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

Intel SE440BX

Intel's SE440BX is an interesting motherboard. It comes with onboard sound, using the Crystal CS4611 and CS4236B.

Since I received the board without the usual manual, I first had to find out how the CPU settings are changed. After looking around for a while I was sure that this board has to have some software mechanism for changing the CPU multipliers, since there are hardly any jumpers and certainly no dip switches on the board. Instead of this there is a special jumper that is called J8A1 'BIOS CONFIG'. This jumper has to have 2-3 shorted and after starting the system you are in a special configuration mode of the BIOS setup. Now the CPU multipliers can indeed be changed via software. After saving the config you have to short 1-2 and the board will start normally. I think that this is a very secure way of using a BIOS adjustable CPU configuration.

My tests with the SE440BX showed that the board is very stable with any of the tested PC100 SDRAM, but it would give you an error message and halt the system if you should dare plugging PC66 SDRAM into it. This is another pretty sensible security check, which can avoid a lot of possible trouble when using the wrong SDRAM.

The performance of the SE440BX was average and you can certainly imagine that this board doesn't offer any chance of changing the FSB clock. Instead of this it detects the FSB clock automatically via CPU contact 'B21' and can hence still be overclocked using the 'B21 manouver' described on my website. However, no FSB frequencies besides 66 and 100 MHz are supported.

The compatibility testing was causing a lot of trouble. The IRQ for the USB cannot be physically disabled, although there's a setting in the BIOS setup that doesn't help, causing the first problem. The onboard Crystal sound chip is very inflexible regarding the IRQs it is using, so that I had to play PCI card jokey until I could finally get all the cards to work. There was also a problem with the ISA PnP network card. I couldn't find any chance of getting this card to work properly (including a connection to the network) as long as the Crystal chip was not disabled.

The SE440BX is all in all an interesting board and I would have liked recommending it if I wouldn't have had so many problems in the compatibility test. Not unlike the Siemens board it shows a lot of unique and intelligent features.

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