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Motherboards With More Slots Sought 35

cheros writes: "I would be interested if anyone knows of motherboards which have more than the usual 4/5 PCI slots on them (and maybe with one or two ISA slots as well). Extenders would be interesting too, but I can imagine bus timings getting in the way of anything with leads leaving the case. I'm about to build another system (with a 1.3GHz AMD as main processor), and when I start listing the toys I want in it I end up being short of slots. Just add up: sound, SCSI, NIC, TV, FireWire, serial card for extra serial ports (Linux and VT100 - it rocks ;-). And I have this old ISA card I built a while ago with 8 relays - that's no longer usable so I might need another slot for a digital I/O card. Anyone? Pleeze?"
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Motherboards With More Slots

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    You can get a "real" system with lots of PCI slots, but there are a few caveats to getting there:

    What you're going to have to buy is a server-chipset based system. Desktop systems use, logically, desktop chipsets. Most desktop chipsets are limited to supporting between 4 and 6 PCI bus mastering devices. With onboard video or NIC (both bus mastering devices), you still lose slots because a slot without bus mastering capabilities is basically worthless. You'll want to look for the cheapest server based platform you can find, because servers aren't cheap. (If price weren't a limit, check out some of the Industrial PC vendors (http://www.dtims.com/bpgraph.htm) they have systems with 20 slots!)

    Dell has a low end server system that has onboard NIC, U160 SCSI, video and six PCI slots: http://www.dell.com/us/en/bsd/products/model_pedge _1400sc.htm)

    Some of the other suggestions would be using PCI extenders, etc. but that poses another problem: IRQ sharing. A PCI slot has four possible IRQ lines routed to its INT_A,INT_B,INT_C,INT_D lines. Most hardware vendors route unique on a per slot basis (INT_A - INT_D are all connected to the same interrupt line) or in a pair (INT_A and INT_C are connected together and INT_B and INT_D are connected together.) (This is done for a variety of reasons, mostly due to the fact that low end chipsets only support four IRQ lines anyway. Most newer server chipsets support 16 or 32.) Using an extender card means that all of the devices connected to the extender are sharing the same IRQ lines, which isn't the best for performance.

    Finally, the caveats to using a server chipset system: As mentioned earlier, price (much more than a desktop motherboard) and video. Most server chipsets do not support AGP, or perform poorly when they do.

  • THe problem is that I can't remember what it is called all I can remember is that freeway designs. Anyway it is a dual slot 1 board with 6PCI(on two seperate brieged pci busses) and an AGP slot. ACPI means 15 irqs, and I have never had an irq conflict problem. The funny thing is that I have two cards that there own internal pci busses so I have 5 pci busses if I do a cat /proc/pci.

    I my experiance avoid intergrated sound/NIC/SCSI/video, this stuff is made for the low cost market and you will go throught fits tring to get stuff to work. Workstation and low-end server are the only way to go is you want lots of stuff to WORK.
  • by mlc ( 16290 )
    I've a Roland UA-30 [minidisco.com]. It's rather pricey, but very nifty. It's worked fine with Linux since 2.4.0, but previous versions (even the last of the 2.4.0-preN releases) would cut out for a little bit whenever there was video activity. 2.4.x has been just super, though.

    If you don't need any inputs or digital connectors, there's also the Xitel An-1 [minidisco.com], which I've not tried but is only $40. Ignore all the minidisc talk if you like; it's just a USB-to-analog audio converter. I don't have one myself, but the linux-usb database says it works [www.qbik.ch].
    // mlc, user 16290

  • I have one of these [cnet.com]. Works great under linux (Just plug it in!) and sounds amazing... It wasn't even that expensive. Their homepage seems to be down right now though, so maybe they went out of business.
  • The problem with the onboard "solutions" is if you find out what's onboard sucks/isn't supported/whatever, you're stuck with it. In the end, this doesn't free up slots, it's a pain in the ass.

    So what do people have in the order of more slots?


  • Sun resells an expansion box from a company called Magma. This device [sun.com] is compatible with both Intel and SPARC based machines.

    If it's a PCI to PCI bridge, latency shouldn't be too big of a deal. I'd put low-throughput things like the DigiBoard (or whatever serial device you're using) on the expansion bus, and leave the high-output stuff to the on-board PCI...
  • As long as the cables aren't too long, I don't think you would have too much trouble with capacitive loading, which is what causes timing issues. I forget exactly how you do it, but it's also possible to compensate for excess capacitance.

    Realllllly thin wires will do it, I believe.

  • by Snowfox ( 34467 ) <(ten.xofwons) (ta) (xofwons)> on Monday May 28, 2001 @06:01AM (#193840) Homepage
    Alternatively, you can get up to 7 more slots per existing PCI slot with one of these [magma.com]. Search for "PCI Expansion" on Google and you'll find several more brands.

    No idea how well these work - I believe this was the model I saw being hawked at Siggraph, and the salesman had no idea about latencies, cable lengths or similar. But he suuuuuure wanted to sell me one today!

  • by cr0sh ( 43134 ) on Monday May 28, 2001 @05:33PM (#193841) Homepage
    Have more than one computer...

    Seriously - this is the cheapest solution you are going to find.

    Don't try to do everything with one box, have multiple boxes - set up a file server, with lots of disk space, and maybe two or three CD-ROM drives (or, for fun, get a nice SCSI burner and two or three plextor 6 disk changers).

    Then, build a media box - put the TV, MP3, DVD and firewire stuff in it - vid capture, etc. It doesn't need an insane size HD - unless you are doing a fair amount of vid capture, then you will want a local AV drive. Most of the data can be dumped to the file server.

    For scanning/printing, set up a scan/print (and perhaps even DP) server.

    Network all of this using 100BaseT and a hub (or, if you are real cheap like me, use 10BaseT - but spend the money on the cards for 100BaseT, then later get a fast hub). Hook up a KVM switch (I just got a 6 port Aten Master View off Ebay for $50.00 - so it is possible to do this el-cheapo!) to your monitor/mouse/keyboard - so you don't have scads of KVM around - unless you wish to place things so that you can have this (sometimes it is handy to have multiple monitors and such).

    Get older motherboards for your ISA connectivity - and distribute everything else...

    Worldcom [worldcom.com] - Generation Duh!
  • Anecdotal evidence, but I must be really lucky - both of my computers with integrated sound (purchased 1996 and 2000) work under linux. I don't think integrated sound cards are such a big deal now under linux. If you're using a *really* old motherboard with an obscure chipset, I guess you may have difficulties. I didn't though.

    But your other point is right - the quality sucks. Stick with a real sound card, unless you just don't care at all. As in, you don't mind having disney sound source quality to play your MP3s.

  • Has anyone managed to fix the hopeless nightmare that has plagued my hardware in every x86 PC i've owned in the last 5 years?

    Why, why are we still stuck with IRQs, and what moron thought the solution to the problem was to 'share' them???

    My motherboard (Asus A7Pro) has 5 PCI slots, and an AGP slot, but is only capable of using 3 IRQs, since slots 4 & 5 share an IRQ, slots 2 & 3 share an IRQ and slot 1 and the AGP slot share an IRQ.

    the 2 USB controllers on board share an IRQ. They just plain don't work, probably because of the shitty VIA chipset and the fact they share an IRQ.

    Its insane. It would be nice if 'IRQ sharing' actually worked, but i get all sorts of problems - USB not working, sound glitches, video glitches, DVD playback card crashing, all because the BIOS, OS and hardware are simply incapable of allocating resources correctly.

    And i'm not the only one.

    Why put 5 or more slots on a motherboard if its actually not possible to put a card in each one and have the computer work?

  • Yeah, this is great when it actually works.

    If, for whatever reason, it doesn't, what are you supposed to do?

  • Yup, i agree with you, and i found out the hard way.

    Unfortunately, after vowing to 'Never buy Intel again' and buying AMD, if i vow 'Never to buy VIA chipsets again' I might not be buying much x86 hardware for a while.
  • About 6 is the absolute maximum number of slots you can get on a PCI bus segment. There are a limited number of "loads" that a PCI bus can support, usually about 10-12 max. The connector counts as a load and the card itself is a load. To go greater than that, you have to have a PCI-PCI bridge. Unfortunately, when you have to go across a bridge, your performance goes down. Because of the way PCI works, transfers on the bus must be interruptible. If the transfer is going across a bridge, you will gain latency when the bridge has to re-negoitate the transfer.

    PCI-X has improved this, but right now, PCI-X devices (and motherboards) are pretty rare. You can't mix PCI and PCI-X on the same bus segment without the bus segment downgrading to PCI functionality.

    Also, according to the PCI spec, a card can draw up to 25W, which increases the size of your power supply.

    The best bet is to go with a motherboard with some integrated functionality- as others have said, compatability is an issue, but there are motherboard makers out there who use high quality parts (which are well supported in Free-OSes), Adaptec for SCSI, Intel for ethernet, and so forth, but you're going to have to pay more for it.
  • by 4of12 ( 97621 )

    While we're on the m'board wishlist, it sure would be nice to have some chipset support both:

    • AMD Athlon
    • 64 bit PCI
    at the same time!

    Mebbe the same people that are in charge of scheduling SMP Athlon are in charge of scheduling the 64 bit PCI slot.

    I'd hate to have to wait until '02 and the *Hammer series to get speedy connections to my peripherals on an AMD system.

  • I dont really see what the problem with integrated sound is. Comparatively few people ever actually record things using their soundcard and anyone that gives a damn about quality will surely be using a digital interconnect between their soundcard and amplifier.

    I've heard a cheap ($15) soundcard connected to a dts speaker system and as you would expect - it sounds fantastic.

    Obviously if you insist on analogue then it's a bind but moving the DAC outside of the computer case is the only way to get half decent quality.
  • Here is a link I dug up [xlr8yourmac.com]

    What I would do is get a good motherboard that has a NIC and SCSI on-board, that would save you two slots.
  • Onboard ethernet, onboard sound, onboard scsi, onboard firewire. You should be able to get a mb with at least 3 of these. Get yourself a USB serial port thing from Belkin, you can add something like 7 serial ports or parallel ports or other things.

    Pricey, but its' an idea.

  • The current trend is to cram as many add-ons into the MB to begin with. This might do you as it frees every slot.

    I have exactly the opposite preference. I want a bare-bones MB to add my own cards to--like a good BX. Designers have been trying to usurp the BX's throne by throwing in everything, but fail to realize what most people want is a simple board, an add on sound card, add on video card, add on drive controller, etc.

    Oh, yeah. A dual Athlon wouldn't hurt the world. Oh well.
  • Tyan has some good boards with plenty of slots. I have a dual PIII board from them with 1 AGP 6 PCI 1 ISA onboard dual channel Adaptec Ultra2 SCSI, onboard Intel 10/100, and onboard sound (I have it disabled) Killer.

    They also have boards for Athlon: http://www.tyan.com/products/html/athlon.html
  • i liked the post about multiple systems, this IS the cheapest way to go, additional PCI slots cost a lot of money and have latency because of the cable length and the fact that you are basically routing multiple PCI slots through a single slot.

    use a high end system for your "main" box, with your tbird and vid card and sound. thats one slot & an agp. then strap in 2 100Mbps NICs.
    with the serial card, its 4 PCI, 1 AGP.

    then put your SCSI devices in a second computer, el-cheap video, no sound, much hard drive space, and two 100Mbps NICs.

    guess what.....you dont even need to invest in a hub, just plug 2 crossover cables between the two machines. you have 200Mbits one way, or 400Mbits two ways in full duplex, thats some speed. and just think, if you run linux on the second box, you dont need a KVM switch at all. just telnet in or use an X server for the OS on your main machine or XCBM to the linux box. X-Win32 seems to be a good one for windows. tell you what, KDE looks/work great XCBM'ed accross a 100mbps LAN, then you can run windows and linux apps side-by-side :).

    you can use samba to make network shares and map them to a drive letter in windows. use some hardware or software raid in the linux box for some speed........

    i have done a similar setup at my home a few times, it works great. that and you can stick the computer with the SCSI drives somewhere else if they are loud and you dont have to put up with the sound! you can also install a few extra cooling fans for those hot drives without the noise as well.

    ok, it was more like 4 cents :)
  • There are two things you can do:

    Get a server motherboard/system. Try SuperMicro [supermicro.com] - I have an old dual-PPro motherboard of theirs, which has 8 PCI slots plus 2 ISA slots. This is accomplished by using an i960 I/O processor, which has an integrated PCI bridge. Of course, this has to be in a server case, because the motherboard is about 6 inches wider than standard AT size. (call me - I'll make you a deal on it :) Their new motherboards also have a bunch of slots (most are 6 PCI+1AGP, but no ISA).

    Get a motherboard like the Acer AK73-1394(A) [aopenusa.com]. It has 5 PCI slots, 1 AGP slot, and integrated FireWire. Get a Matrox Marvel G450 eTV [matrox.com] or the ATI All-In-Wonder Radeon [ati.com], both of which have a TV tuner on the card. Use a USB to multiport serial adapter [ionetworks.com] for the serial ports. Get a PCI DIO card from ComputerBoards [computerboards.com] or equivalent.

    Basically, the two choices boil down to either spending large amounts of money on a server motherboard and case, or getting boards with combined functions that may not be the perfect thing, but are (hopefully) less expensive.

    Have fun.

  • The debunk:

    SCSI is more efficient than ATA100, can seek faster, has better transfer, and supports more devices. And 160 is faster than 100.

    Price-wise, ATA wins, but if you're looking for something where you need real performance, you need SCSI.

    So you're a karma whore, eh? For the right price, I'll be a karma pimp...

  • There are machines with multiple PCI busses though, but they are expensive (e.g. Compaq), and often only available in "solutions", not as a retail mainboard
  • Many manufacturers now (and have for quite some time) make motherboards with half these devices on-board.
    You can quite easily find boards with built-in Ultra160 SCSI, 10/100Base-T Ethernet, USB, FireWire and Sound, leaving the slots free for more esoteric devices.
    My MSI [msi.com.tw] motherboard has onboard FireWire, ATA100 RAID and Audio.
    They also make them with SCSI and a NIC.
    I went for ATA100 RAID as it's just about as fast, and soooo much cheaper than SCSI and put the money i saved into getting a second CPU.
    -- kai

    Verbing Weirds Language.
  • >Just add up: sound, SCSI, NIC, TV, FireWire, serial card for extra serial ports (Linux and VT100 - it rocks ;-). And I have this old ISA card I built a while ago with 8 relays

    I don't see what your problem is. Either you're looking in the wrong places, or my motherboard is more obsolete than I thought. I have a VIA Apollo Pro-based motherboard with a Slot 1 slot which has 1 AGP, 4 PCI, 1 PCI/ISA, and 1 ISA slot.

    So, if you got an AGP video card, and PCI sound, SCSI, NIC, TV, and Firewire cards, you'd still have an ISA slot for your custom relay board, and you could use USB-to-serial converters to get those extra serial ports. You could also get a board with an onboard NIC to free up a PCI slot (seriously, 10/100 should be good for years; when are you really going to need gigabit?). Unless things have changed, there should still be some boards out there with ISA slots. This board also has 2 9-pin serial ports, which should be enough for 2 VT100's if you use a USB mouse like me.
  • Not really any solution that could be actually useful in this case would be cheap.

    Of course, I guess it really just depends on how much you're willing to spend.
  • I don't know how well it works with linux, but I do know there is a device for sound that plugs into USB, its supposted to sound really good, since it isn't inside the case and its all digital to the device.
  • ...look at all those slots :)

    http://www.supermicro.com/PRODUCT/MotherBoards/440 GX/P6DGH.htm [supermicro.com]

    For those lazy ones who dont want to count, here it is:
    Dual PII/PIII
    9 PCI Slots
    1 AGP
    2 ISA
    Onboard Dual-Channel Adaptec U2W SCSI.
    Plus all the usual refinements...

    ...or you could go for the gusto and get one of these bad boys [supermicro.com] :) (WARNING: 1600*1200 JPG)
    nuclear presidential echelon assassination encryption virulent strain
  • Acutally under Win2k all PCI devices share 1 IRQ by default
    in my machine this means my video, sound nic, scsi card, and tv-tuner all use IRQ 11, eventhough i still have 4 open IRQs
  • As other people mention, you can get PCI-PCI bridges (either a motherboard with more slots, or an external expansion cage), but they have problems as other people mention.

    Also, you will run out of IRQs. Sure IRQ sharing is nice, but high performance cards like firewire and really good videos cards don't like to share.

    If you really are serious about the toys (meaning, you want them to work well), then you should look into two machines, and getting peripherals onboard. For instance, buy Ultra2 scsi and intel ethernet motherboards, and dedicate one machine to general useage, and the other to video and sound. Since video editing can be done on anymachine (not just machines with capture), if you can't afford a great editing machine, then just make the video machine a k6-2, and only capture on it, then edit on the athlon.
  • A nicer board with on board SCSI is pretty likely to have on board ethernet. I might keep the sound off the motherboard. It usually sounds a little cleaner and is more responsive in a seperate card. But it all about what one wants to do. I'd look for an all in one card, the new ATI Radeon
    I would think you might have to choose between firewire and scsi on-board, but I don't have a magazine at arms reach to check. But I'm more than a little surprised that one would be locked into scsi at this point. It's nice, and maybe for a server important, but I can't imagine its critical.
    USB is definately the way to go with the serial ports though. Something like $50 US for 1 serial 1 parallel, and 2 more USB. You might also want to look at whether you really need those devices. USB peripherals are pretty sweet. USB hubs make nice almost port replicators too. And if try to get a motherboard that supports USB 2.
  • I had a similar problem and I bought the Intel D815EEAL desktop board. It's got 5 PCI slots 1 4X AGP slot, onboard LAN, sound, and video. I got an OrangeMicro board that has both firewire and U2W SCSI on it to save a slot. I'm using the Belkin USB for data collection.
    I'm running RedHat 7.1 (2.4.2) and I was able to get everything working well very easily.
  • I don't know for sure, but I think they use PCI-PCI bridge chips, to give you a whole second PCI bus slaved to the one on the motherboard. I've actually been tempted a couple of times to try to build a riser card with a bridge on it. There's enough room between the tops of the cards and the side of my case that I could put 2 or 3 slots there, and there's a couple of knock-outs nearby that cables could be routed through. For now, though, I still have one slot empty.

    As long as the cables aren't too long, I don't think you would have too much trouble with capacitive loading, which is what causes timing issues. I forget exactly how you do it, but it's also possible to compensate for excess capacitance.

  • I would advise against using systemboards (motherboards with sound, video etc. built in)for two reasons. The video and sound tend to be cruddy, and often aren't supported in Linux.

The trouble with money is it costs too much!