Motherboard and Video Card selection

Ken Gunderson kgunders at
Mon Jan 30 17:22:39 PST 2006

On Mon, 30 Jan 2006 19:26:39 -0500
"Ian D. Leroux" <idleroux at MIT.EDU> wrote:

> 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:

I'm in pretty much the same boat...

> 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
> card.
> 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 opted for a Tyan K8E board:


Need to update to latest BIOS revision but otherwise seems to work
pretty well.  Too new to report in detail as I've not really done much
on it yet (too darned busy with work...).

Get the version w/dual nics if you want to use the onboard.  Else just
add your own ethernet controller.  The Marvell is what you get w/
the single nic version doesn't work. (Well, maybe in CURRENT?).

Sun has been basing some impressive 1U offerings on this board that
have been getting notice lately.  I've got mine paired with an Opteron
180.  've not done any benchmarking but can subjectively report that
"it's just wickedly fast".

> 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?
> Specifically:
> - 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.

I try to stay away from NVidia to the extent possible for these reasons
but you can't really get around it sometimes.  fwiw- I used an ATI
based AsusTEK EAX300.  Version I got comes w/the passive heat sink so I
don't have to endure the added noise of a whinny little fan that is
just gonna fail every 6 mo's.anyhow...  Reasonably priced around $50
w/128MB.  Gonna just have to suffer through the wait for 3D until xorg
drivers have the chance to play catch up...  ATI (Ithink) offers the
option of an NDA to certain OSS developers so there's hope at least...

Otherwise it seems you're limited to an AGP based mainboard so you can
use an "older" GPU's (consequently seemingly limiting you into "older"
mainboards).  Something I wouldn't have minded at all but I'd heard
good things about the Tyan K8E board. Earlier I'd built an Athalon
system for someone else based on via K8T890.  I only played w/ it for a
very limited time before they installed Winblows but it just felt kind
of slow to me.

> - 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.

I think you can always opt for the i386 version of FBSD.  Might even be
preferred for workstation useage.  I'm still vacillating.  Might want to
check the thread on this I started a few days back entitled "fbsd amd-64

> Thank you very much for any and all comments,

np;-)  take them w/a grain of salt.  lot's of others here more in the
know than I w.r.t. fbsd-amd64.  just sharing my $0.02 fwiw...

Best regards,

Ken Gunderson

Q: Because it reverses the logical flow of conversation.
A: Why is putting a reply at the top of the message frowned upon?

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