A market commonly overlooked, in the already overlooked motherboard market, is the Dual Processor motherboard market.  The primary cause of this is a general lack of dual processor motherboard manufacturers active in the industry today.  Surprisingly enough, the desktop multiprocessor market is relatively new territory to most individuals, although multiprocessor systems have been around for quite some time, only recently, have multiprocessor desktop system begun to take off in terms of widespread usage.  Increasingly demanding applications that require more processing power than a single processor can provide are pushing professional and high-end users to pursue the multi-processor market.

Outside of the high-end desktop workstation market, servers have always been turning to multi-processor solutions in order to help balance the load on a single server.  Even AnandTech has turned to multiple processor server solutions for its hosting needs, and the difference made by adding a second processor is definitely noticeable on a highly trafficked server.  Unfortunately, when in the market for a new dual processor Slot-1 motherboard, you don't have the same benefits as someone looking for a good motherboard to overclock their Celeron 300A to 450MHz, simply because of the popularity of dual processor motherboards in the desktop market. 

There is one company that has consistently supported the high-end workstation/server market with their high-quality motherboards, ranging from low-end solutions to the most powerful in multiprocessor desktop motherboards.  Tyan originally took the market by surprise with the release of one of the most highly integrated, yet extremely expandable and powerful dual processor Slot-1 motherboards on the market, the Thunder 100.  Boasting on-board Ethernet, sound, and SCSI, the Thunder 100 brought to the table a combination of features that still remains unrivaled by any competing motherboard manufacturer, unfortunately it did have its set of weaknesses.

Showing their commitment to perfection, Tyan is back again, this time with an updated version of the Thunder 100, descriptively named, the S1837UANG, the Tyan Thunderbolt.  How well does this ball of fire strike the ground of the multiprocessor market?  Let's find out as AnandTech takes a look at Tyan's latest and greatest...


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Motherboard Specifications

CPU Interface Dual Slot-1
Chipset Intel 440GX
L2 Cache N/A (on-chip)
Form Factor ATX 2.01
Bus Speeds 66 / 75 / 83
100 / 112 / 133
Clock Multipliers 3.0x - 8.0x
Voltages Supported 2.0v / 2.8v (Auto Detect)
Memory Slots 4 168pin DIMM Slots
Expansion Slots 1 AGP Slot
6 PCI Slots (6 Full Length)
1 ISA Slot (1 Shared / 1 Full Length)
BIOS AMI BIOS

The Good

The biggest shocker with the original Thunder 100 was its support for 6 PCI slots, a feature unheard of in the slot-1 BX motherboard industry, simply because of the complexity involved in the design.  Unfortunately, the inclusion of the 6 PCI slots left no room for a full length AGP slot, meaning most higher end AGP cards would not fit in the slot due to space restrictions.  Tyan went back to the drawing board and came out smiling with a design quite reminiscent of the old Pentium Pro server boards.  By strategically placing the AGP slot in between the second and third PCI slots, Tyan made sure that all 6 PCI slots on the Thunderbolt remained capable of accepting full length cards, while also making sure that the AGP slot could accept a full length card as well; and thus you have the base for Tyan's unique 6/1/1 (PCI/ISA/AGP) expansion slot configuration with the S1837UANG Thunderbolt. 
Due to the unique layout of the expansion slots, all of the Thunderbolt's 8 expansion slots (7 usable) are capable of accepting full length cards.   This is primarily made possible by Tyan's tendency to bend the pins for the front LED panel towards the front of the motherboard, which keep them out of the way of any peripheral expansion cards.  The IDE connectors run parallel to the expansion slots, however they fit in the open space between the slots as to refrain from preventing the installation of any full length cards, a key factor in the design of the Thunderbolt.

Click to Enlarge
Click to Enlarge

The success of the original Thunder 100 came in-part from its highly integrated nature, and in continuation of the tradition, Tyan brought an even greater level of integration to the PCB of the Thunderbolt.  Adaptec makes another appearance on the Thunderbolt, this time with a dual channel Ultra2 SCSI controller, instead of the dual channel UltraWide SCSI controller found on the Thunder 100, and the single channel Ultra2 + single channel UltraWide found on most competing motherboards.  The Adaptec 7896 controller powers the two 68-pin Ultra2 SCSI connectors and the 50-pin legacy SCSI connector on the board of the Thunderbolt.  The purpose of including two separate Ultra2 channels is so that the user can place any non-Ultra2 devices on a separate channel from any Ultra2 devices they may have, therefore preventing any loss of performance from the Ultra2 compliant devices on the chain.
More Good...

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