8.5" x 11" - The size of a standard sheet of paper, an item which is considerably larger than Chaintech's brand new Pentium II motherboard.  No, it's not a high powered overpriced BX motherboard, rather, Chaintech's 6ESA is based on the low-cost Intel 440EX chipset, making the 6ESA the perfect compliment to a < $1000 Celeron system.  What are the strengths of this new chipset from Intel, is performance sacrificed for price?  How about expandability?  Let's start answering some of those questions as AnandTech takes a closer look at the EX chipset found on the Chaintech 6ESA.

Anand Tech Report Card Rating

Motherboard Specifications

CPU Interface Slot-1
Chipset Intel 440EX
L2 Cache N/A (on-chip)
Form Factor ATX
Bus Speeds 66 / 68 / 75 / 83 MHz
Clock Multipliers 2.0x - 5.0x
Voltages Supported 1.5v - 3.5v (Auto Detect)
Memory Slots 2 168pin DIMM Slots (SDRAM)
Expansion Slots 1 AGP Slot
2 PCI Slots
2 ISA Slots (1 Shared / 2 Full Length)
On-Board Sound Yes


The Good

In the days of the world's first civilizations, villages and towns were built around a centrally located temple or other place of great importance.   Carrying over into the information age, Chaintech built their 6ESA around the centrally located 440EX chipset.  With an appearance considerably less formidable than some of the massive BX and LX motherboards out today, it is obvious from a first look at the 6ESA is not a high-end motherboard, but don't underestimate the power this puppy packs.  Its meek bark is made up for sheer power, while your friends are paying thousands of dollars for an expensive gaming computer, you can enjoy the awesome FPU (Floating Point Unit - used in 3D games) performance of a Celeron/6ESA combo for a previously unheard of price.  The Baby ATX form factor the 6ESA is available in appears to be much more like a Baby-AT layout than an ATX layout, however the ATX Power Connector, and the ATX I/O Panel at the rear of the squarely constructed motherboard put those appearances to shame.    6esa.jpg (12013 bytes)

If the 2 PCI / 2 ISA / 1 AGP slot configuration of the 6ESA is a discouraging factor in your motherboard purchase, you're probably better off taking a look at Chaintech's 6BTM or 6LTM (BX & LX motherboards respectively) but be warned, with their larger expansion possibilities come much larger price tags.  In order to make up for the fact that the 6ESA only has 2 ISA slots (1 shared), Chaintech chose to integrate an ISA sound card onto the board itself, while providing users with a SB-Link port just in case you plan to upgrade to Creative Labs' new PCI AWE64-D Sound Card (the SB-Link port allows for backwards compatibility between your new PCI sound card and older DOS applications).  The configuration of the 6ESA is just enough to fit a decent AGP 2D Video Card, a PCI Voodoo (or Voodoo2) 3D Accelerator, and an ISA modem while leaving one slot, either PCI or ISA, free for expansion.

A less discouraging feature of the 6ESA, expansion-wise, is its 2 DIMM slots.  Since DIMMs don't need to be installed in pairs, you can simply install 1 - 64MB DIMM, or 1 - 32MB DIMM without having to worry about future expansion since you'll always have that second slot open. 

The 6ESA, like all other Chaintech Pentium II motherboards, is completely jumperless, and can be configured through the use of Chaintech's own See-PU Jumperless CPU Setup Utility.  Accessible via the Award BIOS Setup, the See-PU Setup offers an easy configuration front-end, eliminating the need for scattered jumpers all over the system board.  It's actually kind of odd not seeing the 100/112MHz bus speed settings in the See-PU selectable bus speeds menu considering that the 6ESA is a new motherboard, that is probably a result of being surrounded by too many BX boards in the past few weeks.  Although a 100MHz setting would be nice, it is highly unlikely that we will see anything above 83MHz in an EX motherboard.  Luckily the 6ESA does support the 75/83MHz bus speeds, making 333MHz (83.3 x 4.0) the highest attainable setting on the board with a Celeron 266 (Celerons are locked at a 4.0x multiplier, only the bus speed can be changed). 

Now the 6ESA isn't made entirely for Celeron processors, although it would make little sense to pop a Pentium II - 400 in one of these motherboards.  The support for up to a 5.0x clock multiplier allow all current Pentium II processors to be run on the 6ESA, with the highest attainable clock speed in that case being 416MHz (83.3 x 5.0), however as mentioned above, this board wasn't really intended to be the bed for a Pentium II to lay in. 

The performance of the 6ESA, and the EX chipset in general is about 3 - 5% slower than a LX/BX motherboard at an equivalent clock speed, the difference is hardly noticeable in real world applications and games.   Considering that the price of the 6ESA should be considerably less than $100 for a great board with integrated sound, and considering that you can pick up a Celeron 266 for under $200, a Celeron on the 6ESA would make an unbeatable gaming combination.

The Bad

Not providing much room for overclocking, a 92MHz bus speed setting like that found on the ABIT LX6 would've been nice, especially for use with the Celeron.  Personally, I would've preferred to remove the on-board sound of the 6ESA and use my own sound card in place of it.  Sure it would occupy another ISA slot, however most users do happen to have old Sound Cards laying around (I know I do), so a bare 6ESA would be more desirable to them. 


BIOS Settings

Chaintech 6ESA Chipset Features Setup

Item Settings
EDO/SDRAM 66/75/83MHz Bus Safe
Auto Configuration: Disabled Disabled
MA Wait State: Fast Slow
EDO RAS# To CAS# Delay: 2 3
EDO RAS# Precharge Time: 3 4
EDO DRAM Read Burst: x222 x333
EDO DRAM Write Burst: x222 x333
DRAM Integrity Mode: Non-ECC Non-ECC
CPU-To-PCI IDE Posting: Enabled Enabled
DRAM Read Around Write: Enabled Enabled
Burst Write Combining: Enabled Disabled
PCI-To-DRAM Pipeline: Enabled Disabled
System BIOS Cacheable: Enabled Disabled
Video BIOS Cacheable: Enabled Disabled
Video RAM Cacheable: Enabled Disabled
Memory Hole At 15M - 16M: Disabled Disabled
Passive Release: Enabled Enabled
Delayed Transaction: Disabled Disabled
AGP Aperture Size (MB): 64 64
SDRAM RAS-to-CAS Delay: Fast Slow
SDRAM RAS Precharge Time: Fast Slow
SDRAM CAS Latency Time: 2 3
Flash BIOS Protection: Enabled Enabled
Hardware Reset Protect: Disabled Disabled


Recommended SDRAM

Recommended SDRAM: AMM PC100 SDRAM, Azzo PC100 SDRAM, Corsair PC100 SDRAM, Memory Man PC100 SDRAM
SDRAM Tested: 1 x 64 - AMM PC100 SDRAM, Azzo PC100 SDRAM, Corsair PC100 SDRAM, Memory Man PC100 SDRAM

Manufacturer: Advanced American Megatrends
Purchase Web-Site: http://www.megacom.com

Manufacturer: Azzo
Purchase Web-Site: http://www.azzo.com

Manufacturer: Corsair
Purchase Web-Site: http://www.nf-ny.com

Manufacturer: The Memory Man
Purchase Web-Site: http://www.memory-man.com


The Test
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