440BX Motherboard Review - Fall 1998


High end users don't have much of a choice: Regarding performance there is no alternative for Intel's BX chipset. ALi, SiS and VIA do offer Slot 1 chipsets, but they are only able of beating the Intel chipsets by features. The VIA Apollo Pro chipset already offers Ultra DMA/66 and besides the option of clocking the main memory asynchronously (at the AGP clock speed), as we know it from their Socket 7 chipsets. Thanks to the much faster L2 cache of the Pentium II you won't lose much performance doing this. And of course you can still use 66 MHz SDRAM in a computer with 100 MHz FSB processor.

Anyway, as a matter of fact all power users have to go for a BX board. Let me give you some information on things which may become important for you when chosing a new motherboard.

What do you really need/want? All boards offer the common stuff: two IDE channels (Ultra DMA/33), floppy controller, two serial ports (16550), one bi-directional parallel port, two USB ports and the AGP slot. But as performance differences are minimal, every feature could become decisive when chosing a motherboard. Just take a look at the following list; maybe some feature could be important for you:

  • Soundblaster link connector for PCI sound cards
  • What about higher external clock rates: 103, 112, 124 or 133 MHz
  • ACPI support
  • Special monitoring features: temperature of the whole system or the CPU, fan activity control (checking the fan's rpm) for 1, 2 or more fans, voltage monitoring
  • Wake up or power on functions: on lan, on modem ring, by keyboard, by mouse, by real time clock (RTC)
  • How many fan headers are available? Always one for the CPU fan, sometimes a second for an additional fan... three are even better.
  • Suspend-to-disk function: the memory content is saved to a hard drive before shutting down. After booting the PC, you can continue your work at exactly the same place
  • IR port
  • Is it possible to boot from every device?
  • How many ISA or PCI slots? The more the better.
  • How many memory sockets? 3 or 4.
  • Jumperless BIOS Setup: chose bus clock and multiplier within the BIOS
  • Warranty
  • Is there a mailbox, homepage, ftp site?
  • Is there a support hotline? Free?

Of course there might be some more features, but this list is meant to show you how to differentiate from the various boards available. To get detailed information, please take a look at the manufacturer's website. The amount of information would blow up a motherboard review tremendously; besides the technical data is changed permanently by most manufacturers. New revisions usually profit from new features.