Diamond Micronics C300 i440LX Slot-1by Mike Andrawes on March 2, 1999 7:47 PM EST
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Diamond Multimedia is best known for their graphics cards where they are one of the largest and oldest players in the market. They got there through constant innovation and an excellent retail presence In the past few years, they have started expanding to other markets by acquiring smaller companies under the Diamond Multimedia name. Starting with modems, they picked up Supra and introduced the Diamond Supra line of modems. Most recently, they have added Micronics and introduced the Diamond Micronics line of motherboards. Micronics was generally known for producing stable and reliable motherboards that were not particularly tweakable. This is of course perfect for major OEM's and Micronics, in fact, did supply Gateway, Dell, Micron, and others with motherboards until Intel entered the market. The first board in the new Diamond line was the C300. With this board appearing on store shelves everywhere (thanks to Diamonds strong retail presence), we thought we would see how it stands up in the crowded motherboard market.
New Anand Tech Report Card Rating 85/B
Do not compare newer ratings to older ones, the newer ratings are much more aggressive
|L2 Cache||N/A (on-chip)|
|Clock Multipliers||3.5x - 7x|
|Voltages Supported||Auto Detect|
|Memory Slots||3 168pin DIMM Slots|
5 PCI Slots (5 Full Length)
2 ISA Slot (1 Shared / 2 Full Length)
The first glance at the C300 shows that Diamond did their homework and found out exactly what the majority of users want in a motherboard - a well built board with lots of expansion that is also easy to setup. The C300 delivers in all those categories.
The layout of the C300 is virtually perfect and follows every regulation set forth in the ATX 2.01 specification. The HDD/FDD connectors are located right where they should be, at the front of the board, so that no cables are forced to run over the CPU and/or memory. The ATX power connector is right behind the FDD connector at the corner of the board, right where the ATX specification says it should be, helping to minimize cable clutter even further. The board a standard ATX format, but is extremely short - just about an inch and a half longer than an ISA slot - and should just fine in any ATX case.
The increasingly popular 5/2/1 expansion slot configuration (PCI/ISA/AGP) allows for the installation of all those PCI peripherals available these days. It is worth noting here that none of these slots are blocked by wires that go to the chassis, such as the power/reset switches or power/HDD LED's. These connectors, which are usually located in front of the ISA/PCI slots, have been moved in front of the HDD/FDD connectors to keep things nice and clean. Three DIMM slots provide for memory expansion up to 384MB SDRAM. Despite the 66MHz bus, PC100 SDRAM is totally compatible with the C300 (and any other board that supports SDRAM DIMM's). The performance difference between PC66 and PC100 SDRAM is negligible if there is any at all. The DIMM slots themselves are not the usual black, but off-white instead. However, they are very strong and hold DIMM's in extremely well.
Six 1500uF capacitors are located immediately behind the Slot-1 connector with a few smaller ones located around the DIMM slots. While this is fewer capacitors than many motherboard manufacturers use, this did not hurt stability at all as the C300 was one of the most stable boards to come through the AnandTech lab.
A hardware monitoring option is offered on the C300, but remember that it is an option - one that was not included on AnandTech's evaluation board. It uses the common National Semiconductor LM78/LM75 combo to monitor 2 fans, 6 voltages, and CPU/motherboard temperature.
Micronics traditionally used AMI BIOS's to control their mainboards and Diamond has continued to do so. The BIOS is not AMI's WinBIOS, but rather the text mode version. A convenient "Auto Configure with Optimal Settings" option is available that gives a quick start to tweaking the BIOS for maximum performance. Unfortunately, it is no where near optimal, but closer to a combination of safe and optimal. Optimizing the BIOS is relatively simple and none of the settings in the BIOS are cryptic.
A couple of nice features are found in Diamond's implementation of the AMI BIOS that are often forgotten by other manufacturers. First is the ability to boot in any order from a variety of devices, including any IDE HDD, CDROM, ZIP, LS120, SCSI, or network. Second is the ability to control the power state of the system after a temporary power loss. Options here include previous power state, off, or on. These are simple features, that are more useful than they appear at first, but that are very often overlooked.
A jumperless CPU setup is featured that allows CPU configuration in the BIOS. Upon booting with a new CPU installed, the motherboard will instruct the user to enter the BIOS and configure the CPU. The CPU configuration is very simple and only allows the selection of the final CPU speed - there is no manipulation of FSB speeds, multipliers, or voltages available. That means the only FSB speed is 66MHz, which is all that is officially supported by the i440LX. With current CPU's featuring only a single multiplier, and the C300 only supporting 66MHz FSB settings, this CPU setup is not even required.
Thanks to Diamond's strong retail presence, the C300 comes in an elegantly colored box that will make it stand out on the shelf. Also included in that box is a drivers installation CD, containing the latest bus mastering drivers as well as a full user's manual in Adobe Acrobat format. Like many motherboard manufacturers, Diamond opted to forego a full written user's manual in favor of a quick installation guide. The poster-like design of the installation guide and the photo-realistic diagram of the motherboard helps the installation procedure tremendously, especially for the first time builder.
Power management consists of pretty much the standard stuff these days. A wake on-LAN header is available to allow the system to resume on network activity and the BIOS can be set to turn on the system at a specific time. Although support for ACPI is claimed, it was not detected by Windows 98.