Motherboard and Video Card selection

Ian D. Leroux idleroux at MIT.EDU
Mon Jan 30 16:26:50 PST 2006

Good (insert local time of day here),

I'm currently putting together the parts list for my next desktop, and
am planning to make it an athlon64 X2 (socket 939) system.  My current
computer has lasted me 5-6 years, and for 4 of those it ran FreeBSD. 
Consequently, I'm hoping to build something reasonably up-to-date (so
it won't be obsolete too soon), but well-supported by FreeBSD (so I
won't have to change my operating system).  After perusing the
motherboards list and googling about, it would seem that I have two
options for FreeBSD-supported motherboard/graphics card combinations:

1- VIA K8T800 (e.g. Asus A8V):  This seems to be mature and
well-supported, but the combination of this chipset, (some) ATI Radeon
cards, and SMP seems to cause problems, so I'd have to use an nVidia

2- NVIDIA nForce 4 (e.g. ASUS A8N5X): This is reported to be
mostly-supported under 6.0, albeit using a binary driver for the
network interface,and would (ironically) let me use an ATI video card.

I'm not really satisfied with either option.  I'm not a gamer, but I'd
like my graphics card to at least work properly, including 3D,
particularly since desktop software is reportedly moving towards the
use of 3D extensions for rendering (e.g. cairo).  For NVIDIA cards,
this requires binary-only drivers that are currently unavailable for
64-bit FreeBSD.  ATI cards up to the Radeon 9250 seem to have mature
open-source drivers, and r300 series (Radeon 9550-9800 or so) have
reverse-engineered drivers that are "almost there"
(, they're also in ports somewhere), but as
already mentioned they don't seem to work with the more stable and
open-source friendly motherboards.

Does anybody have any thoughts/comments/corrections/recommendations?

- Are there any radeon cards that have been known to work with dual-core
athlons on k8t800-based boards?

- Am I forgetting anybody? i.e. are any of the other motherboard
chipsets (sis 965L, ati radeon crossfire) currently or soon-to-be
supported? Ditto for video cards.

- Are there any firms that FreeBSD developers have found particularly
helpful (e.g. by releasing hardware specifications) and that I ought to
support with my computer-buying funds?  I don't much like NVIDIA's
binary-drivers-only policy, but is anybody else out there any better? 
Again, the question applies to both motherboards and graphics cards.

- Am I asking for the impossible?  Should I just use an Intel CPU,
another OS, or unsupported hardware for now and wait for the drivers to
catch up?  I don't think I have the skills or the time to contribute to
driver development (though I'm tempted to try), so telling me to just
make FreeBSD work on whatever I buy and contribute the changes back to
the source tree wouldn't be terribly useful.

Thank you very much for any and all comments,

-- Ian Leroux

More information about the freebsd-amd64 mailing list