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For comparison with my BX6-II, the VA6 was test with components such as PC100 DIMMS and ATA/33 HDDs.
- Intel Celeron 300A SL36A
- 2 X LGS PC100 SDRAM
- IBM Deskstar 10 10.1Gb HDD (ATA/33)
- IBM Deskstar 8 8.4 Gb HDD (ATA/33)
- Asus 40X CDROM Drive (ATA/33)
- Sony 6X DVDROM Drive (ATA/33)
- Creative 3D Blaster GeForce SDR (3.53 reference nVidia drivers)
- Sound Blaster Live!
- Efficient Networks ENI-25P ATM card
- D-Link 940TX 10/100Mbps Ethernet card
- Generic USB Hub
- Epson Stylus Photo 750 USB
Now do you think installing a motherboard can EVER be a painless thing? No. Big NO NO! It is always painful and the hassle alone can ruin your entire weekend.
I took apart my system for the second time in the week, displaced all the necessary stuffs and reloaded it with the VA6. Up to this point, not too bad. The smaller board fitted snugly and it actually took me less time to put it in than taking out the larger BX6-2.
My first round of test was with a Celeron 300A CPU and PC100 DIMMS. Therefore, next to go in were my DIMMs, CPU, GeForce, ATM card and Ethernet card taking up their usual positions. With all the cables properly attached, I crossed my fingers and booted the system. Not a hitch!
The BIOS and Overclocking!
Why SoftMenu II and Not III?!?!
Straightaway, I hit the DEL key and was in the BIOS setup. To my disappointment, splashed on the screen was SoftMenu II and not SoftMenu III (already found on the BF6 and BE6-II). Damn, had to pass the delight of Mhz-by-Mhz overclocking. Bummer.
Forget the Mhz-by-Mhz thrill, I went to check the steppings I could take the Celeron 300A knowing that Abit will still have a decent bunch of useful FSBs I could use. I saw these: 66 (1/2), 75 (1/2), 83 (1/2), 100 (1/3), 103 (1/3), 105 (1/3), 110 (1/3), 112 (1/3), 115 (1/3), 120 (1/3), 124 (1/3), 133 (1/4), 140 (1/4) and 150 (1/4).
And as for multipliers, you will find: 2.0, 2.5, 3.0, 3.5, 4.0, 4.5, 5.0, 5.5, 6.0, 6.5, 7.0, 7.5 and 8.0. So we have 14 FSB settings and 13 multipliers to play with.
Well still, I was a little disappointed at what I saw. The SL36A was a chip I tested through and through, and I was sure I could achieve a 527Mhz, 4.5 x 117Mhz (using a 1/4 divider, 1/3 results in data corruption in my IBM harddisks), but the options jumped from 112 Mhz (1/3) to 115 Mhz (1/3) to 120 Mhz (1/3)…
I was aware of the risks of corrupting the data on my HDD, but I took the chance and ran 115 (1/3) for a 38.3Mhz and 76.6Mhz PCI and AGP bus speeds respectively. Hopefully, I won't encounter any premature harddisk failure and the higher bus speeds will compensate for the 10Mhz drop in processor speed in the tests to follow.
Interestingly, there were many other new options that I had not been aware of on my older Abit. Under Chipset Features Setup, you can change the DRAM timings of the individual memory bank, with values like SDRAM 10ns, 8ns, Normal, Medium, Fast and Turbo. Turbo sounded good to me, so I used it! =)
Options such as Enabling and Disable AGP2X and OnChip Sound were some of the newer things I came across. CPU to PCI Write Buffer? What's that?! No AGP4X you say?!
Features such as support for 1/2 AGP multiplier and the ability to run the memory asynchronously with the FSB (either run at FSB speed, or at a fixed 66Mhz) are unique to the Apollo Pro 133 chipset.
The 1/2 AGP multiplier is a crucial determinant for overclocking success when we try to use FSB speeds of 133Mhz and above. The BX allows for only 1/1 and 2/3 multipliers, and it gives us a very high 89Mhz AGP buss speed even when using 2/3. This puts tremendous stress on the component and therefore, it is usually a rarity that to achieve a stable system at such high FSB speeds. But now, with the Apollo Pro 133 and the advent of PC133 SDRAM, we should hear of more success stories.
For the 300A SL36A, locked at a 4.5 multiplier, 115Mhz was about the best I can get with PC100 RAM. Windows booted and reconfigured itself for the new platform.
Immediately upon hitting the desktop, I installed the drivers for the onboard PCI audio and the VIA 4.13 Service pack with its own AGP driver and UDMA tools.