At one point in time Shuttle dominated the Socket-7 AT market with their countless releases of outstanding motherboards, their designs excelled in stability, reliability, performance, and even tailored to the demanding needs of the overclocking population.  Since the days of the HOT-565 and HOT-569 have passed much has changed in the Socket-7 market, Shuttle can no longer rely on their already outdated Intel TX based products to carry them through the rest of this year, especially with AMD's release of the sequel to their one-hit wonder of 1997, the AMD K6-2. 

Shuttle attempted to journey into VIA's world a few times late in '97 and early this year, unfortunately their motherboard releases simply didn't draw enough attention to make a big enough impact on the industry as their unstoppable TX motherboards did a year ago.  Shuttle brought a few new cards to the table with each motherboard release after their highly successful 565/569 combination, adding features such as CPU Voltage Auto-Detect and increased numbers of core voltage steppings to accommodate the needs of overclockers. 

Now armed with a new chipset, the VIA MVP3, and a new processor to support, the AMD K6-2, Shuttle took a trip down memory lane with their newest concoction the HOT-591P.  However times have changed since Shuttle ruled the Socket-7 AT world, how well does the 591P stack up to fierce threats from the competition?  Keep your eyes peeled as AnandTech takes a look at Shuttle's Super7 infant, let's find out how hot this board really is, or has Shuttle's reign truly ended?

Anand Tech Report Card Rating

Motherboard Specifications

CPU Interface Socket-7
Chipset VIA MVP3
L2 Cache 512KB
Form Factor AT (w/ AT & ATX P/S Connectors)
Bus Speeds 60 / 66 / 75 / 83 / 95 / 100 MHz
Clock Multipliers 1.5x - 5.5x
Voltages Supported 2.0v - 3.52v (in 0.1v steppings)
Memory Slots 2 168pin DIMM Slots (EDO/SDRAM)
2 72pin SIMM Slots (EDO/FPM)
Expansion Slots 1 AGP Slot
3 PCI Slots (0 Full Length)
3 ISA Slots (1 Shared / 3 Full Length)

The Good

The HOT-591P definitely gives new meaning to the term 'Baby-AT Form Factor Motherboard' as it measures in at a mere 22 cm x 22 cm (about 8.7" x 8.7"), at the same time it leaves enough space to accommodate 3 PCI and 3 ISA slots while reserving space for the single AGP slot that makes up 1/3rd of the Super7 requirements (the other two being support for Super7 processors and support for the 100MHz Front Side Bus Speed).   Near the AT & ATX Power Supply connectors on this Baby AT motherboard are the memory expansion slots, giving the user two avenues of memory expansion Shuttle outfitted the 591P with 2 72pin SIMM slots (1 bank) and 2 168pin DIMM slots (2 banks), both of which function perfectly.  If you're worrying about stability problems with your old 60ns EDO SIMMs and the 100MHz Front Side Bus (FSB) on the 591P then you need not worry since, courtesy of the VIA MVP3 Chipset, you can lock your memory bus at the same speed of your AGP Bus.  This translates into a mode in which your CPU and L2 cache take advantage of the 100MHz bus speed, while your Memory runs at the same speed your AGP Card operates at, which should be at or around 66MHz, meaning as long as your memory works at the 66MHz FSB then you'll be perfectly fine running your system at the 100MHz FSB setting. 

At a first glance the VIA logo on the VT82C598AT chip on the board may give you the impression that this is no more than a tiny Apollo VP3 based motherboard, however the model number obviously reveals that it is a genuine MVP3 chipset ready for some K6-2 action.  The 512KB of L2 cache on-board ensure that all memory up to the 128MB limit will remain completely cached, with all [uncached] memory above that limit (while remaining under the 256MB System Memory limit) accessed with a 10 - 15% decrease in performance.

Once again we see the unique Shuttle features brought to the table this time with the HOT-591P, the conventional Shuttle Installations Guide packaged with the motherboard documents virtually all the features of the board itself.  The adjustable core voltage can be controlled manually or it can be auto-detected by the motherboard's Award BIOS.  In the tests run, the 591P had no problem detecting the proper voltage settings for the Cyrix 6x86MX, Intel Pentium MMX, AMD K6, and AMD K6-2 used.  This does help tremendously as the jumper setup on Super7 motherboards will prove to be a very tedious process as there are an abundance of jumpers to configure and track down all over the board.  Unfortunately the rest of the settings can't be modified in the BIOS Setup, instead they must be set manually with the Installation's Guide as your only aid, for once Shuttle's attempt to keep the documentation simple was counteracted by the fact that the board required much more documentation than was provided.

The 591P box contains the usual Shuttle motherboard "apparel" including the Installation's Guide mentioned above, a Spacewalker CD-ROM containing the latest VIA Bus Master IDE Drivers, and the virtual device drivers (VxD) that breathe life into the Graphics Address Remap Table (GART) functions of the motherboard's on-board AGP slot.  Setting up the test system wasn't much of a problem, the BIOS automatically recognized the clock speeds of the processors properly, even when using the 100MHz FSB.  Windows 95 had no problem installing the Bus Master and the AGP GART drivers, within a few minutes of completing the Windows 95 installation on the test UltraDMA Hard Drive everything was ready for the performance tests.

The price of the HOT-591P is one of its strong points, expect the board to sell for under $100, more specifically around the $90 mark.   Combine that with the relatively low price of the AMD K6-2 266 and 300 and you've got a real knock-out on your hands...or do you?

The Bad

Shuttle knew they would have to make sacrifices by constructing a motherboard this small, one of them happens to be the inability for a full length PCI card to occupy any one of the PCI slots.  What this means is that the HOT-591P will NOT accept a Voodoo2 accelerator, even the Canopus Pure3D II which is a full inch shorter than the rest of the Voodoo2 boards out there won't fit.   The CPU Socket is in the way of all of the PCI slots, a sad reality is that in spite of this, all 3 ISA slots can accept full length cards. 

Update - 8/27/98: Shuttle has released a newer revision of the HOT-591P which uses the newest 'CE' MVP3 Chipset Revision clearing up any incompatibilities between the board and the i740 graphics chipset, the board also replaces the 90MHz FSB setting with a 95MHz setting for the K6-2 333.   Using Shuttle's supplied Foxconn Iceberg low profile cooling fan, the shared PCI slot on the 591P can be occupied by a full length PCI card such as a Voodoo2 making this board a more viable alternative for many users.

The performance of the 591P could be better, in comparison to the Epox and AOpen motherboards the 591P still lies a couple percent behind, however you won't notice that much of a difference in real world usage although the difference will be there in the benchmarks.  While the board features 2.3v and 2.4v core voltage settings, the K6-2 300 wouldn't perform reliably at 100 x 3.5 (350MHz), it looks like we need more than a few tenths of a volt to get the K6-2 300 up to 350MHz. Hopefully by the time AMD cranks up the production of the chips their yields will increase allowing us to push the limits of motherboards like the 591P. 

The 83 and 90MHz overclocked bus speed settings wouldn't boot at all, regardless of what processor was used, while this may not be a problem for some there are those out there who still want to take advantage of these two unique settings, don't plan on doing so with the 591P.

Of course the documentation could use a bit of improving, it looks like Shuttle tried to stick to their old ways too closely with the Installation's Guide packaged with the 591P.  First time builders/upgraders will probably find the jumper setup more than a little confusing, while those with a little more experience and knowledge of the MVP3 chipset's features won't have too difficult of a time.

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