Ever since Intel gave up sole licensing, VIA has been creeping up and has become a popular competitor. VIA started with the Apollo Pro chipset and then continued on to make a chipset that is pin-compatible to Intel's BX: the Apollo Pro Plus. VIA chipsets used to have some AGP problems, but with the latest drivers, it's much more stable. Now, with the recent entrance of the Apollo Pro 133A, it's time to clean up the Apollo Pro 133 motherboards. So, to commence our reviews of the 133's, here is the AOpen AX63Pro.

Even though AOpen made an Apollo Pro Plus board -- the AOpen AX63 -- it's good to see one of the big boys in motherboards continuing to support the third party chipset manufacturers. There are not many competitors to Intel out there, but VIA has done a good job of keeping up with chipset releases. With the addition of Ultra DMA 66 support and the 133MHz memory bus speed, AOpen might have made another winner. Read on to see if AOpen continues the trend of solid, well constructed, non-Intel motherboards with the introduction of the AX63Pro.


New Anand Tech Report Card Rating
90/A-

Motherboard Specifications

CPU Interface
Slot-1
Chipset
Apollo Pro 133
L2 Cache
N/A (on-chip)
Form Factor
ATX
Bus Speeds

66 / 66.8 / 68 / 75 / 78 / 81 / 83 / 83.3
90 / 95 / 100 / 105 / 110 / 112 / 113.5 / 115
118.5 / 120 / 122 / 124 / 126 / 133.3 / 135
137 / 138.5 / 140 / 142 / 144 / 150 / 155

Clock Multipliers
1.5x - 8.0x
Voltages Supported
2.0-2.2, 2.8-3.0
Memory Slots
3 168pin DIMM Slots
Expansion Slots
0 AMR Slots
1 AGP Slot
5 PCI Slots (4 Full Length)
2 ISA Slots (1 Shared / 1 Full Length)
BIOS
Award 4.60 PGMA

The Good


Click to enlarge

As mentioned above, the AOpen AX63 Pro runs on the Apollo Pro 133 chipset and you can add up to 768 MB of SDRAM. If you are looking for an older Apollo Pro Plus AOpen board, the strikingly similar predecessor is the AOpen AX63. While AOpen recently came out with a BX board in the AX6BC Pro II, which has a 6/0/1 (PCI/ISA/AGP) slot configuration, the AX63 Pro features the older 5/2/1 slot configuration with a total of 3 DIMM slots. All but a single PCI slot can take a full length card while neither of the ISA slots is capable of accepting full length cards.

The board is tight fitting to the ATX specification other than the placement of the floppy drive at the top of the board. In terms of fan connectors, there are only two on this board -- one directly next to the chip and the other below the PCI slots at the left front of the board. There were a good number of capacitors both around the chip and a few smaller ones scattered around the board. There are four 2200uF capacitors, nine 1500uF caps around the chip and two near the DIMM slots.

Instead of the standard green heatsink, there is a gold colored one unique to to AOpen's pro line, which is mounted with thermal tape onto the chipset. The advantage of using thermal tape, instead of the ever popular spring clips, is that the tape allows more heat to be transferred to the heatsink. The CPU is held in place by a retention mechanism that folds up from the board but is already in place.

One important thing to note is that the Mobile South Bridge VT82C596B handles UDMA 33 and 66 duties, as opposed to some boards which include a separate UDMA 66 chip. Read AnandTech's Ultra ATA 66 review for more information on UDMA 66. Therefore, both IDE channels support UDMA 66, unlike some other motherboards, which have a separate chip and IDE channels for UDMA 66.

More Good

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