Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/46



MTech has often been attributed with the role of producing high quality motherboards based on SiS chipsets.  However lately MTech seems to want to explore the realm of Intel chipset based motherboards, their MIG R539 was a disappointing yet valid example of this attempt.   How much did MTech improve their TX board design since then?  Should MTech remain in the TX market?  Let's find out...


Motherboard Specifications

Socket Style:

Socket-7

Chipset: i82430TX
Cache: N/A (On Chip)
Form Factor: AT
BUS Speeds: 55 / 60 / 66 / 75 / 83 MHz
Clock Multipliers: 2.0x / 2.5x / 3.0x / 3.5x / 4.0x
Voltages Supported: 2.1 / 2.2 / 2.3 / 2.4 / 2.5 / 2.6 / 2.7 / 2.8 / 2.9 / 3.0 / 3.1 / 3.2 / 3.3 / 3.4
RAM Slots: 2 72pin SIMM Slots (EDO) [R540 only]
2 168pin DIMM Slots (EDO/SDRAM)
3 168pin DIMM Slots (EDO/SDRAM) [R541 Only]
PCI/ISA Slots: 4 PCI Slots
4 ISA Slots (0 Shared / 1 Full Length)
BIOS: AWARD PnP BIOS
PCI EIDE Controller: Super I/O
2 EIDE Channels
1 FDD Channel
2 Serial /1 EPP

 


The Good


Figure 1. MTech R541

The design and layout of MTech's MIG R541 and 540 is fairly standard for a TX based AT motherboard. The R541 comes equipped with 3 DIMM slots for the power hungry user while the R540 offers 2 DIMM and 2 SIMM slots for those of you interested in re-using your old SIMMs and you don't want to give up the chance to use SDRAM in the future.


Figure 2. MTech R540

Both the 541 and the 540 place their memory expansion slots in the lower right hand corner of the motherboard itself making installing/upgrading your RAM a tedious task in some cramped cases. MTech provides you with a hearty 4 PCI and 4ISA slots with both TX board, however the large heatsinks on the voltage regulators (4 on the 541 and 3 on the 540) prevent full length ISA cards from populating 3 of the 4 ISA slots.  MTech included core voltage settings on the R54x ranging from 2.1v to 3.4v in 0.1v increments to make this much more of a flexible motherboard.  
The MIG 541's jumper setup is completely documented in MTech's thorough manual which also includes the classic, MTech Quick Reference Card, for on-the-fly tweaking. The R540 on the other hand uses a few sets of dip switches as an alternative to jumpers for its configuration. The R540's manual is just as thorough as that of the 541 and also covers all dip switch settings for all of the supported bus speeds, officially and unofficially (60 - 83.3MHz). Included in MTech's package are the standard set of IDE/FDD cables in addition to the Intel BMIDE drivers.

Both successors to MTech's MIG R539, the 541 & R540 corrected many problems the original 539 posed. The 75MHz bus speed setting, fully documented in both the manual of the 541 and the 540 is now rock solid with AMD's K6, Intel's Pentium MMX, or Cyrix's 6x86MX (the 3 processors used in the tests). Unfortunately that is the end of the Good section of the R541/540 review...want to know why? Keep reading...

The Bad

The good section of this review started out by talking about the layout of the motherboard and that is how the bad section will start out. The MTech R541, like its predecessor, features a highly uncommon and complicated jumper setup. The jumper blocks are difficult to set for a first time builder. It is usually good practice to equip a motherboard with at least enough jumpers for every setting to be theoretically achievable without having to buy more jumper caps. This practice doesn't seem to have been instated with the R541 since setting the board to 83.3MHz x 2.5 requires the use of one more un-supplied jumper cap. The bottom line? Have the manual ready and a few spare jumper caps handy when setting up the R541. I should mention that the R540 with its dip switch driven setup doesn't provide these problems. While MTech may have fixed the stability of the 2 boards at the 75MHz bus speed, the 83.3MHz setting on the R541/540 remaining virtually inoperable. So don't plan on doing any remotely serious overclocking with either of these two.


IRQ Usage

  • Auto-detects PnP Cards after HDD Detection

  • Allows user to Enable/Disable the Modem's use of an IRQ

 


BIOS Settings

MTech MIG R541/540 Chipset Features Setup
Item FPM EDO/SDRAM 66MHz Bus EDO/SDRAM 75/83 MHz Bus Safe
Auto Configuration: Disabled Disabled Disabled Disabled
DRAM Leadoff Timing: 11/6/4 10/6/3 10/6/3 10/6/4
DRAM Read Burst (EDO/FP): x333/x444 x222/x333 x222/x333 x333/x444
DRAM Write Burst Timing: x444 x333 x333 x444
Fast EDO Lead Off: Disabled Enabled Enabled Disabled
Refresh RAS# Assertion: 5 Clks 4 Clks 4 Clks 5 Clks
Fast RAS To CAS Delay: 3 2 3 3
Fast MA to RAS# Delay: 2 Clks 2 Clks 2 Clks 2 Clks
SDRAM (CAS Lat/RAS-to-CAS): 3/3 2/2 3/3 3/3
SDRAM Speculative Read: Disabled Enabled Disabled Disabled
System BIOS Cacheable: Disabled Disabled Disabled Disabled
Video BIOS Cacheable: Enabled Enabled Enabled Disabled
Memory Hole at 15M-16M: Disabled Disabled Disabled Disabled
PCI 2.1 Compliance: Enabled Enabled Enabled Enabled

 


Recommended SDRAM

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

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



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 97 / Business Graphics Winmark 97 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

  • Business Winstone 98 / Business Graphics Winmark 98 was run on the Pentium MMX at 233MHz, and the AMD K6 at 233MHz, the averaging rules for these tests are the same as those used for the 97 test suites. 

  • Business Winstone 98 was run on the Pentium II at 300MHz alone.

  • 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

  • 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): AMD K6/233 ANR & Intel Pentium MMX 233 & Cyrix 6x86MX-PR2/200
Board Revision: R541 & R540-F
RAM: 2 x 32MB Advanced Megatrends SDRAM DIMMs
1 x 64MB Corsair Microsystems SDRAM DIMMs
2 x 32MB SmarTech SDRAM DIMMs
Hard Drive(s): Western Digital Caviar AC21600H
Video Card: Matrox Millennium (2MB WRAM)
Busmaster EIDE Drivers: Intel 3.01
Video Card Drivers: MGA Millennium 4.03.00.3410
OS: Windows 95 Service Release 2

 

 

Windows 95 Performance of the MTech R541
CPU Business Winstone 97 Business Graphics Winmark 97
AMD K6/208 Failed Failed
AMD K6/225 55.7 114
AMD K6/233 55.6 92.5
Cyrix 6x86MX-PR2/200 (150/75) 51.4 84.9
Cyrix 6x86MX-PR2/200 (166/66) 52.0 85.6
Cyrix 6x86MX-PR2/200 (166/83) Failed Failed
Intel Pentium MMX 208 Failed Failed
Intel Pentium MMX 225 52.7 89.4
Intel Pentium MMX 233 52.2 86.7
Intel Pentium MMX 250 Failed Failed
Intel Pentium MMX 262.5 54.6 95.7
Intel Pentium MMX 291.5 Failed Failed

Performance of the R541?  Not too great, especially the video performance.  The R540 is not much better, actually it is a bit slower.

Windows 95 Performance of the MTech R540
CPU Business Winstone 97
AMD K6/208 Failed
AMD K6/225 55.3
AMD K6/233 55.2
Cyrix 6x86MX-PR2/200 (150/75) 51.2
Cyrix 6x86MX-PR2/200 (166/66) 52.0
Cyrix 6x86MX-PR2/200 (166/83) Failed
Intel Pentium MMX 208 Failed
Intel Pentium MMX 225 52.4
Intel Pentium MMX 233 51.6
Intel Pentium MMX 250 Failed
Intel Pentium MMX 262.5 54.4
Intel Pentium MMX 291.5 Failed

 


The Final Decision

It seems like with the imminent success of their Stallion AT and the past success of their SiS boards, not to mention the past success of their SiS boards, not to mention the possibility that their new Mustang Ultra will take the place of the R534 series, that MTech should stay away from the TX market. They do make decent motherboards however unless the price is right, go after a different manufacturer for your next TX board purchase.

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