You can’t look at a SiS chipset board these days without asking, “what is happening to SiS?” After the heady days of growth in the Intel market, SiS has grown strangely quiet. The phenomenal growth that started with the SiS 645 chipset and progressed through the SiS 645DX, SiS 648, and finally the dual-channel SiS 655 seems to have stopped. The forays into Athlon country with the 700 series chipsets (735/746/746FX) seem to have lost all their steam since nVidia began their takeover of the AMD market. Even the long-rumored 800FSB Dual-Channel SiS 655FX chipset for Pentium 4 has turned into an endless series of delay announcements while SiS market share continues to dwindle. It wasn’t long ago that SiS was poised to pass VIA as the top chipset maker in Taiwan, but now both SiS and VIA seem to have fallen on hard times. There are many questions, more rumors, and very few hard facts. We don’t have answers to these questions.

It was in this climate that we first began to hear of a new SiS 748 chipset for Athlon, but honestly, you had to strain to even hear rumors. The new SiS 748 chipset for Athlon is as difficult to find as the proverbial needle-in-a-haystack. The first 748 that we were aware of was produced by long-term SiS partner, iWill. But early reports on that board indicated almost none of the overclocking options that iWill had lavished on their earlier SiS Athlon motherboards. There were also reports of an Asrock version of the 748 at the very low end with almost no tweaking options. Asrock is the ASUS division that produces low-end value boards. It appeared that the 748 was already destined to be the “bargain-bargain” chipset of the Athlon world, slated below even the glut of KT600 boards that are being targeted at the “value” segment.

Then we began hearing about a 748 board that would be produced by DFI that was not a fancy LANParty board, yet had many of the tweaking and overclocking options which were missing from the SiS 748 boards that we had seen. We asked DFI if we could take a look at their SiS 748 board, called the DFI 748-AL, and DFI San Jose graciously had an engineering sample in our hands in just a couple of days. We were warned that this was a value board, and not in the same league as their LANParty series, but that didn’t dampen our enthusiasm. DFI is a major OEM manufacturer — they make many boards for other companies — and we had always found their mainstream boards solid and stable, if not the most exciting on the market.

As stated before, there is no inherent reason why a dual-channel chipset would be the performance leader on the AMD Athlon platform. Due to the limitations of the Athlon architecture, single-channel solutions should be able to compete effectively in most performance areas with the dual-channel nForce2 Ultra 400. Recently, the single-channel nForce2 400 has proven that this is more than just a theory. We’ve already seen that KT-600 is not likely the killer single-channel solution that we expected. So, could the SiS 748 be the solution that finally stands head-to-head with nForce2?

The interest in the DFI 748-AL was to try to answer this question. Does the SiS 748 chipset have any potential? Or will it be so out-performed and overshadowed by the nForce2 Ultra 400/400 and VIA KT600 juggernaut that it will die before it is even launched? We hope to be able to shed some light on those questions in this review.

SiS 748/963L Chipset
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  • JAGedlion - Saturday, August 30, 2003 - link

    ... The DFI 748-AL has 5 IDE ... I see you are referring to PCI slots, can they be called IDE slots too? Reply
  • Anonymous User - Saturday, August 30, 2003 - link

    wonder how far would the FSB go if the vdd was pushed into its max. i guess it would definetly go beyond 212MHz, maybe you should have decreased the multiplier.

    In fact, today I ran a few benchmarks with my epox 8k5a2 KT333 and reached as far as 215. pushing it further the AGP bus became bottleneck and i was using ATI's oldskool's rage128. it amazes me how come brand new hardware can't handle even 72MHz agp clock, whereas my 4 years old card handles 86MHz. in FSB200 (agp/pci 80/40) i'm not experiencing any staiblity issues burning it with prime or cpuburnK7 even 3days. odd
    Reply
  • Anonymous User - Saturday, August 30, 2003 - link

    One can easily see from his comment that Jeff7181 doesn't know much about these things, but still thinks he's got an argument. Anandtech crew are admirably wasting their efforts in trying to reason with such people.

    About the board. Two phase and no 12V connector drives me away from it just by looking at it.

    About SiS. They have nice chipsets, but the motherboard makers skimp on the design because they use the SiS chipsets for another market than they do for instance with their nForce2 boards. That's unfortunate since I would rather go with SiS drivers than nVidias. Performance is often overemphasised when reliability and ease of use becomes a second thought for many buyers.
    Reply
  • Anonymous User - Saturday, August 30, 2003 - link

    May i make a helpful suggestion/request for the next (or even current) review? Could you please post the ranges of the bois setting instead of just the maximums? for example, instead of saying "cpu voltage in the full range, up to 1.85v" could you specify exactly what that range is? like 1.1-1.85v? I know the nForce boards can do this, but I'm unclear about 748 boards.

    I'm personally looking at this board for a home theater PC that I'm going to try and underclock the CPU and see if i can get it to run without a fan and still be fast enough to play DVD's... because of this, I'd like to know the minimum voltage you can run the CPU at, and I don't find that in a lot of reviews. Just that little change would satisfy the speed freaks as well as us quiet freaks.

    just a suggestion...
    Reply
  • Evan Lieb - Saturday, August 30, 2003 - link

    Jeff,

    As Wesley mentioned and as I said before, Epox and ASUS' nForce2 Ultra 400 motherboards perform nearly exactly the same as the Gigabyte and DFI nForce2 Ultra 400 motherboards (and others) we use in AMD motherboard reviews. I have both boards in my labs and have decided not to send them to Wesley for retesting because I wouldn't want to waste his time with something like that.

    Again, we have tested ASUS and Epox boards before and found them to perform within about 1% of other nForce Ultra 400 motherboards. We changed our testbed and made sure a few good nForce2 Ultra 400 motherboards we added for comparison to non-NVIDIA chipsets.

    We may add those very popular Epox and ASUS boards to an nForce2 roundup of some type. But for a SiS 748 review like this one, the boards we used were perfectly adequate.
    Reply
  • Dennis Travis - Saturday, August 30, 2003 - link

    Very good review Wes, keep up the great work. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Saturday, August 30, 2003 - link

    Jeff7181 -

    I'm asking, Jeff, that you Please give me a break. I took over AMD about 6 weeks ago, and all Athlon reviews prior to that were done by Evan. Evan has answered here, on every post you have made on every AMD review, that the performance difference for Ultra 400 versions was very small, which is why he chose NOT to review the Ultra 400 updates of the boards you mention. The results of our tests of the regular nForce2 versions of the boards you mention are in our database. We also have the two top Ultra 400 performers - the DFI NFII Ultra LANParty and Gigabyte 7NNXP with UPDATED benchmarks in our tests for your comparison. If you recall, we also changed our video cards and benchmark suite recently, and we are finally accumulating a useful database of new benchmark data.

    My point, Jeff, is I do NOT have access to the motherboards you mention and cannot add them to our database. I am doing my best to provide useful information to AMD fans, but I cannot provide what you ask. My next AMD review is a Ahtlon64 Preview, and with the launch only 3 weeks away it just doesn't make good use of review time to request an Asus A7N8X Deluxe and retest it.

    If you can please show a little patience we will do our best to provide the kind of information you are looking for in the future.

    Thank you.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Saturday, August 30, 2003 - link

    Charts are in Flash because it uses less bandwidth than any of the alternatives. With over 3300 articles and reviews on-line plus News and Forums, bandwidth is a very important subject to a site like AnandTech. Reply
  • Anonymous User - Saturday, August 30, 2003 - link

    Why are the charts in Flash? A simple jpg or gif would do. Reply
  • Jeff7181 - Saturday, August 30, 2003 - link

    Again I ask, where the hell is the comparisons to the motherboards we all know? The A7N8X Deluxe, NF-7, 8RDA+. And what's with the cheesy title? Can SIS outperform nVidia's nForce2? I could have answered that without even testing them! Geeze... what's going on at AnandTech? These reviews suck! Reply

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