There is no doubt that NVIDIA's nForce4 chipset is the standard against which AMD Socket 939 chipsets will be measured. AMD has become the leading enthusiast platform and NVIDIA's chipset fortunes have risen while VIA has continued to struggle in this arena. There are many companies who want a piece of that growing chipset pie, however, ranging from large players like ATI to relative newcomers like ULi.

In recent weeks, we have been looking at these contenders. The first production ATI board aimed at the enthusiast was reviewed in Sapphire PURE Innovation - ATI's Chipset for the AMD Enthusiast . The Multi-GPU ATI Crossfire board will launch later this month. ULi provided two generations of Socket 939 PCIe Reference boards in FIRST LOOK: ULi M1695 PCIe/AGP Socket 939 for Athlon 64 and ULi M1695 PCIe/AGP for Athlon 64 - Part 2 with SLI. This led to a review a few days ago of the first production ULi M1695/M1567 in ASRock 939Dual-SATA2: First Retail ULi PCIe/AGP. Since we found many good things in the new Socket 939 chipsets, we decided to take a closer look at another contender - the SiS 756 chipset.

The SiS 756 is an upgrade to the SiS755FX chipset that we reviewed last December. Where the 755FX was PCI/AGP, the SiS 756 was to feature the PCI Express bus with PCIe graphics. The SiS 756 first appeared as Reference samples to reviewers many months ago, but the retail products have taken a long time to appear in the market. Our readers will likely advise us of other offerings, but almost 6 months after review samples, we could only find one production SiS 756 board, the ASRock 939S56-M, and even it is difficult to find. We also discovered that the ECS PF88, the ECS modular CPU board discussed in Editors Day 2005: A "NEW" ECS Looks to the Future, uses the SiS756 on the A9 add-on module for Socket 939. We could not find any other current production boards using the SiS 756 chipset.

So, how does SiS 756 compare to nForce4, ATI Rx480, and ULi 1695? Is performance on par with the best Socket 939 chipsets? Are features competitive in the Socket 939 universe?

The SiS Chipset Family
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  • tanekaha - Tuesday, September 13, 2005 - link

    I dunno if it`s cos i`m using the latest firefox beta but
    the ethernet page only loads down to this line

    NTttcpr - m 4 ,0,

    to get to final words i have to go back a page and select it from the
    index.
    Otherwise thx for the review.
    It`s good 2 see anandtech review budget boards :)
    a lot of us outside the US use them.
    I have an asrock 7s41gx that I got for my son and it`s bin rock solid for a year not one hassle from day 1
    I know that a lotta ppl rubbish them but no worries here.

    tanekaha
    Reply
  • Cygni - Tuesday, September 13, 2005 - link

    When this chipset and its accompanying reference board circulated the review sites a few months ago, i made the prediction that while clearly faster than most of the competition (at the tiime it was), it would never see the widespread use of the SiS735... and it wouldnt crack the boardmakers open enough to get sales.

    Unfortunatly, it looks like i was right. This is a never ending battle for SiS. They produce a chipset that is as good or better than the rest of the competition... and then it just sits there on the shelf. Or gets used on 1 or 2 low end boards only sold in China. Its really an awful problem. If this chipset had found a partner back when the first review samples hit the net, it would have gained a fair share of marketplace... but now it is months behind, facing different opposition like the excellent ULi chipset, much updated and tweaked Nforce4 Ultra boards, and SLI boards like the K8N Neo4 and AN8-SLI on the $100 border.

    I hope SiS can fix this problem in the future... it really sucks to see excellent chipsets ignored.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, September 13, 2005 - link

    I have also been very frustrated to review an excellent SiS chipset and then never see anything but bottom-dwelling boards appear. It was particularly embarassing to me to give the SiS chipset an Editor's Choice in the past and then have no major manufacturer produce a board with that chipset.

    However, I have learned that SiS is not blameless in this deilemma. About a year ago SiS lost their foundry, so they have to contract chip production these days. This makes reliable production schedules extremely difficult for SiS, which scares many potential manufacturers. Several mfgs also told me they loved the SiS chipset, but that they could not get consistent, reliable product from SiS either before or after the foundry went. I was told failure rates on the SiS chipset were much higher than the competition. One also confided that it cost the company MUCH more to use a SiS chipset, even though it was cheap, because they ended up doing the chipset QA while they were building boards - that features were not reliably tested by SiS before shipment.

    All of this is hearsay, of course, but I've heard it from so many different manufacturers that I have to believe that many of these complaints have a basis in fact.

    Reply
  • postler - Tuesday, September 13, 2005 - link

    I've been using SIS based mainbords since release of the 735 chipset, so I waited to get my hand on the first SIS756 based chipset.

    I got a µATX Asrock 939S56-M last week. The board is attractively priced, well laid out, easy to install, very stable and fast...
    Since I don't very much care about overclocking, the choice for me was obvious, though there are a few overclocking options in the bios (multiplier setup, modest over voltage settings for cpu and ram etc.) that look promising to get a few extra mhz. Another big advantage is that the board doesn't require a northbridge fan.

    The board looks much more solid impression than the Nforce4 based Foxconn NF4K8MC-RS I owned and had a lot of problems with before (the board only worked for about a month and then blew up).
    Reply
  • Tujan - Tuesday, September 13, 2005 - link

    Im guessing that the premise is if the board runs well on a CPU at any speed and stumps them,then it should run a higher grade CPU and stump them." hmmm..

    Not finding that the X2s are actually stated as being able to be used on these newer AMD chispet MBs. While the reviews are full of information. A major question of the MB is will it run the AMD X2s from a default manufacturers configured curcuit board.Major Major question...left off.[ ]

    What happen to the Saphire board in the gaming benchmarks here [ ] . Was there a barn burner or something that wouldn't sync with the results . ? Or is that the 'secret,the secret of holding to another review/article sometime. Incidently I haven't seen a Sapphire in the retail anywhere from a web search or otherwise for a retailer. Hope this isn't one of those Asus situation where a board is only winning 'over-there (Hi ya Europe). Everything Ive seen on the web is somewhere in a landing in the far east with the boards,and central europe.

    .........See ya Mr.Fink.// dont know if I'll be able to reply to this cause don't really understand the layout of this new forum interface that well.

    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, September 13, 2005 - link

    We have tested and reported Athlon64 X2 compatability in EVERY recent motherboard review, including this one. From p.6, Test Setup:

    "SiS claims full Athlon64 X2 compatibility on their website. We were able to confirm that claim in brief operation tests with an A64 4800+. Benchmarks were run with the 4000+ 130nm A64 for benchmark comparison with other Athlon64 board reviews."

    Reply
  • Tujan - Tuesday, September 13, 2005 - link

    Sorry , I must've gleemed over that. I haven't seen a lot of reference to the X2s in practically 'all of the retail packaging stats. Of course it is only a recent announcement I know. Any reference to the X2 has only been that of noticing a comment from someone. Not from actual stats seen for/from them by me or from their retail statements (their boxes). Since 'how could they show being so ? My personal dilema I guess.

    Here we're doing a MB,so I'll leave it at that.

    Thanks for reply.
    Reply
  • Tanclearas - Tuesday, September 13, 2005 - link

    I notice you didn't even mention ActiveArmor/NAM in "Final Words" when discussing feature comparisons. This topic comes up from time-to-time in the forums (like a discussion going on over the last couple of days). Have you ever spoken to Nvidia about ActiveArmor/NAM being broken? Far too many people are experiencing problems with this hardware/software for it to be coincidence. Despite the large number of people having problems, there is little help coming from Nvidia, and definitely no acknowledgement that there are serious problems. Reply
  • nserra - Tuesday, September 13, 2005 - link

    I always had problems with my nforce2 drivers (sound, ide....) i thought i was unlucky.

    I have also had problem with VIA drivers. Intel some times...

    With SIS and ULI never had problems.
    Reply
  • Spacecomber - Tuesday, September 13, 2005 - link

    Just to add a quick footnote to this, in the recent review of the Sun X2100 server, it stood out in my reading of the article that although Sun was using a nforce4 ultra chipset for the motherboard, active armor had been disabled.

    I had thought that perhaps the issues with active armor were those that eventually could be addressed with a driver update, but 6 months later, this is looking less likely.

    Space
    Reply

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