Board Revision: 1
BIOS Version: 1
The memory and motherboard specialist Transcend sent us their new Solano motherboard, which gave quite a good impression on the first look already. Six PCI slots, three DIMMs, AC97 sound with three internal line-ins, UltraATA/100 controller are quite a solid base. However, the board's design has some little weaknesses. For example the IDE connectors are placed right in front of the PCI slots. That won't be a real problem, since at least the lower two PCI slots can be used without conflicting with the IDE cables. The DIMM sockets are the second little design flaw, as the locks have to be closed in order to insert an AGP card.
Transcend uses an Award BIOS which does not differ much from the competition. It was good to see that the system speed can be adjusted in single MHz increments. The according BIOS page offers an input field which lets you select FSB speeds between 66 and 100, 100 and 133 or 133 to 166 MHz, depending on the speed grade you have set at JP4 (66/100/133/Auto). Transcend also included the option to increase the core voltage by 0.05, 0.1, 0.2, 0.3 or 0.4 V, which should be enough for successful overclocking.
The package includes a cable to make use of the second COM port, which had to be removed from the back panel in order to place the VGA connector there. I'm sorry to say that the adapter for the USB ports 3 and 4 is not included. I only found a quick installation guide inside the box, a full manual was missing as well. The quick guide lists the features and described all components and connectors. A BIOS description and installation instructions are only available in the digital manual that is on the drivers CD-ROM. That may be useful in case you want to check something, but won't help if you have questions while assembling the computer.
Both stability and performance were excellent. The ASL3 worked with all SDRAM DIMMs except the HSDRAM module. Even though there are many capacitors in the vicinity of the CPU socket, it was no problem to install each of the three CPU coolers properly. Three headers are available for additional fans. Luckily, the CNR slot is placed at the bottom of the board and is shared with the sixth PCI slot. This way Transcend did not sacrify a PCI slot just to have the CNR slot present.
In summary you will get a reliable and superbly featured Pentium III platform. Transcend decided to concentrate on good expandability and compatibility instead of adding special features, which is definitely worth more than an overkill motherboard with lots of bugs.