FIRST LOOK: ULi M1697 for Athlon 64/x2

by Wesley Fink on 12/13/2005 12:05 AM EST
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  • Scarceas - Thursday, December 15, 2005 - link

    I presumed that ULI provided Anandtech with the sample to review... if you think about it, there are some wierd angles on that... A big deal like that isn't hammered out in a couple of days. ULI "brass" knew the sale was coming.

    It's kind of wierd, IMO, to send out stuff for reviews as you're going under.

    I suspect that nVidia will sit on any tech they acquire, and not implement it. I was sorely disappointed that they sat on the GigaPixel technology a few years back, and there was of course more from the 3dfx acquisition that they never implemented.
    Reply
  • IRQ Conflict - Wednesday, December 14, 2005 - link

    Too bad this chipset is doomed before it even gets implemented LOL!http://www.nvidia.com/object/IO_28250.html">Link Reply
  • Puddleglum - Wednesday, December 14, 2005 - link

    https://www.nvidia.com/object/IO_28250.html">https://www.nvidia.com/object/IO_28250.html Reply
  • Torched - Wednesday, December 14, 2005 - link

    Bad link on above post. You can read about Nvidia buying out ULi http://www.theinquirer.net/?article=28333">here Reply
  • IRQ Conflict - Wednesday, December 14, 2005 - link

    wierd, it was working yesterday? Oh well nVidia's following M$'s lead again. I can still smell the embers of the 3dfx acquasition. Reply
  • Peter - Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - link

    And yet again, we're seeing Anandtech experts (?) evaluate the RAM controller properties of an AMD64 chipset.

    Hello?

    The RAM controller is in the CPU, folks. Time to acknowledge that and skip that step in a chipset review.
    Reply
  • Puddleglum - Wednesday, December 14, 2005 - link

    Peter, this is what you were referencing:
    quote:

    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.
    I don't see the words "controller" or "chipset" in there, and yet you say that the article evaluates the RAM controller properties of the chipsets. What he said about the lack of memory voltage adjustments was not referencing the chipset, but the method that Anandtech uses to overclock their boards.

    How did you come to think that the article mentioned the RAM controller?
    Reply
  • Peter - Thursday, December 15, 2005 - link

    I'm referring to the following statements on page 4:

    >Memory Stress Testing: Since this is a new chipset, the best setting for tRAS was first determined.

    >This means that any setting from 6 to 11 tRAS will work well with this chipset.

    >*7T was determined by MemTest86 benchmarks to deliver the widest bandwidth with the ULi M1697 chipset.

    For anyone who's looked at the block diagram on page 2, it should be bleeding obvious that the RAM isn't the chipset's business at all.
    Reply
  • Cygni - Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - link

    Uhhhhh... havent used many A64 boards lately? ;) The ability to run low latency timings is very highly regulated by the board and chipset. You cant just drop any stick of ram in any board and get identical timings.

    The memory controller may be on the chip itself, but this doesnt eliminate the board and chipset from the equation whatsoever.
    Reply
  • Peter - Wednesday, December 14, 2005 - link

    AMD64 architecture totally eliminates the chipset from anything that is even remotely to do with the RAM bus. That's the point, and you're not getting it either. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, December 14, 2005 - link

    The AMD on-chip memory controller does NOT support Cammand Rate 2 timings with 4 dimms, and yet the DFI RDX200 motherboard is able to run four double-sided dimms at 2-2-2 at 1T Command Rate due to clever BIOS engineering. The early AMD controllers stated that 4 dimms must run at DDR400 at slower timings or drop to DDR333 for fastest timings, and yet almost every top motherboard we tested found ways to run 4 dimms at the fastest memory timings. Some of the boards could not do this with the exact same processor - Epox is an example that comes to mind.

    The point is, we well understand the architecture of the AMD processor and memory controller, but you are seriously mistaken if you think the chipset and BIOS do not affect memory timings and performance on an AMD motherboard. The impact is much less than on Intel motherboards with the memory controller in the chipset, but the chipset and BIOS DO impact memory compatibility and performance on AMD boards. We have proven that over time with many tests with the same CPU (and therefore the same memory controller).
    Reply
  • Peter - Thursday, December 15, 2005 - link

    The chipset does not have an influence on RAM. I am not mistaken. The only connection between RAM and chipset is the SMbus channel that lets the BIOS read out the SPD EEPROM from the DIMM - but the entire operational bus for the RAM traffic is connected to the CPU and nowhere else.

    The board layout of course does have an influence, and so does the amount of fine tuning done in this particular board's BIOS. Being a BIOS engineer sitting right in the middle of mainboard engineering, I sure know that. Besides, "clever BIOS engineering" cannot magically make things possible that physically aren't - so if you want tight timings, you better come up with a damn good mainboard routing job.

    Still, I see this as an attempt at deceiving from what your article said. There, you are attributing RAM operation to the chipset in several places. This is all wrong, and has been all wrong in every single AMD64 chipset review Anandtech ever made. Get over it, skip this cut&paste section unless you're doing a P4 chipset review.

    So you meant to be testing board layout limits? On a pure reference board, we might find this to be rather pointless - and if it's an available product, you still need to get the description corrected. You are NOT testing chipset capabilities when you are poking around the RAM on an AMD64.

    btw, the AMD on-chip memory controller does support 2T command rate. It is the official JEDEC PC3200 standard that does not officially support two DIMMs per channel at 200 MHz. All that AMD did in later revisions is increase the headroom above what's SUPPOSED to work. The very first Athlon64 was spot on JEDEC specifications, nothing to complain about there either. One DIMM at 200 MHz, two at 333, three at 266. Everything (!) above that is YMMV territory.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, December 19, 2005 - link

    There are numerous DFI BIOS for the DFI nF4 boards that are customized for best performance with various RAM. Board layout does matter a great deal, but if only the memory controller or board layout mattered in AMD RAM performance these BIOS revisions for the same board would have no impact at all. It appears you are certain you are a much more capable "BIOS Engineer" than Oskar Wu or many others I have talked with who definitely disagree with your conclusions. We all understand your point, which is basically correct, but that is not the end of the story or even close to the complete story.

    You are correct in your truths, and it is not likely you will be dissuaded with facts that contradict your conclusions. NO ONE at AT is trying to deceive anyone.
    Reply
  • Peter - Tuesday, December 20, 2005 - link

    I'm referring to the following statements on page 4, and I'm certain the honorable Mr. Wu would know better than writing things like:

    >Memory Stress Testing: Since this is a new chipset, the best setting for tRAS was first determined.

    >This means that any setting from 6 to 11 tRAS will work well with this chipset.

    >*7T was determined by MemTest86 benchmarks to deliver the widest bandwidth with the ULi M1697 chipset.

    (my highlighting)

    These statements all directly attribute RAM performance to the ULi chipset, which we all know is plain wrong.

    The fact that the board's layout has an influence is not what I'm disputing. Of course it does. BIOS fine tuning can only get the most out of that given hardware layout, no magic there, just patience and persistance - and then there's the great moving target of DIMM behavior that provides for a nice murky cloud of guesstimation between stability and performance - that's why BIOS updates are frequently seen. This I'm not disputing either, after all that's exactly what I'm doing (only that I'm working on DIMM-less platforms where you don't have to deal with that aspect, only the board's own layout and the differences in the actual RAM _chips_).

    But these are all distractions that you muddied the waters with. The original point of my posting, and the only complaint I have, is:

    You're failing to acknowledge - and subsequently failing to represent correctly in your articles about AMD64 mainboards and chipsets - is that the chipset isn't involved in this AT ALL.

    Get it right. Please.
    Reply
  • ocyl - Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - link

    I wished that this article had talked about the disliked DRM component of this chipset...
    Reply
  • Alphafox78 - Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - link

    Did anyone else notice that the CPU in the diagram is a K5?! hah Reply
  • Lonyo - Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - link

    It would be nice if you had overclocked, just to give a orugh idea of what the chipset was capable of.
    In case you weren't aware, there is a nice OCZ booster which increases memory voltage where such options may be unavailable, so maybe in future you could think of using this, just to give a rough idea of overclocking potential. (Assuming it works).
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - link

    Reviews of Reference Boards have been criticized by some readers in the past for testing overclocking capabilities "on a board no one can actually buy". Our position has been to test OC on Reference Boards where it is possible - to give a rough idea, as you put it, of OC capabilities.

    However, a board that does not even implement any memory voltage controls is not likely to be representative of a chipset's OC capabilities. We have been promised production boards very soon and we will defintely test OC on those. Yes, we have an OCZ RAM Booster in the lab.
    Reply
  • Creig - Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - link

    There's no doubt that the ASRock 939Dual-SATA2 has been an extremely popular board, but it could be improved upon. Apparently ASRock is considering doing just that. The ULi M1697 can be paired with the M1695 on one motherboard to create a board with two 16x PCI-E, AGP, SATA-II, HD audio and a better range of CPU/DIMM voltages.

    http://www.ocworkbench.com/ocwbcgi/ultimatebb.cgi?...">http://www.ocworkbench.com/ocwbcgi/ulti...bb.cgi?u...

    Looks like ULi/ASRock are on a roll.
    Reply
  • psychobriggsy - Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - link

    Hmm, not having Gigabit might affect, err, a few people. The vast majority will have 100mbit home networks however, and thus not having gigabit isn't an issue. In the corporate area it may be an issue, but they'd probably prefer a standard gigabit controller than a built-in one anyway, so having one run off PCIe isn't an issue.

    The chipset looks pretty good though, nice feature set. Hope it does well.
    Reply
  • 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
  • Diasper - Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - link

    Also, a suggestion to improve that section is to include RightMark Audio Analyzer benches. You don't even need to include all the pictures/benches of the results but at least include a summary of it eg scores out of 5 in the various tests and then comments afterwards.

    Areas to expand and improve in!
    Reply
  • semiconductorslave - Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - link

    Just hope it is Abit this time that comes out with a MB based on this chipset and not Asrock. Nothing like a lousy implementation of a chipset to steal its thunder. The Asrock 939 Dual SATA2 was a dog. I don't know how Anandtech got a good one, but my board would never run 1T command rate, limited Vcore and memory voltage, lousy Bios couldn't post with any lower multipliers, etc. Now im getting continuous drive errors on a perfectly good WD raptor, I didn't dare try the raid. The only plus is that I was able to run my AGP card, then upgrade to my 7800GT. Now that I have, it has no purpose. I'm so happy that my DFI SLI-DR is in the mail! Reply
  • Cygni - Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - link

    Everybody gets a crappy board from time to time. My Epox S754 SLI board died after only 2 weeks of use. SATA died first, then ethernet, then all the PCI slots, the finally the video cut out. :(

    The Abit board is seriously exciting, though. Judging by the 1695 Ref board, which was far more of a final production board than this Ref board... and judging by the fac that the 1695 is essentially the same chipset in a North/South bridge arrangement, i would say that the 1697 has even more room to grow in several areas. This combined with Abit throwing all the goodies at it... could make a seriously interesting and exciting board. 1697 even supports full AGP 8x from what i hear.

    Imagine an ABIT board with all the goodies, featuring 2 PCI-Ex 16x slots with an AGP8x slot inbetween, 1 PCI-Ex 4x, and 2 PCI... would be an amazing board.
    Reply
  • Avalon - Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - link

    ULi just keeps getting better and better. I'll be looking forward to the production boards coming out soon based on this chipset. Reply
  • kazumoda - Wednesday, December 14, 2005 - link

    that might never happen now that nvidia is buying uli Reply
  • Ozz1113 - Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - link

    nice audio for sure, gotta fix that board layout. I'll keep my eyes peeled. Reply
  • notposting - Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - link

    They have pics of the 4 boards at OCWorkbench:

    http://www.ocworkbench.com/2005/uli/m1697launch/g1...">http://www.ocworkbench.com/2005/uli/m1697launch/g1...
    Reply
  • Brian23 - Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - link

    Nice review. I'm curious though. Why do all the new motherboards have all these PCIe slots when there is nothing available to stick in them. Please write an article soon that rounds up all the cards out there that you can stick in a PCIe slot. (Of course leaving out video cards.) Reply
  • semiconductorslave - Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - link

    Peoply need to learn to think for themselves and find the answers they can first:
    But since I do not know your age, and was somewhat board I did the work for you. I went to newegg and typed PCIexpress in search box and then sorted by catagories and instantly came up with

    5 add on cards
    2 NIC cards
    9 HDD Controllers / RAID Cards
    1 Video Devices & TV Tuners
    & of course 345 Video Cards

    Searching Google I found some sound cards too, and the upcoming Ageia physics processor card has been rumored to be coming out on PCI express also.
    The real benifit will be anything that is speed limited by the PCI bus.
    Cheers, semiconductorslave
    Reply
  • mindless1 - Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - link

    Sure, we could all individually do redundant research with most people seeing a large % of cards but not all. It was a very good idea and it's rather narrow a focus to check newegg, with the point being that we're not wanting to just "see some" but rather, be able to evaluate and compare ALL of them to make best choice of what's avilable, not just what's at newegg.

    So you need to learn to think for someone other than yourself and realize that you may be failing to grasp the big picture if you feel a really simple task is a blanket answer. In other words, WE know how to search a website but YOU don't have the ability to see how the information's presentation is relevant.
    Reply
  • semiconductorslave - Wednesday, December 14, 2005 - link

    I was replying to the first comment on the post, "Why do all the new motherboards have all these PCIe slots when there is nothing available to stick in them."

    I made the assumption that since this person said there was nothing availible, that he or she did not make any effort to search. My example of Newegg and Google was narrow on purpose, showing how easy it is to find out what is availible when one starts looking. I was only trying to make a point that people instead of asking right away, could spend a little effort and maybe say something like, "I found these cards, are there any more?"

    But saying, "YOU don't have the ability to see how the information's presentation is relevant." is quite an assumption on your part about my abilities.
    Reply
  • mindless1 - Thursday, December 15, 2005 - link

    Not an assumption at all, it comes straight from what you wrote, and yes it was in the context of what you'd replied to. Reply
  • semiconductorslave - Thursday, December 15, 2005 - link

    You say, "you need to learn to think for someone other than yourself" but I didn't see you list any cards, where I at least did search and made a comment about how one should at least attempt to look for themselves before making comments like there aren't any PCI ex cards. Are you daft? You must just be trying to get my goat. I was trying to make a point but if you want to go on the attack, that isn't a productive debate anymore. I would suggest you don't take your own advice and try to think for anyone else since I don't think you can spare the mental energy.

    You can now have the final word as this is going nowhere.
    Reply
  • Ozz1113 - Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - link

    SCSI, raid drive controllers... Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - link

    Gigabit Ethernet PCIe x1 controllers. Reply
  • Missing Ghost - Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - link

    tv tuners Reply
  • ceefka - Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - link

    PCI-e Firewire 400 and 800 cards by SIIG and Belkin Reply
  • Calin - Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - link

    The new Creative xFi cards are PCIe 1x Reply
  • LoneWolf15 - Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - link

    quote:

    The new Creative xFi cards are PCIe 1x

    Sad to say, they are not, they're plain-jane PCI. People had hoped they would be, but Creative is unlikely to do PCIe until its next-gen card after the X-Fi. Even with the X-Fi and todays most advanced games that can use its features, there isn't enough data being transferred to saturate the PCI bus.
    Reply
  • mindless1 - Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - link

    ... isn't enough data to saturate from this one lone card, but seldom does a board only have one PCI slot. It's not the audio card that's the issue, it's when the audio card interferes with OTHER cards. Reply
  • oneils - Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - link

    Are you sure? The cards i've seen are all pci 2.1. Reply

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