metaschima; 01-23-2014 at 11:48 AM.
 
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Old 01-23-2014, 04:55 PM   #4
yooden
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ukiuki View Post
If you are going to get just a better video card go with Nvidia because it does have a better support under GNU/Linux, prefferably something with 256MB or more, 512MB would be better for videos.
I would prefer open source drivers. Do you think I will have problems with a Radeon, running Jessie?

Quote:
What problems exactly are you having with your current machine, and what are the specifications, RAM, CPU, could you post please?
Xrandr does only see one display of my Matrox G550, see here for its output. That worked fine without Xrandr on Lenny.

Asus P5K, Intel E5200 2.5 GHz, 4 Gig RAM

Thanks for your help!

Last edited by yooden; 01-23-2014 at 05:03 PM.
 
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Old 01-23-2014, 05:00 PM   #5
yooden
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Quote:
Originally Posted by metaschima View Post
If you don't run the newest games, an Intel processor with onboard Intel graphics will run pretty much any movie you can find.
The only games I occasionally run are Freeciv and Wesnoth, I don't think there is any 3D involved. Even those are dispensible if I get proper multiscreen and can watch videos.

Quote:
Graphics cards are very expensive, [...]
The Radeon HD 5450 I had in mind is 30, which I would gladly pay to get out of trouble.

Quote:
I recently bought [...]
Thanks for the info!
 
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Old 01-23-2014, 05:14 PM   #6
metaschima
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You'll need an extra graphics card for dual display anyway, so if you can get a cheap one do so.
 
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Old 01-23-2014, 06:54 PM   #7
ukiuki
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Quote:
Originally Posted by metaschima View Post
You'll need an extra graphics card for dual display anyway, so if you can get a cheap one do so.
Yes this, your machine is good enough, maybe some more RAM too, but yes a better video card is all you really need something with at least 256Mb, but much better if it have 512Mb, and Nvidia because the support for drivers it have.

One more thing make sure what type of slot for video your motherboard have, i believe it is AGP, so you must follow what is in the motherboard.

Regards

Last edited by ukiuki; 01-23-2014 at 06:56 PM.
 
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Old 01-24-2014, 10:16 AM   #8
cascade9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yooden View Post
Asus P5K, Intel E5200 2.5 GHz, 4 Gig RAM
That has PCIe, so you can run current video cards.

BTW, max RAM is 8GB, not sure if its worth the expense, 2 x 4GB DDR2 will be at least $180 US.

Quote:
Originally Posted by yooden View Post
I would prefer open source drivers. Do you think I will have problems with a Radeon, running Jessie?
There are open source drivers for nVidia....but they are not that great IMO.

The ATI/AMD open source drivers are better, but they are slower than the closed drivers even for desktop use (depending on the DE/WM and loads).

*edit- I've run a HD 5450 under wheezy (stable) and sid (though not under sid for a while), with both the open osurce and closed source drivers. The same card is in my housemates computer running 'wheezy', though I cant remeber what drivers its been suing for the last year now......but I had no major issues with the open soruce drivers 'back then', so it should be fine with jessie.

Quote:
Originally Posted by yooden View Post
Even those are dispensible if I get proper multiscreen and can watch videos.
How much do you watch videos?

Hardware video decoding can really help, but its variable across manufacturers and even driver type used....

If using open source drivers is more important, and you dont care about CPU load, power consumption and noise levels, then get an ATI/AMD card. HD 5450 would be your best choice. You could get a HD 6450, or even HD 7450, but the older card will have better support with the open source drivers. ATI/AMD cards can do hardware video decoding with both closed and open source drivers, but tis nowhere near as god as the nVidia version.

If noise/power consumption while watching videos is more important, get an nVidia card and use VDPAU (nVidia hardware video decoding) with the closed source drivers. What cards are around can vary, but I'd probably try for a G210. The GT610 would be OK as well, and its a bit newer, but tis not that much better for power consumption, and will cost more,

I could watch anything I threw at my old AMD 64 3000+ (single core) 1GB/8400 GS video card with out any stutering, and low CPU use with VDPAU. Even 720p x264 videos. (I never tried 1080p, I dont have any 1080p content).

Quote:
Originally Posted by yooden View Post
The Radeon HD 5450 I had in mind is €30, which I would gladly pay to get out of trouble.
I dont know which country you are in, and it might be that I've spent a lot of time buy computer parts so I know the places with good prices, but that is a bit more than I'd pay here (au), or the prices I've seen from the US and UK.

Here or the US/UK you can find HD 5450s for 20-25 euros.

Last edited by cascade9; 01-24-2014 at 10:21 AM.
 
Old 01-28-2014, 08:18 PM   #9
gradinaruvasile
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yooden View Post
(This smells like a FAQ, but I couldn't find anything useful. Any pointers are of course welcome.)

I have a cascade of problems that lead me to consider a new mainboard for my workstation. The basic problem seems to be that my GCA (Matrox G550) is more than a decade old and can't do RandR. I considered to replace it with a Radeon HD 5450, and since that would need a reinstall anyway (and since I have a defective sensor), thought about replacing my mainboard. That in turn might make the GCA redundant if proper on-board graphics are provided.

My question to you is: What is the best mainboard for a workstation to buy at the moment? Which manufacturer generally has the best Linux support?
So far all mobos i used (ASUS and Gigabyte) worked pretty much OOTB (once i had to install a newer kenel for the audio). Best is to use a mobo that doesnt have external USB3 chips and such. AMD currently has the A88X chipset that is pretty much all in one (has USB3, SATA3) and its well supportred. I dont know about Intel's offerings from the top of my head, but they have some similar chipsets too (albeit they tend to have SATA2+3 arrangements instead of AMD's full SATA3x8 ports).
Quote:
Originally Posted by yooden View Post
Some things to consider:
- Any recent CPU will do in terms of computing power.
Then you could use an AMD APU. The Richland chips (the latest Kabinis might have some driver issues) are very well supported, the integrated graphics runs well on the OSS driver used with kernel 3.12 and newer (might also need a MESA update, depending how old the system's version is).
For example i have a A8-6500, it has 4 cores@3.5GHz + a great onboard graphiccs chip, a TDP of 65w total, doesnt overheat even when i compile with 4 threads and using its default cooler (which is TINY). I also use the latest OSS radeon stack - kernel, mesa, drm, xf86-ati from git and the graphics run perfectly well, including VDPAU hw decoding. I have 2 1440x900 screens connected.

Quote:
Originally Posted by yooden View Post
- I would prefer to have the option of using 16 GB RAM.
All current mobos i know of support at least 16, but usually 32 or 64 GB RAM usually tied to DIMM count, 16 GB/DIMM.

Quote:
Originally Posted by yooden
- I have no interest whatsoever in 3D or other graphic shenannigans beyond what I need to run my desktop and watch movies.
- Dual-head is essential. My screens (Iiyama ProLite E4315 and Eizo S2402WFS) have VGA and DVI ports, and are too smart to know about DRM. Both work fine and I intend to use them until they brick.
- I use an excellent keyboard with a DIN connector. It works fine with various converters (DIN → PS/2 → USB), but a PS/2 port would be appreciated.
- I very much prefer open source drivers for my hardware.
Both recent Intel and AMD (5xxx series and up) IGPs have very good drivers, especially if you use the latest mesa and X drivers (essential forr AMD). Both support at least 2 screens, AMD surely does (in fact supports 3) as i have 2 monitors (and worrk well). For Intel, you have to search around, sometimes they gimp lower models artificially. Same goes for the mobo - Gigabyte for example has some great A88X chipset AMD/FM2+ mobos, with 3 video ports (vga, dvi and hdmi), 8x SATA3 + 4xUSB3 and 8 or so USB2.
Most Gigabyte and ASUS boards have at least a PS2 combo port (you can connect either a mouse or keyboard there).

Quote:
Originally Posted by yooden View Post
- Could UEFI be a problem?
Not really. All separately purchased mobos i have seen have legacy options. AFAIK the legacy boot option is in Microsoft's Secure boot spec.
[QUOTE=yooden;5103055]
- My other requirements are pretty standard: A couple of internal SATAs, a couple of USB ports, NIC, etc.
- Low power consumption is appreciated.
[/qoute]
- If you get an AMD APU (i recommend the 65w Richland A8-A10 models, the latest Kaveris might still have driver related glitches and absolutely needs the latest kernel/drivers) or Intel CPU, both have capable onboard graphics and good drivers and quite low power consumption. I have dual screens on my AMD and work well (it supports 3 screens). Vsync on movies work well on my first (VGA) monitor, for some reason (dunno if its a OSS/Mesa issue or radeon specific, the second monitor sometimes tears). Opengl in games has a weird tearing on the top of the monitor (half cm or something), barely noticeable.
mpv/mplayer work great, hw decoding via VDPAU works really well, no tearing.
Now i cannot say anything about Intel, i heard they have some vsync issues in some newer IGPs, but dont know to what extent.

- AMD's A88 chipsets are better since they have tons of SATA3 ports (mine has 8)+have onboard USB3. Intel has more chipsets, and as they always do, tier them, offering 1 SATA3+ a few SATA2 ports on lower models etc so you have to research to see if they offer what you need

Quote:
Originally Posted by yooden View Post
- ATX

Thanks in advance for your help!
Now im clearly an AMD/APU fan - but the APUs work really well and stable (lighter Steam games such as HL2 based ones - L4D2, Day of Defeat - run like a dream), only that you have to install recent OSS driver stack (kernel, Mesa, DRM, X drivers) because recently many improvements were made. I dont like the AMD proprietary drivers, they fix something and break something else and have no supported "true" hw decoding.
BTW this goes for Intel too (Intel has much more code commits than AMD recently).
 
Old 01-30-2014, 08:58 AM   #10
cascade9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gradinaruvasile View Post
All current mobos i know of support at least 16, but usually 32 or 64 GB RAM usually tied to DIMM count, 16 GB/DIMM.
32GB (4 x 8GB) is doable with most boards. But 16GB DIMMs are not avaible now....and might never be. DDR4 is just around ther corner. You can get buffered/ECC 16GB RAM sticks, but they wont run in most 'consumor' motherboards.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gradinaruvasile View Post
Not really. All separately purchased mobos i have seen have legacy options. AFAIK the legacy boot option is in Microsoft's Secure boot spec.
As far as I know, thjee is no requirement for 'legacy boot'/CSM ('compatibility support module') to be present.

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/l.../hh824987.aspx

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/l.../dn481258.aspx

Quote:
Originally Posted by gradinaruvasile View Post
- AMD's A88 chipsets are better since they have tons of SATA3 ports (mine has 8)+have onboard USB3. Intel has more chipsets, and as they always do, tier them, offering 1 SATA3+ a few SATA2 ports on lower models etc so you have to research to see if they offer what you need
Actually, intel has less chipsets than AMD. Unless you want to count the many intel 'server' chipsets and older chipsets that are still avaible.

The newer intel LGA 1150 chipsets no longer do the '1 SATAIII + a few SATAII ports' thing that was common in the older chipsets. Ebven H81, the 'budget' LGA 1150 chipset has 2 x SATAIII and 4 x SATAII ports...and really, thats 1 more SATAIII port than a media box will ever need.

IMO you dont really want a whole pile of HDDs in a media box, it just adds noise and heat.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gradinaruvasile View Post
I dont like the AMD proprietary drivers, they fix something and break something else and have no supported "true" hw decoding.
XvBA is hardware decoding. Sure, last I played with XvBA is wasnt as good as VDPAU. But thats why I still think that for a media box, nVidia is the way to go.

Even if yooden did get an AMD 'fusion' system, I'd suggest avoiding the onboard GPU models, and to get a Athlon X2/X4 mdoels without video and a nVidia video card.
 
Old 01-30-2014, 10:52 AM   #11
yooden
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So for now, I'll stick with open source and try to resolve my issues with a Radeon. I'll keep you posted.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cascade9 View Post
How much do you watch videos?
Not terribly much, but I don't own a TV and I would get cranky if I'd miss Game of Thrones. In any case, even the Matrox has no problems playing videos, do you see cause for concern with more modern cards?
 
Old 01-30-2014, 10:59 AM   #12
cascade9
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The old matrox cards have no hardware video acceleration. So if you system can play them, the decoding is being done by the CPU, and you've got enough CPU power for the job. So there should be no issues with the readon, even if you dont want to or cant get hardware video decoding working with the open source drivers.

BTW, the readon drivers let you use VA-API (Video Acceleration API). It might not be as good as VDPAU, and you might not want to bother with trying to set it up, but its there if you want to play with it.
 
Old 01-31-2014, 02:58 AM   #13
gradinaruvasile
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cascade9 View Post
32GB (4 x 8GB) is doable with most boards. But 16GB DIMMs are not avaible now....and might never be. DDR4 is just around ther corner. You can get buffered/ECC 16GB RAM sticks, but they wont run in most 'consumor' motherboards.
I was just saying that usually the max supported memory size is usially 32 GB for 2 DIMMs and 64 GB for 4 DIMMS. But there are mobos that support 64 GB with 2 DIMMs, if the specs are indeed correct ( http://www.gigabyte.com/products/pro...px?pid=4745#sp ).
Now the availability (or lack of) of such DIMMs is another issue.
Quote:
Originally Posted by cascade9 View Post
As far as I know, thjee is no requirement for 'legacy boot'/CSM ('compatibility support module') to be present.
http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/l.../hh824987.aspx

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/l.../dn481258.aspx
Hm. Indeed. So, beware of crappy BIOSes. In practice it seems separately purchased mobos will have this feature (at least those from ASUS, Gigabyte) since there are some hardware that doesnt have signed drivers that wont work with secure boot even on Windows.
For OEM builds, im not so sure, i suppose they are happy that they have a mechanism that forces users to stick to what they gave them or at least make it harder to install something else.
From my experience the Gigabyte FM2 and FM2+ mobos have CSM, so do ASUS FM1 and some ASUS 1150 boards, but i assume all ASUS/Gigabyte boards have them since the UEFIs used in them are based on the same UEFI, they all look the same pretty much.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cascade9 View Post
XvBA is hardware decoding. Sure, last I played with XvBA is wasnt as good as VDPAU. But thats why I still think that for a media box, nVidia is the way to go.
Even if yooden did get an AMD 'fusion' system, I'd suggest avoiding the onboard GPU models, and to get a Athlon X2/X4 mdoels without video and a nVidia video card.
Getting a fusion system then sticking a separate video card in it for a media box defeats the purpose of "fusion" IMO. The onboard AMD video is very capable.
Xvba is the equivalent of VDPAU and its used ONLY by the fglrx driver. Also, there are only one player (and maybe derivatives) that uses it to its full potential - xbmc, but only in a separate git branch which was abandoned in the favor of the OSS driver.
Sure, you can use it via VA-API (vlc), but that doesnt work really well.
The radeon driver uses VDPAU for hardware decoding and works very well with mplayer, mpv, xbmc and probably with the new vlc 2.1+ versions (if that is compiled with vdpau support).

I agree though that if you want to get most of the radeon driver, you will have to be technically inclined and use the latest git code if your disto uses older mesa or has no vdpau support compiled in. For Ubuntu there is oibaf's ppa that does these. But for example on Debian you have to compile the whole thing ground up.
 
Old 02-11-2014, 02:08 PM   #14
yooden
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Quick update: The Radeon HD 5450 arrived today.
  • Shutdown → switch cards → boot
  • At least the command line is diplayed, yay!
  • X11 immediately looks better than before, because the two monitors get different signals. The desktop is still cloned though.
  • Arandr → two monitors! Yay!
  • Cannot set my monitors, "screen cannot be larger than $whatever"
  • Google, google → Virtual
  • Create xorg.conf, add Virtual lines (I even got the addition right at the second attempt!!)
  • Arandr → two monitors with proper setup, yayay!!
  • Runs quickly, videos play
  • All is good now...
No 3D apparently (quick test with Freeorion), mplayer does not zoom, but at last I'm at the point where I was a couple of weeks ago before catching xrandr, without even switching to Jessie and a fresh kernel yet.

More later this week, thanks for now!

Last edited by yooden; 02-11-2014 at 02:10 PM.
 
Old 03-03-2014, 11:52 AM   #15
yooden
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Code:
More later this week, thanks for now!
...or rather, this year.

There is not much to tell. Still running Wheezy, the card works fines, mplayer does indeed not zoom, but smplayer does, and that's enough for me. Still no real 3D, but everything I need works. I will eventually upgrade to Jessie and see whether that helps 3D.

Thanks to everyone, especially everyone who looked through the original question.
 
  


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