Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/71



ASUS was one of the first motherboard manufacturers to release a Slot-1 Natoma (440FX) Based motherboard back in May, the KN97-X. Over 5 months and two chipsets later, ASUS is back and this time they are boasting a LX based mammoth with full support for the 75 and 83.3MHz bus speeds, a huge jump from the horrible support for only the 60 and 66MHz bus speeds found in the KN97-X.


Motherboard Specifications

Socket Style: Slot-1
Chipset: i82440LX
Cache: N/A (On Chip)
Form Factor: ATX
BUS Speeds: 66 / 68 / 75 / 83 MHz
Clock Multipliers: 1.5x - 4.5x
Voltages Supported: 1.5v - 3.5v (Auto Detect)
RAM Slots: 3 168pin DIMM Slots (EDO/ECC/SDRAM)
AGP/PCI/ISA Slots: 1 AGP Slot
5 PCI Slots
2 ISA Slots (1 Shared / 2 Full Length)
BIOS: AWARD PnP BIOS w/ Jumperless CPU Setup
PCI EIDE Controller: Super I/O
2 EIDE Channels
1 FDD Channel
2 Serial /1 EPP

 


The Good

ASUS has always been an excellent motherboard manufacturer, they were among the pioneers of the 83MHz bus speed back in the days of the T2P4, and they quickly jumped on the Socket-8 bandwagon with the release of Intel's Pentium Pro. Now, years since ASUS first proved to the world that they are not a dilettante newcomer to the market, they are back again, this time packing a much larger punch than before equipped with the raw power of Intel's LX chipset.

The layout of the P2L97 hasn't changed much since the KN97-X, however the number and location of the expansion slots has changed. The Slot-1 is now located directly in the path of the P/S Fan as the ATX Specification States, and the DIMM slots have been moved to the edge of the motherboard closest to the expansion bays. The footprint of the P2L97 is pretty much standard for an ATX Pentium II board, and unlike models from AOpen and Megatrends, the P2L97 leaves much "breathing room" when installed in a Mid-Tower Enlight 7230 case.

Like most other LX motherboards, the P2L97 features a completely jumperless CPU setup included with the excellent AWARD PnP BIOS configuration utility. Along with the basic setup options the P2L97 also boasts a wide variety of "intelligent mainboard" features now commonly found in most high quality motherboards. Among these features are the standard APM options as well as a few unique additions ASUS decided to include such as an Automatic Power Up Setting that allows the user to set a certain time or date on which the system will power up automatically. A useful feature if you always power up your system at the same time each day (i.e. if you always turn your system on at 6AM to prepare for an update to a certain hardware testing page =) ) or if you just want to scare the cat who likes sleeping on your computer desk. Either way, ASUS paid quite a bit of attention to the little details that please us all. And what ASUS motherboard would be complete without a few hardware monitoring features? With the P2L97's built in Fan, Thermal, and Voltage Monitors as well as its support for ECC SDRAM it quickly becomes a viable option for do or die server situations. If you want a motherboard that is stable and isn't prone to crash, even when overclocking, then I suggest you look at the P2L97.

Another classic mark of an ASUS motherboard is the extremely detailed and thorough user's manual. Although it doesn't provide some critical information about the Chipset Features Setup of the BIOS (like most other motherboard manuals) its detailed pictures and diagrams make the overall experience with the product a positive one. ASUS has also bundled a support CDROM with the P2L97 which contains the Intel LanDesk Client Manager as well as a Demonstration MPEG Video in addition to some other useful utilities.

At all clock speeds tested the P2L97 proved to be an excellent performer, from the 233MHz setting to the blazing fast 375MHz daemon setting the P2L97 was on par with the competition while holding its ground pretty well. As mentioned before, the P2L97 isn't prone to crash which is mainly a result of its 18 mid size capacitors at work.

This Just In: I did manage to get the ATI 3D Rage Pro (AGP) card to work with the P2L97, it wasn't working as a cause of an error on my part. The performance with the 3D Rage Pro is not bad at all, which makes this board an even better value.

The Bad

Expansion on the P2L97 isn't encouraged, although it features an abundant 5 PCI slots, the 2 ISA slots and 3 DIMM slots limit your expansion considerably. The 3 DIMM slots limit your memory expansion to a maximum of 384MB of RAM (like the KN97-X) however that is when you are using 128MB SDRAM DIMMs which most people don't have laying around. So in reality (for most people that is) the physical memory capacity of the P2L97 is 3 - 64MB SDRAM DIMMs, or 192MB of RAM, which simply isn't taking advantage of the Pentium II's 512MB Cacheable memory area...although 192MB is more than enough for most users. It is all dependent on the user's needs.

 


Recommended SDRAM

This little addition to my review layout was put in here just so you all can have an idea of what brand of SDRAM I recommend and have tested
with the board, just to avoid problems in the future if you decide to purchase the board.

Recommended SDRAM: Advanced Megatrends SDRAM; Corsair SDRAM; SmarTech SDRAM
SDRAM Tested: 2 x 32MB Advanced Megatrends SDRAM DIMMs; 2 x 32MB SmarTech SDRAM DIMMs; 2 x 32MB Corsair SDRAM DIMMs

Manufacturer: Corsair Microsystems

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

 


IRQ Usage

  • Allows user to individually set IRQs for each Legacy ISA card

  • Allows user to enable the use of an IRQ for PS/2 mouse

  • Allows user to reserve IRQ/DMA Channels if necessary

  • Auto-detects PnP Cards after HDD Detection



BIOS Settings

Here are my Recommended BIOS Settings for those of you who have been having problems with the P2L97 and higher bus speeds, I'm not sure why though since it was very stable when I tested it. Below are my recommended settings for bus speeds < 66MHz, and 75MHz. If you are using Non-EDO RAM, then use the settings the in the 2nd (Non - EDO) column, if you are using SDRAM/EDO RAM with a 50/60/66MHz bus speed use the 3rd (66MHz Setting) column. The next column should be used if you are using the 75MHz bus speed and EDO/SDRAM. Finally, if you are looking for the safest and most stable setting, use the last column. There are more Chipset Features Setup options than those I have listed here, but they pertain to HDD settings as well as Serial/Parallel Ports and have nothing to do with memory timings so I left them out intentionally.

ASUS P2L97 Chipset Features Setup
Item Non - EDO 66MHz Setting 75/83MHz Setting Safe Setting
Auto Configuration: Disabled Disabled Disabled Disabled
EDO Read Burst Timing: x333 x222 x222 x333
EDO Write Burst Timing: x333 x222 x222 x333
EDO RAS# Precharge Time: 4T 3T 3T 4T
EDO RAS to CAS Delay: 4T 3T 3T 4T
SDRAM CAS# Latency: 2T 2T 3T 3T
SDRAM RAS to CAS Delay: 3T 2T 3T 3T
SDRAM RAS Precharge Time: 3T 2T 3T 3T
MA Wait State: Slow Fast Fast Slow
16-bit I/O Recovery Time: 1 BUSCLK 1 BUSCLK 1 BUSCLK 4 BUSCLK
8-bit I/O Recovery Time: 1 BUSCLK 1 BUSCLK 1 BUSCLK 8 BUSCLK
Graphics Aperture Size: 64MB 64MB 64MB 64MB
Video Memory Cache Mode: USWC USWC USWC UC
PCI 2.1 Support: Enabled Enabled Enabled Disabled
Memory Hole At 15M-16M: Disabled Disabled Disabled Disabled

 


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.

Test Configuration

Processor(s): Intel Pentium II - 300 (512K ECC)
BIOS Revision: Std BIOS
RAM: 2 - 32MB Megatrends SDRAM DIMMs 2 - 32MB Corsair SDRAM DIMMs
Hard Drive(s): Quantum Fireball ST (3.2GB) Ultra ATA
Video Card: Matrox Millennium II (4MB WRAM) & ATI 3D Rage Pro (AGP Tests)
Busmaster EIDE Drivers: Intel v3.01
Video Card Drivers: MGA Millennium 4.03.00.3410
OS: Windows 95 Service Release 2
Cooling: Boxed Pentium II Heatsink/Fan
2 - 3" Case Fans
Enlight 7230 ATX Mid Tower

 

Windows 95 Performance of the ASUS P2L97 (PCI Video)

CPU Business Winstone 97 Business Graphics Winmark 97
Intel Pentium II - 375** 71.8 183
Intel Pentium II - 338* 68.6 167
Intel Pentium II - 333** 68.0 166
Intel Pentium II - 308 67.3 142
Intel Pentium II - 300* 66.6 148
Intel Pentium II - 300 66.4 146
Intel Pentium II - 266 62.9 132
Intel Pentium II - 233 59.0 119

* This speed was achieved using the 75MHz bus speed (75 x 4.0 = 300MHz, 75 x 4.5 = 337.5MHz ~ 338MHz)
** This speed was achieved using the 83.3MHz bus speed (83.3 x 4.0 = 332MHz ~ 333MHz, 83.3 x 4.5 = 375MHz)

Windows 95 Performance of the ASUS P2L97 (AGP Video)

CPU Business Winstone 97 Business Graphics Winmark 97
Intel Pentium II - 375** 73.0 188
Intel Pentium II - 338* 69.1 171
Intel Pentium II - 333** 68.7 170
Intel Pentium II - 308 67.8 148
Intel Pentium II - 300* 67.0 150
Intel Pentium II - 300 66.9 150
Intel Pentium II - 266 63.4 136
Intel Pentium II - 233 61.2 124

* This speed was achieved using the 75MHz bus speed (75 x 4.0 = 300MHz, 75 x 4.5 = 337.5MHz ~ 338MHz)
** This speed was achieved using the 83.3MHz bus speed (83.3 x 4.0 = 332MHz ~ 333MHz, 83.3 x 4.5 = 375MHz)

 


The Final Decision

When I first reviewed this motherboard I didn't experience any problems at all with it, however according to most users (not all however) there are a few reliability problems with the P2L97. In response to this ASUS has revised the motherboard by doing a few things:

  • removing the jumperless setup

  • dropping the price

  • making a few more modifications, 'under the hood'

All of these changes have been made in the newest revision of the motherboard, 1.05. So if you do decide to get the P2L97, be sure it is a revision 1.05 motherboard.

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