TMC TI6NB BX Pentium II Boardby Anand Lal Shimpi on July 7, 1998 12:42 PM EST
- Posted in
Just a few months after Intel released their "revolutionary" BX Chipset (interesting to note how every single chipset release seems to be deemed "revolutionary") TMC provided AnandTech with a sample of their promising BX motherboard, the TI6NB. Will this 5/2/1 BX Monster be added to your list of choices? Or will it merely draw attention to itself as you pursue another board? Let's find out as AnandTech takes a look at the TMC TI6NB...
Anand Tech Report Card Rating 96/A
|66 / 68 / 75 / 83 / 100 / 112 / 133 MHz
|2.0x - 5.0x
|1.5v - 3.5v (Auto Detect)
|4 168pin DIMM Slots (EDO/SDRAM)
|1 AGP Slot
5 PCI Slots
2 ISA Slots (1 Shared / 2 Full Length)
|Award PnP BIOS
|"Size doesn't necessarily reflect quality" is a statement TMC hopes the market will keep in mind as they critique the unusually small layout of the TI6NB, their flagship BX motherboard. With a Printed Circuit Board (PCB) no larger than the ASUS P2B, TMC managed to outfit the TI6NB with 5 PCI Slots, maintaining legacy compatibility with 2 ISA slots while keeping room for the single AGP slot as well as 4 DIMM slots.
The key to this board's success is its expandability features, which are well rounded at the least, however the concentration of attention on the TI6NB will be on its 5 PCI slots. Unless you opt for a motherboard with on-board SCSI, Ethernet or Sound (the latter which isn't recommended as On-Board sound usually consists of a low-quality Creative Labs Vibra chip) you will need every last PCI slot you are given. With Dual Voodoo2 accelerator setups growing in popularity, it isn't a surprise that users are running out of PCI slots. Luckily, if you go with the TI6NB, 2 Voodoo2's, 1 SCSI Controller, 1 Ethernet Controller, and 1 PCI sound card will leave room for 2 additional ISA cards, or 1 ISA card and 1 other PCI card provided that you make use of the AGP slot for your 2D accelerator.
Processor support is fairly standard in the BX world, the TMC TI6NB supports all current generation Pentium II processors, while including support for the upcoming 450MHz chip and in theory the 500MHz Pentium II. An interesting feature to note is the TI6NB's support for overclocking, something that has been absent on previous TMC boards especially their Slot-1 products. Through the AWARD BIOS Chipset Features Setup the user can set the Front Side Bus speed, the provided settings include the default 66/100MHz FSB settings in addition to the overclocked 68/75/83/112/133 frequencies.
While the TI6NB isn't entirely jumperless, the initial clock multiplier setup is controlled via a single DIP Switch set whose settings are documented completely on the motherboard itself, virtually eliminating the need for a User's Manual for those of you that are a little more experienced in motherboard upgrades. Also present on the spacious yet economically sized PCB is what looks like a 6-pin jumper block, in actuality it is the increasingly common SB-Link port that allows for legacy compatibility when using a Creative Labs PCI AWE64D. From an engineering perspective, the design of the TI6NB has left little room for improvement. Mid-sized electrolytic capacitors populate the surroundings of the ATX Power Supply connector and the Pentium II Slot-1 SEC, and a separate heatsink outfitted voltage regulator is used for the DIMM banks on the board to reduce fluctuations in the voltage which is critical in do-or-die server situations.
Classic of TMC motherboards is a fairly thorough and well written User's Manual, and the TI6NB is no exception. The User's Manual provides you with everything you need to get up and running, which is an excellent way to complete the excellent physical feature set of the TI6NB. You should always remember that you purchase a motherboard package, never just a motherboard, the package must be put together well from the start otherwise it reflects poorly on the part of the manufacturer...something which may or may not reflect the quality of the motherboard itself. TMC realized this and went the extra mile to make sure the TI6NB package was more than enough to satisfy the user.
The performance of the TI6NB is top notch, slightly below the performance of the ASUS P2B it is still above average in performance when it comes to BX motherboards. However you should also keep in mind that the performance spread among BX motherboards is so incredibly limited that you shouldn't select a board simply based on Winstone numbers, as the performance difference between two boards is hardly noticeable in real world situations.
The 133MHz FSB setting would not boot with an AGP Millennium II, however with a PCI Millennium II the system did POST yet failed to boot completely into Windows.
In order to make room for the 5 PCI slots, the layout of the TI6NB places the Floppy Drive connector near the Pentium II Slot-1 SEC, a bit to the right of the AGP slot, which requires you to carry a Floppy Drive cable over an abnormally large distance in order for it to reach the connector.
Finally, in spite of the documented setting on how to disable the FSB speed auto-detection by the motherboard, the TMC TI6NB AnandTech reviewed automatically detected the FSB setting depending on which processor was used therefore allowing Pentium II 233/266/300/33 and Celeron owners the operation of bus speeds ranging from 66 - 83 leaving the 100 - 133 settings for Pentium II 350/400 owners only.