Sales speak for themselves, and the incredible sales of the FIC VA-503+ are doing quite a bit of talking among AT Super7 motherboards.  The original VA-503+ was a bit of a disappointment in the eyes of many, a complicated jumper setup, an incorrectly printed user's manual, and too few reasons to choose the board over the competing hot shots from Soyo and Epox.  For any other manufacturer, this would be the end, it would be the time to call it a day and walk home not risking any more and cherishing that which they have received.  This is where the best are separated from the mediocre. 

FIC revamped the VA-503+ for the next revision of the board, 1.1B.  Adding support for two new Front Side Bus frequency settings, correcting the misprint in the user's manual, and making the VA-503+'s success synonymous with that of last year's PA-2007, FIC has refused to live with what they have and have made it clear that their goal is excellence.  While they say that the third time is a charm, let's see how well FIC can stray from the age old adage with their second shot at the perfect AT Super7 Motherboard. 


Anand Tech Report Card Rating
95/A

Motherboard Specifications

CPU Interface Socket-7
Chipset VIA MVP3
L2 Cache 512/1024KB
Form Factor AT
Bus Speeds 66 / 75 / 83 / 95 / 100 / 112 / 124 MHz
Clock Multipliers 1.5x - 5.5x
Voltages Supported 2.0v - 3.3v (in 0.1v steppings)
Memory Slots 2 168pin DIMM Slots (EDO/SDRAM)
4 72pin SIMM Slots (EDO/FPM)
Expansion Slots 1 AGP Slot
3 PCI Slots (1 Full Length)
3 ISA Slots (1 Shared / 1 Full Length)
BIOS AWARD PnP BIOS

The Good

For those unfamiliar with the original VA-503+ design, the board is equipped with the increasingly popular yet cramped 3/3/1 Expansion Slot Configuration (PCI/ISA/AGP).  While this configuration saves space on the PCB itself this also limits you to 1 Full Length PCI slot and 1 Full Length ISA slot.  A Voodoo2 will fit in the last PCI slot, however chose any of the remaining 2 slots and you'll be quickly searching for a new 3D accelerator.  The 4 trademark FIC charcoal colored SIMM slots are bordered on their right by the 2 DIMM slots, on the top by the AT Power Supply Connector and Floppy Disk Connector, and on the left by the two EIDE channels.  

The VA-503+ Revision 1.1B is all about new changes to an already outstanding product, this trend is mirrored in the MVP3 chipset that found its way on to the board which carried the Revision 'CE' label in its part number.   Revision 'CE' of the VIA MVP3 chipset eliminates the issues experienced between i740 accelerators and MVP3 based motherboards, so for those of you planning on using Intel's flagship graphics chipset you can easily make use of it on a board based on a product made by Intel's largest chipset competitor.  Expect all Revision 1.1B boards to ship with the 'CE' revision of the chipset.  When used in combination with the 1MB of L2 cache on the 503+ tested by AnandTech, the cacheable memory area of the MVP3 chipset was extended to include a full 256MB of RAM which should be more than enough for just about any user in the market for a Super7 board. 

Improving on the original VA-503+'s outstanding support of FSB speeds and core voltages tailoring to the needs of the overclocker, FIC added two new FSB frequencies to their already lengthy list.   Alongside the 60, 66, 75, 83, 100, and 112MHz FSB settings FIC added the 95MHz and 124MHz frequencies to allow for much more than a superb experience with the VA-503+.   While stability becomes an apparent issue at the 124MHz FSB, as long as you have decent peripherals that can cope with the increased frequency you shouldn't have too many problems.  The support for the 95MHz FSB setting makes the new VA-503+ ready and willing to support the new AMD K6-2 333 which runs at 95MHz x 3.5.  While those shy of overclocking will want to run the 333MHz chips at the 95MHz FSB, running them at 336MHz (112 x 3.0) will yield a much greater overall performance than even the 350MHz setting due to the increase in FSB frequency.  The core voltages supported by the VA-503+ range from 2.0v to 3.3v in 0.1v increments with the 2.3v - 2.5v range being the sweet spot for overclocking the K6-2.  Remember that support for such a wide range of core voltages doesn't come in handy only to those that are overclocking, when running a chip at its rated speed you can always try decreasing the core voltage by 0.1v to try to decrease heat production.  Although it might not seem like much, it is something for nothing, and it's definitely worth a try if you're not going to be overclocking your chip. 

The VA-503+ User's Manual hasn't changed at all with Revision 1.1B of the board, the only difference between the manual packaged with the new 503+ and the older revision is the correct jumper layout diagram for the Clock Multiplier and SDRAM Speed jumpers.  The motherboard's bundle still includes the FIC CD-Pro disc which contains all of the necessary drivers and utilities such as the VIA Bus Mastering Drivers and the VIA AGP VxD's, definitely all that you would expect from a company like FIC.

When dealing with performance, the VA-503+ is the name to beat.  Benching in at the top of all charts, the VA-503+'s performance is top-notch and when coupled with the unofficial support for the 112MHz FSB (whose operation is beyond reliable) make this board as close to the board of your dreams as possible, for now at least...

The Bad

The Jumper Setup is still the VA-503+'s weak spot, however courtesy of the corrected and extremely detailed documentation that is provided with the board, the initial installation and configuration isn't too bad.  A second full length PCI slot would have been a definite plus, however it seems as if we're going to have to wait for the Tyan Super7 AT motherboard before that becomes a reality.

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