This article is meant as update to the original
As Intel wants to replace Slot-1 with the cheaper Socket 370, all Pentium IIIs are now available both as socket and slot versions. Just the Giga-Pentium, which is hardly available now, is merely sold for Slot-1. Recently we posted an article dealing with the Pentium III Coppermine. Please take a look at
News and Changes
More and more Socket 370 motherboards are becoming available these days. Of course they will all be taken care of in a special round up, which will follow within the next weeks. Some companies have posted new BIOS versions, which usually fix certain issues of former releases. I'm afraid to say that there are no new BIOS versions for the three candidates that didn't run stable using Windows NT 4. As soon as there will be new BIOSes available, we should be able to see whether the problems are hardware-related or can be solved with a simple BIOS update.
Some companies have posted new BIOS versions since the initial review. If you should have trouble with one of those boards, please take a look at the companies' BIOS pages. Maybe the latest BIOS will fix your problem as well.
|IWill VD133||Febrary 24, 2000|
|Lucky Star 6VA693A||-|
|Rio Works PSVA||-|
BIOS-Version: March 24, 2000
Many readers missed the ABit motherboard in my initial review, as this company has become very popular thanks to their excellent overclocking features. The VT6X4 can be configured via Soft Menu II(tm), making all jumpers or DIP switches obsolete. It comes with three DIMM sockets, five PCI and two ISA slots. Thanks to the south bridge 686A and a VIA audio codec chip, the VT6X4 does also come with AC97 sound.
Three fan headers are provided to cool your system. Friends of multimedia hardware will be happy with the two additional USB ports. Yet they can only be used after the purchase of a connector cable, which has not been included by ABit. All connectors are clearly labeled, but the power supply connector is situated behind the CPU (upper right corner on the photo), which in as unpractical as the lower DIMM locks. They have to be closed before plugging in an AGP card.
These little weaknesses regarding the boards's design are the only reasons to complain. ABit's manual is very easy to read and comprehensive. Hardware and BIOS are described quite good. There's even an illustrated description of the BIOS update process.
ABit's motherboard performed quite well, scoring third place in the SYSmark runs using Windows 98 SE and Windows NT 4.0 SP6. It scored sixth place in both gaming benchmarks. Some of you may be glad to hear that this board supports up to 1.5 GBytes ECC memory.
Board Revision: ?
BIOS Version: 2AA2 (April 11, 2000)
I have to admit that I already gave up hope that any board would perform as good as the Asus P3V4X. It was good to see that there's another one which heads towards the very top. Soyo's actual VIA Apollo Pro 133A motherboard is even faster than the Asus in Windows NT. In all other benchmarks, it scores second best.
The board comes with five PCI and one ISA slot. Soyo decided to include the AMR slot as well. I'm not sure if it's ever going to be used... usually another PCI slot is much more valuable. The placement of the FDD connector is a bit unlucky, as the floppy cable will have to run directly over the graphics card. Thanks to the 'big' south bridge (VT82C686A), the board does not require an I/O chip. AC97 sound has also been integrated.
Soyo did only include two fan headers, which should still be enough for most users. Most competitors come with three, while only the Tyan board comes with four. Of course the 6VCA does also know WOL and WOM and comes with two additional USB ports. To make use of them, you will have to buy a connector cable just as with the ABit board.
According to the manual, the board supports up to 3x 512 MBytes SDRAM (a total of 1.5 GBytes). Most users do appreciate a comprehensive manual, as configuring a motherboard is something which most people normally don't do that often. Everything important is included, but detailed installation and configuration instructions would make this great product even better.
Motherboard Feature Comparison Table
|AOpen AX64 Pro||694X||4x||4/1/yes||3/yes||2/yes||Average||Excellent|
|Lucky Star 6VA693A||693A||2x||4/2/yes||3/no||4/yes||Mediocre||Good|
|Q-Lity P3V-T||693A||2x||5/2/no||3/no||2/no||Good *||Good|
|Rio Works PSVA||694X||4x||4/2/yes||3/no||2/no||Average||Poor|
* This motherboard is only rated "good" as the AGP is running overclocked by default.
Take a look at the benchmark charts to get a better impression of the boards' performance. When reading about excellent, good, average or mediocre, please take into account that the difference between the fastest and the slowest board (except Shuttle) is about 12-13% regarding the SYSmark runs and between 25 and 30% for the game benchmarks.
As power gamer, speed freak or professional user you should take a closer look at the benchmarks. If standard office applications won't show any differences, you should concentrate on your favorite features.
A board is excellent if there was not one single issue during my tests. Good boards did cause max. two minor problems which are not important, e.g. stability issues with a heavily overclocked CPU or hang ups at hardcore timing settings. Mediocre means that I faced at least three hang ups or blue screens. Poor boards did not even complete at least one benchmark run.
We did not change any component in order to get results which can be compared to the former benchmark runs.
|CPU||Intel Pentium IIIEB, 800 MHz|
|RAM||1x 128 MByte SDRAM (
PC133, 7ns, CL2
|Hard Disk||Seagate Barracuda ATA, ST320430A
20 GBytes, UltraDMA/66, 7200 U/Min.
|Graphics Card||Asus V6600 AGP, nVIDIA GeForce 256, 32 MB SDRAM|
|Drivers & Software|
|VIA 4in1 drivers Ver.
AGP driver 4.00
|Graphics Driver||NVIDIA Detonator 5.08 (Win 98) or 3.68 (Windows NT)|
|OS||Windows 98 SE 4.10.2222 A
Windows NT 4.0 SP6a
|Benchmarks & Settings|
|Quake III Arena||Retail Version
command line = +set cd_nocd 1 +set s_initsound 0
Graphics detail set to 'Normal', 640x480x16
Benchmark using 'Q3DEMO1'
|Expendable||Downloadable Demo Version
command line = -timedemo
|Screen Resolution||1024x768x16, 85 Hz|
SYSmark 2000 - Windows 98 SE
You can clearly see both new boards scoring almost as fast as the Asus P3V4X. This is unfortunate for the Soltek and Gigabyte boards, as they had to move down two places. Nevertheless, the difference between 160 and 166 SYSmark points is not really that big in real life.
SYSmark 2000 - Windows NT 4
Rock 'n' roll! During the last months, there was hardly any test which the Asus boards wouldn't have dominated. This time, at least the Windows NT benchmark is ruled by a motherboard which does not come from Asus. It's Soyo this time.
Quake III Arena
Both the Soyo and the Asus motherboards are a bit faster than the competition. ABit scores 6th place, which is of course all but bad. Again, the benchmark numbers among the first dozen boards aren't interesting for Windows applications, but could make a difference for gaming.
The recommendations which I made last time are still valid. After reading my comments and after a short look at the benchmark results, it's not surprising that I recommend both the Soyo SY-6VCA and the ABit VT6X4 as well. Soyo is able to provide excellent performance, being now the fastest VIA Slot-1 motherboard for Windows NT 4.0. Nevertheless, the Asus P3V4X is still slightly faster in Windows 98, Expendable and Quake III Arena. I didn't face any stability issues during my test runs.
ABit did excellent work as well. The VT6X4's performance is good enough to achieve upper class benchmark results. I found it interesting that this board was able to get the third place in the SYSmark runs, but just sixth place regarding the two gaming benchmarks.
I think you can imagine what I thought after finishing my tests: "Hey, that was great!" I got no problems and excellent performance. There are certainly a lot of people out there who still are a bit sceptical towards VIA platforms. Looking back into the last years, such an opinion may be well-founded. Driver issues and performance deficits have been VIAs companions for a long time, but recently VIA has improved a whole lot. Admittedly, even today there's still some trouble: Some days ago, we published a short article showing some issues between Windows 2000 and VIA KX133.
Nevertheless, VIA is heading into the right direction. The KX133 issue shows that they are doing small steps, but the improvement is noticable and problems get solved. Boards like the ABit VT6X4 and Soyo's SY-6VCA show once again that products using a VIA chipset can be absolutely problem-free - just as what Intel-based products used to be known for... some time ago ... ?