In our last Early Athlon Motherboard Review I discussed the lack of marketing drive given by the majority of the motherboard manufacturers who have developed Athlon supported boards. We can now add another courageous company to the "I proudly support AMD's Athlon!" list, BCM. I'm happy to see that BCM, BIOSTAR and FIC are proudly wagging their tails instead of burying them between their legs. Although most of these boards share a very similar set of features, it is nice to see that more manufacturers are slowly joining the Athlon cause. Since AMD is finally playing hardball with the almighty Intel, staying ahead of them in the processor frequency game with the newly released 750 MHz Athlon. I believe we will start seeing Athlon's motherboard support grow. Competition is definitely good!
About The BCM QS750
Ever since we posted the last Athlon motherboard review we have been receiving a lot of requests to review the BCM QS750 as well. I was amazed by how many people out there are searching far and wide for more Athlon supported platforms. The QS750 board actually arrived at our lab just days after we posted the last review. So why did it take so long? Well, unfortunately I could not get the QS750 to run stable in my configuration until just recently. During my initial time with the board I came up with my own list of names for the product. Needless to say none of them remotely looked like "QS750" :). The problem I encountered with the board was intermittent lockups once entering Windows 98SE and sometimes even during post. I went through the standard set of troubleshooting including; different power supplies, memory DIMMs, CPUs, peripherals, etc... It turned out that the board would run like a top as long as I kept the frequency at/or below 650 MHz. I talked with BCM about my problems and they confirmed that had some BIOS issues and were working on the problem. Just a couple days after my conversation with BCM I received a new beta BIOS which has my QS750 board running like a champ at 700 MHz & 750 MHz. BCM is currently putting the new BIOS through their qualification/compatibility tests and will be releasing this new BIOS soon on their web.
Each of the boards offers a very similar set of features: 3 memory slots, AGP slot, 2 serial, 1 parallel, PS2 mouse & keyboard, and two USB ports. Only two of the other boards offer any kind of built in overclockability. I will focus on the BCM QS750 board's features in this review. Please refer to our Early Athlon Motherboard Review to get the low-down on the other motherboards.
The QS750 has one unique attribute in its feature list. It is the only board that we have tested, which includes 4 PCI slots and 3 ISA slots. So if in your list of requirements is the availability of 3 ISA slots, look no further, because the BCM board is the only Athlon board that has them. You do however give up a precious PCI slot due to this.
The BCM platform does offer an option in the BIOS to up the FSB to 133 MHz. However, they should completely remove this option in the BIOS. I tried it out, but changing the option from 100/33 to 133/33 had no effect on performance. The MSI 6167 platform used to also have the same option in their BIOS. MSI has recently removed this option. So if you are looking for an Athlon based overclockable board you will have to look elsewhere.
Motherboard Comparison Chart
|Feature||BCM QS750||ASUS K7M v104||ASUS K7M v102||BIOSTAR M7MKA||FIC SD11||Gigabyte GA-7IX||MSI MS-6167|
|# ISA slots||3||1||1||2||1||2||2|
|# PCI slots||4||5||5||5||5||5||5|
|# Memory slots||3||3||3||3||3||3||3|
|Bus Speed BIOS configurable||NO||YES||YES||NO||NO||NO||NO|
|BIOS & Driver support from MFG.||YES||FTP only||NO||YES||YES||YES||YES|