In the days of the Cyrix 6x86 finding a motherboard that would officially support the 75MHz bus speed required by the PR/200+ was almost impossible. It was during that time that DFI made their first lasting impressions on the ever expanding motherboard market, and as the old saying goes you only get one chance to make a first impression DFI used that one chance to their benefit.  Their VLSI Lynx based Socket-7 motherboard fully supported the 75MHz bus speed required by the Cyrix 6x86 PR/200+ and as a result of that it quickly became a very popular board among Cyrix owners, it soon moved to the top of the list as THE motherboard to have for the PR/200+.

After DFI's 15 minutes of fame things pretty much died down, they continued to manufacture motherboards however you didn't see them getting the publicity they used to.  Hardware Review sites failed to even remotely indicate their existence in the market...until now.  It seems like when armed with a great chipset DFI can do wonders, this time it isn't VLSI's Lynx chipset, rather the popular VIA VP3 chipset, VIA's only hope for the Socket-7 market at this point.  How well does the DFI P5XV3 measure up against FIC's Award Winning PA-2012?   How about EPoX's alternative P55-VP3 solution?  Here we see the fine line between performance and quality illustrated...so which facet is more important to you?


Motherboard Specifications

 

Socket Style: Socket-7
Chipset: VIA VP3
Cache: 1024KB
Form Factor: ATX
BUS Speeds: 50 / 55 / 60 / 66 / 75 MHz
Clock Multipliers: 1.5x / 2.0x / 2.5x / 3.0x / 3.5x / 4.0x
Voltages Supported: 2.1v / 2.8v / 2.9v / 3.2v / 3.3v
RAM Slots: 2 72pin SIMM Slots (EDO/FPM)
2 168pin DIMM Slots (EDO/SDRAM)
AGP/PCI/ISA Slots: 1 AGP Slot
4 PCI Slots
3 ISA Slots (1 Shared / 3 Full Length)
BIOS: AWARD PnP BIOS
PCI EIDE Controller: Super I/O
2 EIDE Channels
1 FDD Channel
2 Serial /1 EPP

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The Good

DFI's P5XV3 is much like a combination between the FIC PA-2012 and the EPoX P55-VP3, while that may be considered as being the "best of both worlds" that is not necessarily a good thing.  Taking a first look at the P5XV3 you begin to realize that the layout of the motherboard is based on a tiny variation of the ATX form factor, not a single inch of the P5XV3 can be considered as wasted space.   Very cost efficient on DFI's part, less wasted space translates into a lower end cost to the end user. 

Featuring 2 SIMM and 2 DIMM slots which cannot be populated simultaneously the P5XV3 doesn't skimp on expandability features, the 4 PCI, 3 ISA and 1 AGP slot cover all ends where most users are concerned, you can't really expect much more from a motherboard that has an AGP slot other than the 4/3/1 layout unless you aren't too big on ISA slots where you can grab something like the PA-2012 with only 2 ISA slots.

Setting up the P5XV3 for the first time is just as simple as starting up Windows, however as you know there are times when Windows can be a pain to start...the same thing goes for DFI's VP3 motherboard.  The P5XV3 must be configured using the standard sets of jumpers on board, however the manual packaged with the board pulls one of those all-in-one jumper setting deals where it doesn't tell you which jumpers control the bus speed and which control the CPU clock multiplier.  It takes a little bit of detective work to find out that the bus speed jumpers are JP1, JP2, and JP3...upon closer inspection it becomes obvious that the documented 50, 55, 60, and 66MHz settings aren't all that is possible with the P5XV3.  The only undocumented bus speed setting the P5XV3 provides you with the option of using is the 75MHz bus speed, it seems very unlikely that we'll see an 83.3MHz setting with any VP3 based motherboard.  The 75MHz bus speed can be attained by using the following jumper settings JP1: 1-2; JP2: 2-3; JP3: 1-2. 

The VP3 chipset the P5XV3 holds close to its heart provides the user with the option of upgrading their video system to an AGP based Graphics Card instead of the standard PCI cards we have been limited to in the past.  Of course the 2 DIMM slots, courtesy once again of the VP3 chipset, can be filled using high performance SDRAM with which the P5XV3 didn't seem to have any problems, regardless of the brand of SDRAM that was tossed in the test system.   In theory the VP3 chipset can cache up to 1GB of system memory, however that feature of the P5XV3 is limited by a manufacturing oversight, this will be discussed in more depth in the Bad section of this review. 

The P5XV3, like most newer motherboards, features its own set of System Monitoring tools in addition to a Desktop Management Interface that records key information about your system's "health" or current status, monitoring components such as your processor, fans, etc...  Individual components can be monitored and those monitors can be configured using the comprehensive Award BIOS Setup Utility found in the P5XV3, the saying a motherboard is only as good as its BIOS Setup can be used here...since the DFI P5XV3 is one fine motherboard, with a great BIOS Setup to complement it.

DFI's user's manual contains 77 pages of just about everything you would possible want to know about your motherboard.  The simple line diagrams of the motherboard and the BIOS Setup Interface make installing and configuring your motherboard beyond easy, the only faults this manual has is the lack of in-depth information about your Clock Multiplier and Bus Speed jumpers as well as the common lack of an accurate description of the options in the Chipset Features Setup.  Other than that, the DFI P5XV3 walks hand in hand with the best of the best down the path of excellence with its user's manual following it not too far behind. 

Its quite obvious that DFI never intended the P5XV3 to be an overclocker's dream, they didn't include the 75MHz bus speed setting in the manual, nor did they print the setting on the motherboard itself.  At the 66MHz bus speed the P5XV3 is overall, the fastest VP3 based motherboard that has been reviewed on this page thus far.  Regardless of the SDRAM used, the P5XV3 allowed the test system to use the most aggressive memory timings without showing a sign of even beginning to struggle.  

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The Bad

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