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Hardware

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 century bottomfeeders.

Twenty-First Century Bottomfeeders

Read more...

Today's Bottomfeeders include the Via C7 and Via Eden, the Intel Atom and Intel Low-Voltage CeLeron, and the also-ran AMD Neo.

Read more on Twenty-First Century Bottomfeeders...

Processors for Bottomfeeders

Read more... 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!

FIC SD-11

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.

Asus K7V

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.

Asus A7V

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.

Epox 7KXA

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.

 

Disclaimer

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 details.