Layout and Bios

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Setting up the test system was pretty much uneventful. I do have a couple of concerns about the layout of the motherboard. First the location of several capacitors near the socket makes it a bit difficult to mount a large heat sink and fan. I run a Global Win FOP-38 and it was a bit of a challenge but I did get it on

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The next thing I noticed was the placement of the memory slots. They seem close to the AGP slot and as luck would have it, my VisionTek GeForce3 prevents the memory keeper from opening up all the way for installation or removal. This affects all three slots but can be easily overcome by installing the memory first.

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With these small items behind me I then looked at the placement of the power connector. I prefer the connector be located in the upper right corner area of the motherboard to prevent obstruction of airflow. With the use of a zip strap, the PSU wire harness is kept clear of the heat sink and fan and allows for good airflow. Now all we need is a quick look in the manual to check out the proper settings for jumpers and dipswitches and we are ready to go. After a quick glance through the manual I had a rash of questions and few answers. For example Dip sw1 has 4 switches that simply set the system bus speed to 100 or 133 according to the type processor. This isn’t a FSB adjustment for overclocking. Dip sw2 is for setting the CPU Internal Frequency ratio (Multiplier). Sw2 only list multiplier settings of 5.0 to 8.5. So at this point it looks like any real hope of overclocking will have to come from the Bios. The diagrams for the switch settings don’t really give you a clear explanation of what the Default/Auto settings are. So for the Duron setup I set sw1 to on, on, off, off (100mhz CPU/133mhz Memory) and sw2 is set to all off (hopefully Auto) and for the T-bird on, off, off, off (133mhz CPU/133mhz Memory). At this point we can fire this puppy up and head into the bios to see what we can find.

This board runs an Award BIOS, which allows the user to modify the basic system configuration. Most of the Bios is like every other you most likely have seen. For this reason I won’t labor over all the settings but I will make note of a few settings that affect the performance of the overall system. I have decided to run the default Bios that came with the motherboard for all the testing. Transcend offers an ezBios motherboard shield and upgrade utility that can update your bios via the web. With one click the utility will detect your current Bios version and then download any available updates and execute all the updating commands automatically from the Internet.

You can also update your Bios with confidence due to the fact that no matter what happens during Bios updating, the user’s system can still boot from a floppy drive allowing the update command to be run again. Man this could be a lifesaver! No more waiting for a replacement Bios or worrying about dorking your system. I tried this feature after I benchmarked everything and it worked flawlessly and I have to say DAMN that was easy!!! Note: after flashing to the newer Bios, performance dropped a bit so all posted benchmarks are from the original Bios. As with any setup I always start by loading the optimized defaults. Since I’m reviewing this system I will not disable the usual list of non-used peripherals (USB, COM1, COM2, etc…). I will also enable the onboard audio. Under the Advanced Chipset Features there are two settings to look at. The first is DDR/SDR Cas select. This option allows you to choose from three settings. These settings are SPD/Auto, 2.5(DDR)/3(SDR) or 2(DDR)/2(SDR). Since I’m running Cas 2.5 DDR memory I manually set this option. The second option is Dram Performance. You have several settings to choose from such as failsafe, slow, normal, fast, ultra, ultra2 and SPD/Auto. This reminds me of the memory timing settings on the older boards.

For our testing I have chosen SPD/Auto. I did play around with these settings and was able to gain a few points in all benchmarks. The last section to look at in the Bios is listed under Frequency Control. This is where you will find the CPU Host/SDRAM/PCI clock settings. Ah, this would be the place to go to tweak out every last bit of system performance. Yes this would be the overclocking section via the Bios. In here you will find several PRESET CPU Host/SDRAM/PCI combinations to select from. There isn’t a manual configuration for this, which was a bit of a let down, but it’s not the end of the world. The manual also mentions Linear Overclocking via the ezBios utility. With this, users can fine-tune the front side bus by increasing and reducing it by as little as 1.0mhz to find optimum performance. Unfortunately I was unable to find this in the ezBios utility. At this point I installed Win98se, DirectX 8.0a and all necessary drivers.

I have rambled on enough and it’s time to bench this baby. So let the games begin!!!

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