In today's world, 4 PCI slots simply doesn't cut it.  With 2 Voodoo2 cards running in SLI occupying one half of that number, a SCSI card and a Network card complete the picture leaving no room for anything else.  At the same time, PCI sound cards seem to be gaining popularity, slowly but surely we are moving away from the old ISA slots that have been around for simply too long.  A problem with this migration is the fact that very few manufacturers are producing motherboards, the products which actually provide home to our PCI peripherals, with this in mind.  A perfect example of this would be the current state of the Super7 motherboard market, with FIC, Shuttle, AOpen, and Epox all producing motherboards with 4 or even 3 PCI slots, some of which can't even accept full length cards (i.e. Voodoo2), those that are looking for expansion in a motherboard are left with one option - BX.  It must be understood that as great as a processor may be, in this case the AMD K6-2, without an equally supportive motherboard, the processor platform will surely fail.  In spite of this, it is good to know that there is at least one manufacturer that is among the dying breed of those that give the users what they want.   You want PCI slots on a decent Super7 motherboard?  TMC can give them to you, let's take a look at what has the potential to be the best overall Super7 motherboard as AnandTech reviews the TMC TI5VG+.


Anand Tech Report Card Rating
95/A

Motherboard Specifications

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CPU Interface Socket-7
Chipset VIA MVP3
L2 Cache 512/1024KB
Form Factor ATX
Bus Speeds 60 / 66 / 75 / 83 / 100 MHz
Clock Multipliers 1.5x - 4.5x
Voltages Supported 2.0v - 3.5v (0.1v steppings)
Memory Slots 3 168pin DIMM Slots (EDO/SDRAM)
2 72pin SIMM Slots (EDO/FPM)
Expansion Slots 1 AGP Slot
5 PCI Slots (5 Full Length)
2 ISA Slots (1 Shared / 2 Full Length)
BIOS Award BIOS

The Good

The calming blue color of the box the TI5VG+ comes in is no indication of the punch this board packs, not only in terms of performance and reliability, but even more so in terms of the overall experience the TI5VG+ will leave you with.  Take a look at all of the weaknesses of the other Super7 motherboards out on the market today, eliminate 90% of them, and you have the TI5VG+.  Let's put that theory to the test, the ATX form factor of the MVP3 based TI5VG+ leaves enough room for all expansion slots to accept full length cards without developing outrageous case requirements like some BX motherboards.  The standard sized ATX board features a full 5 PCI slots, 2 ISA, and 1 AGP completing the overall expansion picture with 3 DIMM and 2 SIMM slots for memory.  Courtesy of the MVP3 chipset the Memory Bus may run pseudo-synchronously with the clock of the AGP Bus, or dependently with the Front Side Bus (FSB) speed.  This feature, unique to VIA's MVP3 chipset, allows you to reuse your old 60ns EDO SIMMs or even lower quality non-PC100 SDRAM that failed at the 100MHz bus speed while getting the full advantages of the 100MHz FSB since your RAM will be running at around 66MHz, a huge difference to the cost of an entire Super7 upgrade if you happen to have some older RAM laying around. 

TMC makes the board available in 2 flavors, one with a 1MB Level 2 Cache, a feature which isn't so much of a performance option rather a convenience feature, the other with a standard 512KB L2 Cache.  This translates into a 256MB cacheable memory area for the 1MB board and a 128MB cacheable memory area for the 512KB board, if you plan on using above 128MB and want to get the maximum performance out of your system you are better off waiting for the 1MB version otherwise, you'll experience a nice little dose of degraded performance when using all RAM above the cacheable memory limit. 

Taking a closer look at the motherboard reveals that TMC managed to eliminate a very common problem with Super7 motherboards, especially those based on the MVP3 chipset, the complex jumper configuration.   Instead of using multiple sets of jumper blocks scattered all over the motherboard TMC made use of 2 sets of unobstructed Dip Switches, making the initial configuration and setup of the TI5VG+ easier than any other Super7 motherboard AnandTech has reviewed thus far.  The settings are so easy to follow in fact, you don't really need the manual to setup your system so long as you have a little experience in this sort of upgrade under your belt, since the proper FSB, Clock Multiplier, and Voltage settings are clearly documented on the motherboard itself.  If you don't feel comfortable relying on the motherboard itself there is an outstanding User's Manual which accompanies the TI5VG+ that will help you every step of the way.

The 100MHz FSB on the board proved to be beneficial to the face of the AMD K6-2 as it produced Pentium II - level Winstone marks in the tests AnandTech ran on the motherboard.  The performance of the board overall was pretty much average for a Super7 board, and above average for a Super7 motherboard equipped with only 512KB of L2 cache.  For those of you looking for a down right decent ATX Super7 motherboard that actually offers some room for expansion, you may want to give the TMC TI5VG+ a good look...or two.

The Bad

PCI is the future, for those of you that are still clinging on to the ISA bus you may want to pass this opportunity up as the TI5VG+'s 2 ISA slots aren't enough for many strong ISA-buffs, at the same time this may be the perfect time to grab PCI versions of your old ISA peripherals, the final decision is yours, but just be sure that the 2 ISA slots accommodate your needs.  In order to place the memory expansion slots next to the ATX I/O Back Plate TMC had to shift the standard ATX motherboard design around just a bit, this required that the CPU Socket be placed closer to the Hard Drive cage in your case, therefore away from the path of the ATX cooling fan.  In lieu of this, be sure to have adequate cooling of your processor as well as the rest of the case to prevent any thermal issues from popping up at the most inappropriate of times.  Another result of the layout-shift is the awkward location of the Floppy Drive connector, which is placed next to the ATX Power Supply connector near the SIMM slots, a position that can pose problems for large cases which place the floppy drive at the top of the case, be sure to have a long floppy cable handy if you are one of the lucky few blessed with a massive ATX tower. 

A [functional] 112MHz bus speed setting would have been nice, and the lack of a 90MHz setting does subtract from the overall control you'll have over the speeds you can overclock your processor to, in spite of this the TI5VG+ is still a very overclockable motherboard.  If you can pick up a K6-2 266 have fun running it at 100 x 3.0 since that setting will most likely give you no troubles at all.

The Test

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