I have been collecting notes on the growing collection of cheap PC's
in my basement. The goal is to put together an inexpensive
x86-compatible system for a modest price that still runs all current
and future software. The systems should be able to run Windows and as
many forms of x86 Unix as possible. The architectures should be
relatively modern and no one component should dominate the overall
cost of the system. Single-unit motherboard solutions score big
points with this philosophy.
So far I have been building systems that consist of AMD, Cyrix, VIA,
Intel on various platforms. The systems I describe are bottomfeeders
and are not intended for power users hence the fact that there is no
overclocking or weird clock multipliers going on.
I've updated this for the twenty-first
Twenty-First Century Bottomfeeders
Read more on Twenty-First Century
Today's Bottomfeeders include the Via C7 and Via Eden, the Intel Atom
and Intel Low-Voltage CeLeron, and the also-ran AMD Neo.
Processors for Bottomfeeders
Inexpensive PC's do not include Intel processors. Those processors
are talked about too much and to me are boring. I'm more interested
in processors that are geared toward medium performance, moderate
cooling requirements, and, of course, low price.
Read more on Processors for Bottomfeeders...
Motherboards for Bottomfeeders
SOYO 5EHM and 5EMA
These boards represent the quintessential Super7 platorm. You can get
these for around $60-$70 from some vendors and they are the most
stable platform I have yet to encounter for Super7.
PC Chips M571 (a.k.a. TXPRO II, and others)
An unlikely rock-solid fully-integrated performer from a dubious clone
board manufacturer, whoever they really are. Some of these had dummy
cache chips from what I read in the news a couple years ago. This
board refuses to die: the M571LMR, definitely the last non-PC100
Socket-7 board still in production, has on-board Ethernet and modem.
PC Chips M598
Another clone board from the mysterious PC Chips manufacturers. This
one is based on the SiS 530 chipset -- the one that started all the
buzz about Silicon Integrated Systems.
GCT Cyrix MediaGX
This is a not-too-bad MediaGX board that uses a sound chipset only
marginally better than the sound already built-in to the MediaGX!
Bleah!! Annoying boot-up problems, excessive size, stupid
non-conforming ATX layout, and lack of intelligent design make this a
total loss despite crazy-low price and first-to-market bragging
rights. I will not be looking for their Socket-A offerings. A review
will *not* be here soon.
Jet Way 771AS
At first I thought this Jet Way had the same boot-up problems as the
FIC SD-11 but those turned out to be keyboard related. Small and easy
to work with. I sold this online and the poor guy was unlucky enough
to find out it didn't support his later model non-Thunderbird Athlon.
Un-horrible onboard sound can be killed instantly. Review soon.
Better than the Jet Way, but then again not that great. Doesn't like
to boot with cheap PS/2 keyboards (again, not power-supply related--I
have a shelf full of "AMD Athlon Approved" power supplies). A review
might be here soon if I remember anything about this board.
Great performer. It looks like someone forgot about ATA-100 and
slapped an extra chipset and pair of IDE ports on there. (Umm, hard
disks still cannot physicall produce more than 30 MB/sec, guys...)
Still, I liked it so much I bought two. A review will be here soon.
Finally we have a Slot-A Athlon motherboard that boots up each and
every time. Great Epox quality and still available for around $69.
On-board audio is unbad. Much better value than the Asus K7V. A
review will be here soon.
This information is constantly being updated. The material in this
section is entirely subjective and is not presented as a
recommendation, endorsement, or condemnation of any product. These
are my own notes made available to other people who may find them
useful in building their own bottomfeeders. NO intent is made to
slander or otherwise discount the quality of any product by any
manufacturer. Click here for more