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21 Slot-1 Motherboards using VIA Chipsets

440BX Motherboard Review - Fall 1998

440BX Motherboard Review - Summer 1999

Review of Slot 1 Motherboards with Intel 440BX Chipset - Spring 1998

Exploration into Overclocked AGP Graphics

Showdown at 133 MHz FSB - Part 2, The Real McCoy

Issues with VIA's Apollo Pro133A

Performance Showdown at 133 MHz FSB - The best Platform for Coppermine

The Impact of the AGP-Speed

Preview of VIA's upcoming Apollo Pro+ 133 Chipset

The 150 MHz Project, Part 1

Pentium III Performance Guide

The Giga-Battle Part 2

The Giga Battle

FC-PGA Pentium III on Celeron PGA370/Slot1 Converter Cards

Rambler's Top100 Рейтинг@Mail.ru
bigmir)net TOP 100

МАТПЛАТЫ

Slot-1 VIA Motherboard Update
Краткое содержание статьи: The VIA Apollo Pro 133A motherboards from ABit and Soyo have now arrived as well. How do they perform compared to their competition?

Slot-1 VIA Motherboard Update


Редакция THG,  17 мая 2000


Introduction

This article is meant as update to the original Slot-1 motherboard review, posted in the beginning of April this year. We were reviewing 21 candidates which make use of VIA's Apollo Pro 133A chipset. I'm sorry that the ABit and Soyo motherboards arrived too late to take part in the initial round up. Both motherboards make use of VIA's 694X North Bridge, which is currently the fastest solution from the taiwanese chip maker.

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 Pentium III Performance Guide, just in case you should still not be sure which one to buy.

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.

BIOS Updates

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.

A-Trend ATC-6240V-01 -
AOpen AX64-Pro 1.02 (May 4, 2000)
Asus P3V4X -
Azza PT-6VAX2 -
Chaintech CT-6ATA4 -
DFI TA64 April 28, 2000
Eüpa VP1 1.2 (April 14, 2000)
FIC KA11 -
Gigabyte GA-6VX-4X F5 (March 17, 2000)
IWill VD133 Febrary 24, 2000
Jetway 994AN-L A05 (April 10, 2000)
Lucky Star 6VA693A -
MSI MS-6199VA 3.4 (April 17, 2000)
Q-Lity P3V-T W211 (March 17, 2000)
Rio Works PSVA -
Shuttle AV61 S02S (April 15, 2000)
Soltek SL-67KV F4 (April 25, 2000)
Tekram P6PRO-AU -
TMC TI6VG4 -
Transcend TS-AVD1 -
Tyan S1854 -

ABit VT6X4

ABit VT6X4

Board-Revision: D
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.

The great features, combined with almost perfect overclocking abilities and excellent reliability should make sure that almost everybody should be happy with this motherboard.

Soyo SY-6VCA

Soyo SY-6VCA

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.

After all, this board left quite a good impression. All I can say is keep up the good work!

Motherboard Feature Comparison Table

  Chipset AGP PCI/ISA/AMR DIMM/ECC USB/Sound Perfomance Reliability
A-Trend ATC6240-V 693A 2x 5/2/no 4/yes 2/no Mediocre Good
ABit VT6X4 694X 4x 5/2/no 3/yes 4/yes Excellent Excellent
AOpen AX64 Pro 694X 4x 4/1/yes 3/yes 2/yes Average Excellent
Asus P3V4X 694X 4x 6/1/no 4/yes 2/no Excellent Excellent
Azza PT-6VAX2 693A 2x 4/1/no 3/no 2/no Mediocre Excellent
Chaintech 6ATA4 694X 4x 5/1/yes 3/yes 2/yes Average Mediocre
DFI TA64 694X 4x 5/1/no 3/yes 4/yes Good Excellent
Eüpa VP1 693A 2x 4/2/yes 3/no 2/yes - Unkown
FIC KA11 694X 4x 5/2/no 4/yes 2/yes Good Poor
Gigabyte GA-6VX-4X 694X 4x 5/1/yes 4/yes 4/yes Good Good
IWill VD133 693A 2x 5/1/no 3/yes 2/no Mediocre Good
Jetway 994AN-L 694X 4x 4/1/no 3/no 2/no Mediocre Good
Lucky Star 6VA693A 693A 2x 4/2/yes 3/no 4/yes Mediocre Good
MSI MS-6199 693A 2x 5/2/no 3/yes 2/no Mediocre Excellent
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
Shuttle AV61 693A 2x 5/2/no 3/no 2/no Poor Excellent
Soltek SL-67KV 694X 4x 5/1/yes 3/yes 4/yes Excellent Excellent
Soyo SY-6VCA 694X 4x 5/1/yes 3/yes 4/yes Excellent Excellent
Tekram P6PRO-AU 694X 4x 5/1/yes 3/yes 2/yes Good Poor
TMC TI6VG4 694X 4x 5/1/yes 3/yes 4/yes Good Excellent
Transcend TS-AVD1 693A 2x 5/2/no 3/yes 2/no Average Excellent
Tyan S1854 694X 4x 6/1/no 3/yes 2/no Average Excellent

* This motherboard is only rated "good" as the AGP is running overclocked by default.

Performance

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.

Reliability

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.

Testconfiguration

We did not change any component in order to get results which can be compared to the former benchmark runs.

Hardware
CPU Intel Pentium IIIEB, 800 MHz
RAM 1x 128 MByte SDRAM (Micron/Crucial or Wichmann WorkX)
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
HDD/Motherboard/
AGP Driver
VIA 4in1 drivers Ver. 4.17
AGP driver 4.00
Graphics Driver NVIDIA Detonator 5.08 (Win 98) or 3.68 (Windows NT)
DirectX Version 7.0
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
640x480x16
Screen Resolution 1024x768x16, 85 Hz

SYSmark 2000 - Windows 98 SE

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

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.

Again, the differences between the first 11 candidates is not really large.

Expendable Timedemo

Expendable Timedemo

Asus kept 1st position in Expendable, but the Soyo board is very close. Here, the first 11 boards do perform within a range of 11%! That's quite a lot for 3D games.

Quake III Arena

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.

Recommendations

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.

Conclusion

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 ... ?




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