A computer science professor once said that if you’re going to enter into a business, regardless of the nature, your goal should be to find something that no one else has done, and do it. Although it is a highly idealistic approach when applied to many situations, that is the philosophy of one mainboard manufacturer that is truly a rags to riches story to tell the tweaking children of the future.

The manufacturer is none other than ABIT, a company that originally received its fame by offering arguably the world’s first (QDI also claims this title) "jumperless" mainboard, a dream come true to users that were simply too intimidated by jumpers to take on configuring their own systems, while it may seem silly to some, it is a reality to others. Since ABIT’s introduction a few years back, they have grown to become a welcome force among the overclocking/tweaking population, and mimicking the philosophy of that very same professor, ABIT took it upon themselves to always stay one step ahead of the competition, doing things their own way like they’ve never been done before.

As soon as the Pentium II processor was released, ABIT jumped on the bandwagon with a motherboard in the works, however their first Pentium II motherboard didn’t make it out until the release of the LX chipset, and even then it basically featured the same patented SoftMenu Jumperless CPU setup we’ve all come to expect from ABIT. It wasn’t until the release of the BX chipset that ABIT separated themselves from the competition with the classic BX6. The BX6’s SoftMenu II Jumperless CPU setup brought the world’s first core voltage manipulation option for the Pentium II into the BIOS setup of the board, making the BX6 the ideal motherboard for overclockers. The demand for more PCI slots and a smaller footprint inspired the BX6’s cousin, the BH6 which brought all of the features of SoftMenu II and added the now useless SEL66/100# setting.

With the release of the Pentium III just around the corner, it’s time for ABIT to step up to the scene once again with their latest creation, the ABIT BX6 Revision 2.0. How well can ABIT stand in a market that has quickly become much more competitive? It’s going to be a rough ride for ABIT as AnandTech cracks down on the latest revision of the BX6, putting it through its paces and giving it the standard test of champions…the results?


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

Motherboard Specifications

CPU Interface Slot-1
Chipset Intel 440BX
L2 Cache N/A (on-chip)
Form Factor ATX
Bus Speeds 66 / 68 / 75 / 83
100 / 103 / 112 / 117 / 124 / 129
133 / 138 / 143 / 148 / 153
Clock Multipliers 1.5x - 8.0x
Voltages Supported 1.40v - 3.2v (0.05v increments)
Memory Slots 4 168pin DIMM Slots
Expansion Slots 1 AGP Slot
5 PCI Slots (5 Full Length)
2 ISA Slots (1 Shared / 2 Full Length)
BIOS Award BIOS

The Good

If you were to breed a BX6 and a BH6 the resultant would almost surely be ABIT’s new BX6 Revision 2.0, the board boasts the same 5/2/1 (PCI/ISA/AGP) expansion slot configuration as the BH6, keeping with the times by allowing for a greater amount of PCI cards to be installed while still taking into account the fact that many users still have at least one ISA peripheral they just can’t let go of. ABIT's Second Try...
The new BX6 also sees the return of the 4 DIMM slots from the original BX6, and to improve stability when using all 4 memory banks, the 6-chip Texas Instruments external DRAM buffer has made its way onto the BX6 Revision 2 as well.

All 5 PCI slots accept full length cards, and in improving on the flaw in the BH6’s design ABIT allows IRQ’s to be assigned to individual PCI slots as to avoid the compatibility problems some users were reporting.   An option in the BIOS allows for the IRQ of any specific PCI slot to be statically assigned, not only eliminating many problems with unfriendly PCI devices that simply refuse to work in certain configurations, but also making transferring hard drives from one system to another quite a bit easier as you can assign the IRQ's for all devices to specifically reflect a previous configuration.  The static IRQ assignment of the BX6 Revision 2 was a feature highly demanded by many owners of the BH6 and the original BX6 and is a feature that is quickly appearing in the BIOS setup utilities of most other motherboards.   The BIOS also now allows for CPU temperature monitoring.

The physical layout of the BX6 Revision 2 is comparable to that of the BH6 with a few new modifications.  As mentioned before, the memory buffer in addition to the 4th DIMM slot made their way onto the PCB of the BX6 Revision 2, which naturally increased the length of the board by approximately an inch over the original BH6's measurements.  The increased length does very little for case-incompatibility issues, making the BX6 Revision 2 a better fit solution for most ATX mid-towers than the longer original BX6 motherboard, but be aware of the fact that the newer Revision 2, albeit shorter than the BX6, is still longer than the BH6. 

As we have all come to expect from ABIT, the BX6 Revision 2 features the latest and greatest version of their SoftMenu II Jumperless CPU setup.  With the BH6, ABIT introduced the ability to modify the SEL66/100# setting, enabling the user to effectively unlock the clock lock on 100MHz FSB processors running at the 100MHz FSB.  For example, the original Pentium II 350 only allowed a 3.5x clock multiplier when using the 100MHz FSB, making 400MHz impossible, and anything greater than 350MHz impossible without the use of a higher FSB setting (i.e. 112MHz).   Setting the SEL66/100# setting to "Low" allowed for the removal of this lock, giving many users the ability to run their 350MHz Pentium II processors at 100MHz x 4.0 or 100MHz x 4.5, and their 400MHz Pentium II's at 100 x 4.5.  The SEL66/100# feature has made its way into the SoftMenu II setup of the BX6 Revision 2, however its usefulness has been jeopardized by Intel's anti-remarking methods, which remove the ability to configure the SEL66/100# setting on all newer Pentium II processors.  If you happen to have an older Pentium II, one made before August 1998, you'll be able to take advantage of this feature, otherwise your chances are next to nothing. 

The BX6 Revision 2 would have little to offer over the BH6 if it weren't for a few more modifications to SoftMenu II, ABIT's sole reason for existence right now in the overclocking market.  The BX6 Revision 2's SoftMenu II brings a few new settings, such as the inclusion of the new higher frequency FSB settings (138MHz, 143MHz, 148MHz, 153MHz) as well as "in-between" settings such as the 117MHz and 129MHz options for those users that just can't seem to hit 124MHz or 133MHz with their systems.  The board also supports the 1/4 PCI clock divider with all > 100MHz FSB settings to keep the PCI frequency as close to the specified 33MHz setting as possible, for those with extremely tolerant PCI peripherals.

The AGP clock is also derived from the FSB frequency, and the BX6 Revision 2's SoftMenu II does offer the ability to select from a 1:1 or a 2:3 FSB ratio for the derivation of the AGP frequency, keeping the clock as close to the rated 66MHz frequency as possible.  Complaining about ABIT not including any other AGP ratios is quite futile as the motherboard has nothing to do with the AGP frequency, which is actually stored in the chipset itself and only selected through the motherboard, leaving the 1:1 and 2:3 ratios as the only two options with the BX chipset.   It looks like we'll have to wait for Intel's 440JX (Camino) chipset before we can see any other AGP clock ratios. 

Another unique feature of the BX6 Revision 2 is its ability to manually select the core voltage of the Pentium II processor for a more tweaked setup, especially for overclockers.  The board supports core voltages from 1.40v up to 3.2v in 0.05v increments, a feature which has been known to make a huge difference in the stability of an overclocked system.  Why include such low voltages though?  The BX6 Revision 2 is actually one of the first motherboards to support the Intel Pentium III, which requires a 1.8v core voltage setting instead of the 2.0v setting of the newer Pentium IIs based on the Deschutes core and the newer Celerons based on the Mendocino core.  Other ABIT boards should be able to add Pentium III support with a quick BIOS update, but the BX6 Revision 2 supports the upcoming processor out of the box.  

ABIT's highly regarded User's Manual makes its presence felt in the box of the BX6 Revision 2, giving users a step-by-step installation and a configuration guide for their system.  The ABIT manual includes a fairly easy to read and useful explanation of the BIOS and CPU setup, and makes the overall experience with the new BX6 (especially for first time system builders) a pleasant one.

The overclocked stability of the BX6 Revision 2 is quite high due to the ability to control the CPU's core voltage, especially for Celeron 300A users that plan on overclocking to 450MHz.  It is quite amazing what a 0.1v increase in the core voltage can do for an overclocked system acting a little flaky.

The Bad & Features

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