California Graphics held the spotlight for quite some time with the announced release of their highly acclaimed Photon 100 HC Motherboard, unfortunately the lack of a steady supply of the greatly demanded Super7 motherboard caused many users to shy away from making that purchase.  In the meantime, FIC, already getting the benefits of the incredible sales of their VA-503+ motherboard, decided to make the jump to the ATX market as well with their counterpart to the VA-503+. 

Following in the tradition of the PA-2011, and the PA-2012, it is time for the latest ATX Socket-7 motherboard from FIC to make its debut in today's critical Super7 market, it is time to welcome the FIC PA-2013.  This raises one question, will the release of the PA-2013 be a warm welcome or a heart felt goodbye for FIC?

Motherboard Specifications

CPU Interface Super Socket-7
Chipset VIA MVP3
L2 Cache 512/1024KB
Form Factor ATX
Bus Speeds 60 / 66 / 68 / 75 / 83 / 95
100 / 112 / 124
Clock Multipliers 1.5x - 5.5x
Voltages Supported 1.8v - 3.5v (0.1v increments)
Memory Slots 3 168pin DIMM Slots (EDO/SDRAM)
Expansion Slots 1 AGP Slot
4 PCI Slots (4 Full Length)
2 ISA Slots (1 Shared / 2 Full Length)

The Good

Very much like most older Pentium II LX boards and some of the newer BX boards, the FIC PA-2013 brings the best of both Socket and Slot worlds into one desirable package with the well designed ATX layout of the board.  Featuring a 4/2/1 expansion slot configuration (PCI/ISA/AGP), the PA-2013 can accept full length cards in all of its 6 useable expansion slots.  Positioned at the top of the board are the three DIMM slots you can make use of to attempt to reach the 256MB cacheable memory area of the PA-2013.  This cacheable area is made possible by the optional 1MB of L2 cache on-board in conjunction with the VIA MVP3 (Revision CE) chipset FIC used on the sample AnandTech received.  FIC PA-2013

Positioned directly south of the DIMM slots are the 4 - L2 cache chips and to the left of them is the CPU Socket-7 designed to make the most of whatever processor you choose to install in the board.  A few mid to large Sanyo tantalum and electrolytic capacitors are present around the expansion slots, CPU interface and memory banks to improve stability.  The ATX power connector is placed flush against the first DIMM slot to make space for the HDD/FDD connectors found at the bottom of the board. 

FIC is up to their usual standards with the motherboard manual bundled with the PA-2013.  The written documentation includes the settings for all officially supported bus speeds as well as the overclocked 75/83/112/124MHz settings for pushing your luck.  Clock multipliers ranging from 1.5x to 5.5x are also documented, not to mention the excellent support for core voltage settings ranging from 1.8v to 3.5v in 0.1v increments.  FIC also includes a fairly complete table of CPU settings for the most popular chips in the manual which is a handy tool for first time builders, or even those who are just looking to get a kick out of reading up on older CPU settings ;)

Stability and the FIC name seem to walk hand in hand, which is what the PA-2013 has made clear to us all once again.  Even when using the 112MHz FSB, the 2013 never flinched during the Winstone tests and provided the test system with a healthy boost in performance over the 100MHz setting.  If you've got the memory to handle it, the 112MHz FSB setting is worth your while, even if your memory won't work at 112MHz you can simply set the jumpers to allow your memory clock to operate at your AGP bus frequency and voila.  The jumper setting on the PA-2013 isn't too bad, luckily FIC managed to leave out all misprinted manuals in this package, so it won't be so confusing for those with less experience in the initial setup process. 

Bringing some characteristics of some Pentium II BX boards over to the Super7 level, FIC included the Trend ChipAway Boot Sector Virus detection option in the firmware of the PA-2013.  The ChipAway Virus Detection feature allows for boot sector viruses to be bypassed and eliminated even before the initialization of your Operating System Software, a very useful feature if your computer will be used for downloads from the internet especially.

The performance of the PA-2013 could be improved just a little, however when overclocked it comes to within a few percent of matching up with its AT brother, the VA-503+.  Not a bad board at all, and it will definitely give the California Graphics Photon 100 HC a run for its money because of its availability, but it does have its draw backs.

The Bad

Five PCI slots would've made this board the dream of many users, unfortunately, in order to conserve space, the PA-2013 was only outfitted with 4.  The positioning of the Socket-7 CPU interface isn't ideal for cooling as the path of airflow from your ATX power supply will pass directly over your memory banks, leaving your CPU fan to take care of all of the cooling duties for your CPU.  

In the tests AnandTech conducted, the Matrox G200 would not function properly without disabling its Bus Mastering features, while this problem has been reported with previous combinations of MVP3 boards and the G200 chipset, AnandTech had yet to experience a problem until the PA-2013.  Although there is a fairly simple workaround, be prepared to disable the Bus Mastering (via the Matrox Display Properties Control Panel, under the Advanced Settings) if you experience any problems with your new system and the G200 chipset.  Matrox is working on a driver fix for this problem, unfortunately no release date has been made at the time of this publication.

While it is wonderful that FIC included an optional 124MHz FSB setting, the setting isn't nearly reliable enough to be considered a viable option for overclockers.  It would've made a nice addition to the board's feature set, but you can't 'em all, especially not with computer hardware.

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