As VIA and SiS seem to be declining in the chipset arena, ULi continues an aggressive push to capture a larger share of the chipset market. This is particularly true in the AMD arena, where ULi has produced the innovative AGP/PCIe M1695/M1567 chipset, and where ULi recently introduced the M1575 South Bridge for the ATI RD480 Crossfire chipset.

ULi also produces a single - chip Socket 754/939 chipset called the M1689, which is used by Gigabyte and other board makers for entry level AMD boards. However, the M1689 looks fairly basic in today's feature wars, which is exactly why ULi is introducing the M1697 single-chip for AMD Socket 939, 754, and 940.

The M1697 is ULi's answer to "What would you do to improve nForce4?" nForce4 is the other single chip AMD chipset, and the ULi M1697 can be considered very similar to NVIDIA nForce4-SLI - with the significant addition of 7.1 High Definition (HD Azalia) audio. The advantage of a single-chip chipset is there is no need to worry about the communication speed of the North Bridge to South Bridge. ULi also communicates with the AMD processor (64 or 64x2) by means of the 16 x 16 HyperTransport bus, which delivers continuous throughput of up to 8GB/sec. This ensures that the processor/ chipset link provides sufficient speed so that it does not become a bottleneck in system performance.

Please keep in mind that this is not a board review. We are evaluating a ULi M1697 Reference board, and Reference boards are designed for qualification - not production. The Reference board will give you a very good idea of the features and capabilities of the M1697 chipset, but it is not useful to look too closely at board layout or overclocking controls, unless they are exemplary as in recent ATI Reference designs. In the case of the M1697, the Reference board is clearly designed for qualification, and feature demonstration. It is not a board that will be copied in production.

This is particularly true in the overclocking arena. While the M1697 has basic voltage adjustments and an excellent range of memory adjustments, there are no memory voltage adjustments at all on this board revision. As a result, we decided that it was not reasonable to do any overclocking tests on this Reference board, since we could not use our standard test methods to evaluate OC capabilities. This was an easy decision, since Abit and other manufacturers have assured us that we will be receiving ULi M1697-based motherboards for review in the very near future.



ULi M1697 Chipset
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  • ATWindsor - Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - link

    No Gbit LAN :( That alone makes this chipset much much worse, I won't by a Mobo in this day and age with only 100 mbit (Having a central file-server in your home-network is great, saves you nooise and money) Reply
  • Peter - Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - link

    No Gbit LAN inside the chipset? So?

    Discrete PCI Express Gbit LAN chips are widely available, and they're no larger and no more expensive than the PHY chips you need for chipset integrated Gbit LAN.

    All you lose is a single PCIE lane, nothing else - not money, not performance, not board space.
    Reply
  • bldckstark - Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - link

    My home network can't even spell gigabit. I won't have Gbit in my house for quite some time yet, so this is not an issue for me. I don't know a single person who has a full Gbit home network, or anyone who is even looking to change over. AT played this off pretty hard on ULi, but if this is the reason that the board costs so much less, then I say good for them. Dropping a new chipset from a new company into the high content/high price market is not a very good way to grow. Low price, high content, high performance is how you get to be a household name. From a marketing perspective I think this makes good sense. How many of you would buy from a new chipset maker not knowing about driver support, bios updates, or quality at the same price as the big names? I bet not many. SiS and Via couldn't hold market share even with their reasonably good reputations.

    SLI is another story tho, and I wasted all my time whining about the Gbit stuff. I'd like to hear some other opinions on the Gbit and SLI.
    Reply
  • JayHu - Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - link

    In the block diagram (this may be a little harder to change) you have a 'Supper' I/O block. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - link

    The Block Diagram was provided by ULi, but we were able to make the correction in Supper and Chenal. Reply
  • Diasper - Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - link

    Isn't it about time to change your review wording on the audio section of the review? For as long as I can rememeber you guys *always* use the same words - a simple copy/paste. Surely, you should do better and comment about the audio more because the results are different. You don't even comment on what Azalia part was used! As far as I can see the results from on-board audio keep getting better and better (why don't you comment on this) with ever lower CPU utilization (presumably with this board the higher CPU % on the 3D audio is because it is delivering 8.1 surround as opposed to the others 5.1). In fact with numbers as low as >2.5% for 2.1 audio I'm surprised it isn't competetive with hardware solutions. Can we have some figures so we can compare it to? If you provided a comparison with MSI on-board hardware solution and an Audigy 2 standalone card it'd be perfect.

    So, please change your wording - there is enough to comment on! Also, if you aren't going to change your wording please provide comparison benches so we have proper information and can compare ourselves. A proper comparison is long overdue!
    Reply
  • aflanagan - Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - link

    http://www.anandtech.com/mb/showdoc.aspx?i=2631&am...">Link to Audio Comparisons They are doing comparisons on the audio side. Since this was a reference board I am sure they did not expend the time to do a full test on it as the board suppliers might use a different audio chipset. Reply
  • Diasper - Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - link

    Thanks for changing stuff - even better that you're looking to do an audio comparison. Certainly, it'll help answer the question whether gamers still need a separate audio card. Because before it was necessary because a) the sound quality was poor and b) the cpu utilisation was very high in comparison. Now with the audio quality having improved massively such that the majority would be happy and cpu utilisation also getting alot better the question arises whether gamers really need a separate card. If you ever did a full review on it it'd be amazing - do a low res tests and then real world / high quality tests to see if there is any difference. Given that most stuff is gpu limited I'll be hedging good HD Azalia will be sufficient - of course the sitution could be very different for those with dual-core (ie easily enough spare cycles such that there might be no-point from a fps point of view of getting a separate sound card) Reply
  • aflanagan - Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - link

    Correct link to the last full board review with audio results. http://www.anandtech.com/mb/showdoc.aspx?i=2631&am...">Correct Anandtech Audio Link I was trying to compare game scores to the AMD/ULI system. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - link

    We dropped the sentence with references to onboard SB Live! While we do have older SB Live! benches with Rightmark 1.24 they can not be compared to 2.1 results since 2.1 behaves very differently. While we do have updated results with the SB Live! chip with 2.1 on an Intel board, we have also found the Intel CPU utilization percentages are different than AMD and can not be directly compared. Until we receive an AMD board with a hardware sound solution we will leave out the hardware comparison comments.

    Thanks for pointing this out.
    Reply

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