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COMDEX/Fall '99 - Motherboard Manufacturers Report Part 2

Asus

It looks like Asus if roaring into the scene with five i820 based motherboards that are not as diversified as the MSI boards but nonetheless have advantages of their own. Take a look at the chart below.

MotherboardSocket TypeMemory ConfigurationSlots availableSCSILAN
P3C2000Slot 14 DIMM1 AGP (4X PRO)/5 PCI/1 AMRNo.No.
P3C-ESlot 12 RIMM1 AGP (4X PRO)/5 PCI/1 AMRNo.No.
P3C-LSlot 12 RIMM1 AGP (4X PRO)/5 PCI/1 AMRNo.Intel 82559 LAN
P3C-SSlot 12 RIMM1 AGP (4X PRO)/5 PCI/1 AMRAdaptec Ultra160 SCSINo.
P3C-LSSlot 12 RIMM1 AGP (4X PRO)/5 PCI/1 AMRAdaptec Ultra160 SCSIIntel 82559 LAN

The table shows that the various features are geared towards having integrated peripherals versus having a variety of memory, socket and form factor differences like the MSI i820 line-up. However, you will notice that all the Asus boards have AGP Pro that is not very common among the i820 boards that I have seen thus far. If you do not recall, AGP Pro or AGP Pro50 is a specification that supports AGP 4X with up to 50 watts of power to the AGP card. Typically this power requirement is important to workstation class video cards that have huge on-board memory sizes. The visible difference is a 1 inch longer AGP-slot that offers the additional power-lines. AGP-Pro is still compatible with the well-known AGP; you can plug every normal AGP-card in it as well. In this case the additional part of the connector stays free.

Another interesting product being produced by Asus is the DR2 DIMM Riser. This little gadget allows you to run DIMMs in a RIMM only motherboard. Take a look:

The board has the Intel Memory Translator Hub (MTH) that makes PC100 SDRAM memory compatible with RIMM only motherboards. We have one of these parts in house and will bring you a report on this very soon. Although this adaptor allows the use of low cost SDRAM modules, going through this added hub degrades performance. Why is that? Let me explain this in very simple terms. When something leaves the CPU heading towards memory, it has these following factors involved:

  • You take all the penalties of the translation from the RDRAM to the SDRAM-interface, resulting in a high memory-latency
  • You inherit the lower PC100-SDRAM memory-bandwidth (800 MB/s vs. 1,600 MB/s in case of PC400 RDRAM), additionally degraded by the translation-procedure.

With the above explained it is easy to see why applications take as much as a 10-15% real world performance hit. For more information on the MTH, please refer to the Intel CC820 motherboard review . Look for more about this particular product in the very near future.

For our AMD Athlon readers, I am sure you are waiting for me to lay down the dirt on what is going on at Asus with the Athlon motherboards, but unfortunately the only answer I have received from Asus is still, "No comment." We will keep you posted.

EPoX

It seems that EPoX is keeping a tight lid on their product line, but were nice enough to give me an idea of what they have planned and the dates at which we might see a product. i820-based motherboards will be making their way into the market early next year (Jan '00) while the Athlon motherboards will be due whenever the VIA KX133 chipset is available (ain't that a great comment?). This probably is not very good news for Athlon owners but this is a better response than many of the other motherboard manufacturers.

Gigabyte

There is quite a bit going on at Gigabyte these days with the release of i820 and the outcry for Athlon support. Gigabyte seems to have everything under control by releasing a wide variety of i820 boards and sticking close to AMD to produce one of the better Athlon motherboards.

I put together this chart for you to see the various i820 solutions Gigabyte will be releasing. Take a peek:

MotherboardSocket TypeMemory ConfigurationBus SpeedsSlots AvailableMiscellaneous
GA-6CXSlot 13 RIMM (1 GB Max)100/120/133/1501 AGP/5 PCI/1 ISA/1 AMRAureal AU8810 PCI sound
GA-6CXCSlot 14 DIMM (1 GB Max)100/120/133/1501 AGP/5 PCI/1 ISA/1 AMRAureal AU8810 PCI sound
GA-6CXDWDual Slot 14 DIMM (1 GB Max)100/112/124/1331 AGP/6 PCI/1 ISAAdaptec 82559 SCSI Intel 82559 LAN
GA-6KXDW7Dual FC-PGA4 DIMM (2 GB Max)100/112/124/1331 AGP/2 64-bit PCI/4 PCI/1 ISAAdaptec 7899 SCSI Intel 82559 LAN

The release schedule for the GA-6CX and GA-6CXC board is early January '00 while the GA-6CXDW and 6KXDW7 are due in late February of '00. You will notice that one of the more interesting boards is the GA-KXDW7 with the Dual FC-PGA (will support Socket370-Coppermine parts) and 2 GB memory max. If only they had included an AGP Pro slot, this would be a killer workstation platform.