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Review of Socket 7 PCI Motherboards

Review of Socket 7 PCI Motherboards
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It took longer than I thought, but finally the new socket 7 guide has been completed. After long nights of testing it's good to know that all candidates passed the 'basic' benchmarks successfully and fulfil decent quality expectations. Not one board ran instable at 66 MHz clock; the only great hurdle to take is a bus clock beyond 66 MHz, and in spite of Intel's restrictive specs, most manufacturers have more or less tried to integrate the new settings. If you take into account that the hardware itself has not to be changed, the performance gains at 75 or even 83 MHz bus speed are tremendous. Particularly the L2 Cache benefits a lot when clocking it this high. Two boards came with the VIA Apollo VP2 chipset and 1 MB Cache. Take a look at the charts at the end of this page to compare performance. I think it's important to mention that all manuals were so far complete and usually good to understand. Multi language manuals would be desirable, since motherboard shipments are lacking this feature. Very important to know is the fact that the 430TX chipset can only use 26 bit tag RAM for the administration of the level 2 cache, 18 bit are chipset internal, externally there's an 8 bit tag RAM. This limits the cacheable area to 64 MB. If you anyway use more memory, you will lose about 5% overall performance! Microsoft contributes to this by having their operating systems access the highest available memory address first. This means practically that more memory merely makes sense unless you have memory intensive applications benefiting from it. For example if you have 128 MB RAM and if you then only use Word, you will be always working outside the cacheable area. It has the same impact on your performance as if you took some other TX chipset board with e.g. 32 MB and disabled the L2 cache! Please try to avoid breaking the 64 MB barrier, else choose a HX chipset board or one with VIA Apollo chipset.

Since 430TX chipset motherboards work with 3.3 Volts on the ISA bus instead of the classic 5 Volts, some voltage critical cards (e.g. AVM Fritz! ISDN card) may be malfunctioning. Often these troubles can be avoided by ensuring you get a new revision; I'm sorry I have no list of affected hardware. Nevertheless, if you already had some nights fighting with your computer, think about this. Please don't run immediately your messenger to mail us your problems, we can't possibly deal with more than a few. Be sure your troubles are not based on configuration mistakes (check IRQs, DMAs, I/O ports, Windows 95 config and conflicts first), then please contact the manufacturer of the affected part and ask for possible reasons. It would be very helpful if you informed us in case ISA voltage is the problem.

All new BIOS revisions support the LS-120 drive; most the IDE ZIP drive as well. Since the C6 is about to be available now, a wave of BIOS updates will be ready to download pretty soon. Due to its aggressive low price, this CPU can be interesting for upgraders who have been using a CPU around 100 MHz. So if you want to have more performance without paying too much and you if you can live without a fast FPU, take the C6 into consideration.

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