440BX Motherboard Review - Fall 1998

Test Setup: Benchmarks

Performing many different benchmarks would be useless since you can't show differences that do not exist. I ran the Business Winstone 98 under Windows 98 and the Highend Winstone 98 under Windows NT 4.0 (three runs each), the well known "Massive1" demo of Quake II 3.19 (five runs) and the "killer" demo of the new 3D shooter Sin (five runs as well). The charts contain the highest measured numbers of each benchmark/board.

The test systems were equipped as following:

  • CPU: Pentium II 400 MHz CPU (with activated L2 ECC!)
  • RAM: 2x 64 MB SDRAM (Toshiba or LGS)
  • HDD: IBM DGVS 09U, 10,000 rpm with an Adaptec 2940UW (AIC 7880)
  • Video: Canopus Total 3D 128V AGP, 4 MB SGRAM @100 MHz (nVIDIA drivers 1.50H) for the Winstone runs and two Hercules Stingray 2 Voodoo² cards, 12 MB each (90 MHz chip clock, 3Dfx reference drivers July 15, 1998) for the game benchmarks
  • OS: Windows 98 or Windows NT 4.0 SP3

Important: I updated every board's BIOS to the latest version available on the manufacturers website. This ensures best compatibility, best features and options and of course best performance. It is also the reason for the order of the boards appearing in the benchmark charts: Maybe some board which was one of the best in Tom's last BX board review is now only on 10th position in the benchmarks. I think this shows once more how small the differences really are.

Test Setup: Compatibility Testing

Card Compatibility Testing:

Most high end users do also have high end equipment. That's why I expected the boards to run with the following components:

  • AGP graphics card Canopus Total 3D 128V
  • Two Voodoo² boards (PCI)
  • An Adaptec 2940UW SCSI adapter (PCI)
  • 3COM 905TX 100 MBit network adapter (PCI)
  • Creative Soundblaster 32 Pnp (ISA)

Originally I also wanted to use an AVM Fritz ISDN card (ISA), but since there is no IRQ left you will have to disable some other device (e.g. one COM port or one IDE channel). The IRQs 1, 2, 6, 8 and 13 are system IRQ and usually not available. The two COM ports require IRQ 3 and 4, the parallel port wants IRQ 7, a PS/2 mouse needs IRQ 12 and the two IDE ports numbers 14 and 15. Last but not least the USB ports need IRQ 9 and unfortunately the USB controller still cannot be disabled with many boards.

You see, we have left IRQ 5, 10 and 11, that's enough for three devices. If you are lucky you may have a graphics card which runs fine without an IRQ; in this case you can use all 4 components listed above (the Voodoos don't require any IRQ), else you will have to disable one COM port, for example.

Some motherboards don't allow to manually set any IRQ; they use fix IRQs for each PCI slot instead. In motherboards with 4 PCI slots, I usually plugged in first the AGP card, than SCSI adapter, both Voodoo² boards and last the network card. Most boards with 5 PCI slots use the same IRQ with the AGP and the first PCI slot. So I plugged in the AGP video card, the two Voodoo² cards, the SCSI and than the network card. The Soundblaster card consumed one ISA slot and an IRQ.

The chance of facing such IRQ problems while installing a computer is of course all but small. But don't give up: Try re-placing the PCI cards, it's very likely that you do find a configuration which runs properly. But you can solve those problems easily by using either SCSI or IDE, but if you can avoid it: not both. Try disabling the IDE ports in the BIOS and you will earn IRQ 14 and 15 - think about it, because many good boards can fail at the IRQ hurdle.

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