Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/125



One of the most frequently discussed aspects of the Intel BX chipset is its broadening of the overclocking horizons. When Intel released the chipset you had to expect a load of BX motherboards to be made by Supermicro, notorious for meeting release dates with a wide variety of motherboards for just about any user...in this case however, just about any user...except overclockers. Let's take a look at the un-overclockable Supermicro BX boards...this time for the Multi-processing community


Anand Tech Report Card Rating
93/A-

Motherboard Specifications

CPU Interface Slot-1
Chipset Intel 440BX
L2 Cache N/A (on-chip)
Form Factor ATX
Bus Speeds 66/100 MHz
Clock Multipliers 2.0x - 6.0x
Voltages Supported 1.3v - 3.5v (Auto-Detect)
Memory Slots 4 168pin DIMM Slots (EDO/SDRAM)
Expansion Slots 1 AGP Slot
4 PCI Slots
3 ISA Slots (1 Shared / 3 Full Length)
BIOS AMI WinBIOS
Onboard SCSI Adaptec 3940UW
w/ RAID Port (P6DBS Only)

The Good

We've heard this time and time again in the BX world, 4 PCI, 3 ISA, and 1 AGP slot, nothing more to it. If you have more than 4 PCI cards you may want to shift your attention to the MTech/Soyo BX board, if you need more than 3 ISA slots you may want to search for upgrades to some of your older peripherals as it is highly unlikely that you will see that happening. The P6DBS makes it clear that it is a no-nonsense High End Workstation/Server motherboard with the 4 DIMM slots accepting a maximum of 1GB of SDRAM, all of which is cacheable provided that you use 2 x Pentium II processors with 512KB of L2 cache a piece.

The P6DBS's layout is a bit larger than most Pentium II - BX motherboards, simply because of the inclusion of the 4th DIMM slot and the second processor slot, making multi-processing a reality. The P6DBS' second processor capability cannot be taken advantage of unless you are using an Operating System that specifically supports multiple processors, such as Windows NT, OS/2 Warp 4, Unix, or the BeOS (which has been independently verified to work on the BX chipset by AnandTech)...Windows 95 will NOT use the second processor. Under Windows NT, you must be running a multithreaded application such as Adobe Photoshop, or Lightwave in order to take advantage of the second processor where as under OSes like OS/2 Warp 4 and the BeOS normal tasks are accelerated approximately 15 - 25% by the addition of a second processor, multitasking now becomes much less of a chore. supermicro_p6dbs-sm.jpg (16372 bytes)

Unlike most motherboards, Supermicro chose to go with the AMI WinBIOS instead of the Award PnP BIOS for their CMOS Setup Utility. The AMI WinBIOS mimics the old Windows 3.11 interface and even allows you to navigate through the setup with your mouse provided it is plugged in at the time of startup. While this is a "cute" feature, the WinBIOS does not lack in power when compared to the more conventional Award BIOS. In fact, the AMI WinBIOS can be a very difficult setup to configure, especially when dealing with the Chipset Features and Memory Timings. Luckily, like most other BX motherboards, the P6DBS offers a SDRAM Auto configuration setting which communicates with your PC100 SDRAM using its on-board SPD ROM (those extra bucks spent on SDRAM w/ on-board EEPROM finally pay off) that configures your Memory for the best possible combination of stability/performance, virtually eliminating the need to learn the meanings of all of your BIOS Settings.

If you do feel like manually configuring your SDRAM is necessary, the Supermicro User's Manual also doubles as an AMI WinBIOS manual, and a very good one at that. Not only does the manual provide the best explanation this webmaster has seen of common BIOS settings, but it also recommends what settings should be enabled/disabled (unfortunately quite a few settings are left with the phrase "leave as default setting" next to them).

The stability of the P6DBS isn't something you can complain about, the motherboard is solid as a rock and it is obvious that the board was intended to be run in a do-or-die situation, the server audience the P6DBS is geared towards should gladly accept its presence as the motherboard had no problems completing any of the performance/reliability tests conducted. The on-board Adaptec 2940UW SCSI Controller makes the presence of only 4 PCI slots "ok" since you save one PCI slot by having the SCSI card on-board. The P6DBS was packaged with the latest SCSI Drivers and Win95/NT had no problems detecting/configuring the on-board SCSI Controller, it integrated just as seamlessly as if you had went out and bought an add-on SCSI controller kit.

The performance of the P6DBS is identical to that of the P6SBA and P6DBE when using a single processor, in comparison, the Supermicro board falls in-between the top two performers in the BX World currently, the ABIT BX6 and the Top Tier performing ASUS P2B. Congrats to Supermicro on another job well done, however you overclockers out there may be a little more than disappointed with one of the P6DBS's "features..."

The Bad

Don't plan on overclocking the P6DBS, if you have a Pentium II - 233, 266, 300, or 333 (66MHz bus speed Pentium II's) then the P6DBS will auto-detect the proper bus speed for your CPU and it will clock your system accordingly. You could set your system to 100 x 3.5, and the board would still over-ride your decision by clocking it at 66 x 3.5. Of course, as with other BX motherboards, the Pentium II - 350 and 400 can only be clocked at their rated speeds (350MHz & 400MHz respectively) regardless of the clock multiplier used. If you want the performance of a Pentium II - 400 on this motherboard then you're going to have to buy a Pentium II - 400 to get it.



BIOS Settings

The lack of any overclocked bus speeds, and the presence of SDRAM SPD Auto Configuration options in the AMI WinBIOS of the Supermicro motherboard make Recommended BIOS Settings obsolete for this motherboard.

 


Recommended SDRAM

Recommended SDRAM: Corsair PC100 SDRAM
SDRAM Tested: 1 x 64MB Corsair PC100 SDRAM

Manufacturer: Corsair Microsystems
Purchase Web-Site: http://www.nf-ny.com 

 


The Test

In recent times, choosing a motherboard cannot be completely determined by a Winstone score. Now, many boards come within one Winstone point of each other and therefore the need to benchmark boards against each other falls. Therefore you shouldn't base your decision entirely on the benchmarks you see here, but also on the technical features and advantages of this particular board, seeing as that will probably make the greatest difference in your overall experience.

How I Tested

  • Each benchmark was run a minimum of 2 times and a maximum of 5 times, if the motherboard failed to complete a single test within the 5 allocated test runs the OS/Software was re-installed on a freshly formatted Hard Drive and the BIOS settings were adjusted to prevent the test from failing again.  All such encounters were noted at the exact time of their occurrence.

  • Business Winstone 98 was run at each individually tested clock speed, if reliable scores were achieved with the first two test runs of the suite an average of the two was taken and recorded as the final score at that clock speed.  If the test system displayed erratic behavior while the tests were running or the results were incredibly low/high the tests were re-run up to 5 times and an average of all the test runs was taken and recorded at the final score at that clock speed

  • After each motherboard was tested a complete format of the test hard drive was initiated and the OS/benchmarking software was re-installed afterwards a defragment was initiated using Windows 95's Disk Defragmentation Utility

  • Tests using AGP Video cards were run under Winstone 97 and Winstone 98

  • No foreign drivers were present in the test system other than those required for the system to function to the best of its ability

  • All foreign installation files were moved to a separate partition during the test as to prevent them from effecting the test results

  • All tests were conducted at 800 x 600 x 256 colors

Test Configuration

Processor(s): Pentium II - 300 Retail
Pentium II - 333 OEM
Pentium II - 350 OEM
Pentium II - 400 OEM
RAM: 1 - 64MB Corsair PC100 SDRAM DIMM
Hard Drive(s): Western Digital Caviar AC21600H
Video Card(s): Matrox Millennium II (4MB WRAM - AGP)
Bus Master Drivers: Intel v3.01
Video Drivers: MGA Millennium 4.03.00.3410
Operation System(s): Windows 95 Service Release 2

 

Ziff Davis Winstone - Windows 95 Performance

Business Winstone 98 Business Winstone 97
Intel Pentium II - 300 (66 x 4.5) --- 65.9
Intel Pentium II Deschutes - 350 (100 x 3.5) 23.4 70.5
Intel Pentium II Deschutes - 400 (100 x 4.0) 24.9 74.3

 


The Final Decision

For a multi-processor High End Server/Workstation motherboard the P6DBS cannot be beat, Supermicro has been making dual processor motherboards for longer than some manufacturers have been in the spotlight, and they know how to make a motherboard.  Overclocking in a do-or-die server situation is usually frowned upon, making the lack of a 112MHz bus speed setting less and less evident with this motherboard.  The pricetag on the board may keep quite a few potential buyers away, but once again, you get what you pay for in this industry.

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