Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/339



With SoftMenu II and its ability to adjust CPU core voltage in the BIOS, the ABIT BH6, BX6, and BX6 Revision 2 are among the most popular motherboards for overclockers. The extra ounce of stability gained by increasing the voltage was often the difference between a successful overclock and an unsuccessful one. Up until recently, ABIT remained the only manufacturer to offer this feature, but now AOpen has brought forth the AX6BC Pro, IWill has the BD100Plus, Microstar the MS-6163, and others just on the horizon.

What happens when the seventh largest motherboard manufacturer in the world, Soyo, takes their SY-6BA, one of the first motherboards with 5 PCI slots, and puts it through two major revisions? The SY-6BA was already a pretty good board, so Soyo was not just fixing problems when they were making those revisions. Nevertheless, they were making some major improvements. So what did they spend all their time on? Well, Soyo has thrown in just about every feature that the AnandTech staff is always harping on other boards for not including. From bus speeds to voltages, it's all there with the SY-6BA+III.


New Anand Tech Report Card Rating
88/B+
Do not compare newer ratings to older ones, the newer ratings are much more aggressive

Motherboard Specifications

CPU Interface Slot-1
Chipset Intel i440BX
L2 Cache N/A (on-chip)
Form Factor ATX
Bus Speeds

66 / 75 / 81 / 83 / 90 / 95
100 / 105 / 110 / 112 / 113 / 115
117 / 118 / 120 / 122 / 124 / 126
133 / 135 / 137 / 138 / 140 / 142
144 / 150 / 155MHz

Clock Multipliers 2x - 9x
Voltages Supported Auto Detect
(may be increased by
2.5%, 5%, 7.5%, and 10%)
Memory Slots 4 168pin DIMM Slots
Expansion Slots

1 AGP Slot
0 AMR Slots

5 PCI Slots (5 Full Length)
2 ISA Slot (1 Shared / 2 Full Length)

BIOS Award 4.51PG

The Good

At a glance, it's impossible to tell the SY-6BA+III apart from the earlier members of the SY-6BA. The components and layout are virtually identical, but there are some difference when you look closely. The 5/2/1 (PCI/ISA/AGP) slot configuration remains. Along with a full 4 DIMM slots, expansion options are plentiful.

The ATX specification is also closely followed for the most part, with all major components strategically placed to minimize cable clutter and provide the most room to work around the board. All HDD/FDD connectors are located where they should be, right at the front of the board, so that no cables are forced to run over the CPU and/or memory. The ATX power connector is placed right behind the CPU, which can require some complicated cable routing that may impede air flow. The board uses a standard ATX format, but is fairly short - just a bit longer than an ISA slot - and should fit just fine in any ATX case.

Three fan connectors are available - two right next to the CPU slot, and one at the left front of the board. Ten 1000uF capacitors are located immediately around the CPU slot with several other capacitors sparsely placed all over the board. The virtually standard green heatsink is mounted via spring clips and is adorned with the Soyo logo. A built in fold down CPU retention mechanism comes preinstalled on the board and will hold any Celeron, Pentium II, or Pentium III CPU.



The real draw of the SY-6BA+III is found in a section of the BIOS termed "Soyo Combo Setup," where most important settings are found. Control over FSB, CPU ratio, AGP ratio, core voltage, and hardware monitoring all found in this section. FSB settings of 66 / 75 / 81 / 83 / 90 / 95 / 100 / 105 / 110 / 112 / 113 / 115 / 117 / 118 / 120 / 122 / 124 / 126 / 133 / 135 / 137 / 138 / 140 / 142 / 144 / 150 / 155MHz are all available. That's more than any other board that has made its way into the AnandTech labs and offers incredible flexibility when overclocking a CPU as far as it can go.

Through the use of a 1/4 PCI multiplier when appropriate, the PCI bus speed is automatically kept between 31 and 41 MHz, regardless of the FSB used. Unfortunately, Intel's i440BX is only capable of 2/3 and 1/1 AGP ratios, so the AGP bus may well run out of spec at some of those higher speeds, but the speed is reported in the BIOS, so you'll know exactly how high it is. Another nice touch is the fact that the BIOS will report that a CPU is locked at a particular multiplier upon boot if something else is chosen.

For users of older, unlocked CPU's with PCI video cards, these extraordinarily high bus speeds may be somewhat advantageous. For everyone else, the sheer variety of bus speeds pretty much guarantees that you'll be able to squeeze every last ounce out of your CPU when overclocking. Maybe your Celeron 300A won't quite make it to 4.5 x 100 = 450MHz, just drop down to 4.5 x 95 = 428 MHz. To help with every last bit of overclocking, core voltage can be increased by 2.5%, 5%, 7.5%, and 10%. For a CPU that runs at 2.0V by default, such as all 0.25 micron Intel CPU's, this yields core voltage options of 2.05V, 2.10V, 2.15V, and 2.20V. The rest of the BIOS is the fairly typical Award fare. A specific IRQ can be assigned to a specific PCI slot, SDRAM timing adjusted, etc.

Through all this Soyo's stability remained merely average in nonoverclocked situations. Thanks to voltage tweaking, overclocked stability was somewhat above average, however. That matches it up squarely with the ABIT i440BX boards - perfect for the overclocking gamer, but not quite good enough for a mission critical application. Performance was also about average, within 5% of just about every other i440BX board out there.

The Winbond 83781D hardware monitoring chip has been replaced by the more powerful 83782D chip. This chip adds the ability to read the CPU temperature straight from any 0.25 micron Intel CPU's on die thermal diode for the most accurate temperature readings possible. The chip can also monitor up to two more temperatures, system voltages, and three fan speeds. The reason for "up to two more temperatures" is that the Winbond hardware monitoring chips monitor its own chip temperature and one more through an external thermistor. Unfortunately, Soyo has not included any headers for hooking up such a thermistor, so the SY-6BA+III is really limited to just the CPU and ambient temperatures.

Power management consists of pretty much the standard stuff these days. Wake on LAN and wake on modem ring headers are available to allow the system to power on in the presence of network activity or incoming call. The BIOS can be set to turn on the system at a specific time. The CPU fan can be shut off when the system suspends to quiet things down a bit. ACPI support is built into the BIOS for added power management under an ACPI compliant OS like Windows 98 or Windows 2000. The system can be configured to power on via hot key or mouse click as well.

Although lacking details on installing a motherboard, the manual is otherwise pretty good for the experienced user and includes detailed information on all connector pin outs as well as the various BIOS settings. Bundled with the SY-6BA+III (and all newer Soyo boards for that matter) is the "Soyo 3-in-1 Bonus Pack," which includes full versions of Norton AntiVirus, Norton Ghost, and Norton Virtual Drive. Ghost is useful for backing up, imaging, or cloning a hard drive. Virtual Drive is designed to make an image of a CD on your hard drive for ultra fast access without the CD. The included AntiVirus and Virtual Drive are both Win9x only utilities. Soyo's own CD is a generic one for all their boards, and as such includes a variety of drivers for Windows 9x, NT, and even Unix. Hardware monitoring software is provided in the form of Intel LANdesk Client Manager (LDCM).



The Bad

As mentioned earlier, the manual is a bit weak in the installation section. Anyone that has never installed a motherboard before will not feel comfortable with the complete lack of information given in the Soyo manual on this topic.

The location of the power connector is less than ideal. As it is, the ATX power cable has to snake around the CPU to reach its destination, impeding airflow greatly and generally cluttering the inside of a system.

Soyo was wise enough to include the ability to configure what the system will do when AC power is restored after a power outage - either remain off, turn on, or resume last power state. This is a feature often overlooked since ATX and soft power became available, but is critical for anyone using their system where it must be on 24/7 or as close as possible. Unfortunately, while the option is present in the BIOS, it is non function. To Soyo's credit, an addendum was included with the manual that pointed out this issue.

USB Compatibility

  • Number of Front Universal Serial Bus Root Ports: 0

  • Number of Rear Universal Serial Bus Root Ports: 2

  • USB IRQ Enable/Disable in BIOS: Yes

  • USB Keyboard Support in BIOS: Yes


Recommended SDRAM

Recommended SDRAM: Mushkin SEC -GH PC100 SDRAM; Memory Man SEC -GH PC100 SDRAM
SDRAM Tested: 1 x 64MB PC100 SDRAM

Manufacturer: The Memory Man
Purchase Web-Site: http://www.memory-man.com

Manufacturer: Mushkin
Purchase Website: http://www.mushkin.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.

AnandTech Motherboard Testing Methodology

Test Configuration

Processor(s): Intel Pentium II 400 OEM
RAM: 1 - 64MB Memory Man SEC PC100 SDRAM DIMM
Hard Drive(s): Western Digital Caviar AC28400 - UltraATA
Video Card(s): Matrox Millennium G200 (8MB SGRAM - AGP)
Bus Master Drivers: Microsoft Win98 DMA Drivers
Video Drivers: Matrox Millennium G200 Release 1677-411
Operation System(s): Windows 98 SE
Motherboard Revision: Soyo SY-6BA+III Revision 1.0

 

Windows 98 Performance

Business Winstone 99 Quake 2 demo1.dm2
Intel Pentium II 400 (4 x 100MHz) 19.4

18.3

Intel Pentium II 454 (4 x 113MHz) 21.4

20.7


 

The Final Decision

At around $105 (just $10 more than the older SY-6BA+), the Soyo SY-6BA+III goes head to head with the ABIT BH6 on all fronts. It matches it in voltage tweaking, stability, quality, and performance, and beats it out in FSB options and with one extra DIMM slot. The FSB flexibility in combination with voltage tweaking, allows the SY-6BA+III to surpass the ABIT BH6/BX6 Revision 2 as one of the best boards for hardcore overclockers.

How it Rates


AnandTech Motherboard Rating

  Business
Performance 85%
Price 87%
Ease of Use 94%
Overclocked Stability 91%
General Stability 87%
Quality 85%
Documentation 85%
Reliability 85%
Overall Rating 88%

Click Here to learn about AnandTech's Motherboard Testing Methodology

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