An argument against the support for the Super7 platform has always been, in lieu of AMD's processor advancements with the K6-2 and K6-3 processors, a lack of high end motherboards. With the first Super7 motherboards that hit the market featuring a maximum of 4 PCI slots, and even second and third generation boards coming out sporting 5 PCI configurations at best, however there is one company that has had the foresight to release a "true" high-end Super7 motherboard, TMC.

A bold step towards the standards of the upcoming months, TMC's new TI5VGF Super7 motherboard based on the MVP3 chipset removes a familiar face from the surface of our motherboards, the soon to be long lost ISA slot.

How successful can a board with no ISA slots be? Will the 6 PCI slots be enough to satisfy the needs of the most power hungry Super7 user? Let's find out as AnandTech takes an in-depth look at the intricacies and the tragic flaws of the TMC TI5VGF.

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Motherboard Specifications

CPU Interface Super Socket-7
Chipset VIA MVP3
L2 Cache 1024KB
Form Factor ATX
Bus Speeds 66 / 75 / 83 / 95
100 / 112 / 133
Clock Multipliers 1.5x - 5.5x
Voltages Supported 2.0v - 3.5v (0.1v increments)
Memory Slots 3 168pin DIMM Slots
Expansion Slots 1 AGP Slot
6 PCI Slots (6 Full Length)

The Good

The sea of off-white PCI slots is the dominant feature on the PCB of the TMC TI5VGF, carefully placed side-to-side along the length of the motherboard they occupy a great portion of the on-board real estate. For a total of 6 PCI slots, 0 ISA slots, and a single AGP slot driven by the CE revision of the VIA MVP3 chipset, the TI5VGF is expansion friendly so long as you don't have any older ISA peripherals. TMC makes the assumption that the target market for their latest Super7 motherboard is a group of individuals that is completely ready for the PC99 standard, essentially, a group of individuals that has forgone the path of ISA peripherals in favor of PCI. What this means is that you must be using (ideally) an AGP video card, a PCI sound card, a PCI Ethernet card (for xDSL/Cable net access), and maybe even a PCI SCSI card. Steep requirements if you're going to be using parts from your old system to upgrade, however it's not asking too much if you're building a new system from scratch.

The first with 6 PCI slots on a Super7 board

Featuring an optional 2MB L2 cache, the board AnandTech tested came equipped with a single 5ns 1MB L2 cache chip manufactured by UMC, the reason for noting that will be discussed later. The 1MB L2 cache allows for the MVP3's cacheable memory area to be expanded to include a full 254MB of RAM, and that limit can be taken advantage of through the use of the 3 on-board DIMM slots. The memory subsystem, courtesy of the VIA MVP3 chipset can either be clocked at a 1:1 ratio with the system's front side bus frequency (FSB) or a 1:1 ratio with the system's AGP bus frequency, to allow for usage of your older PC66 SDRAM, although if you're going to be setting up a system from scratch (no old parts) then the chances of you buying new PC66 SDRAM are very low.

Unlike conventional MVP3 based Super7 motherboards, the TI5VGF refrains from using the FIC-like complex jumper setup and instead makes use of three dip switch blocks. The first is located just north of the Socket-7 CPU interface, with the voltage settings controlled by two smaller blocks located above the DRAM slots and below the AGP expansion slot. The switch between selection of the memory bus frequency is one of the two present jumpers on the mainboard (the other being to clear the CMOS values) and is easily accessible for quick modification.

Although the motherboard itself documents the settings for CPU configuration, it is definitely aided by the User's Manual bundled with the board. The manual has an extensive listing of all settings for major CPUs including IDT's newest Winchip 2-3D as well as the newer AMD K6-2 processors, and is paired up with a standard utility CDROM to complete the package.

Installing the board wasn't too big of an ordeal, the 6 PCI master slots were configured like a dream, and installing Ethernet adapters, sound cards, and SCSI controllers did not seem to pose any problems for the AnandTech test system.

The performance of the TI5VGF is pretty much on-par with that of the FIC PA-2013 (1MB), and as AnandTech's tests have already shown, if possible, you will want to try to get your hands on the 2MB version for a nice little 5% overall system performance increase.

The Bad

Unfortunately, for the consumer's sake, TMC didn't design the TI5VGF to the best of their ability. Although the board supports up to 133MHz FSB settings, even the 112MHz FSB setting wasn't stable enough to be considered a viable option for normal operation. This can be attributed to a combination of factors, the quality/yield of the L2 cache chip on the board, as well as the lack of increased filters between the chipset and the DRAM banks to improve the clarity of the signal as the FSB speed is pushed outside of the specified limit.

The positioning of the floppy connector directly below the ATX power supply connector near the top of the motherboard is horrible, especially in a crowded case. The design could have been reworked to place the Socket-7 CPU interface directly in the path of the ATX power supply fan's airflow, however that isn't the case, so the purpose of the ATX specification from a CPU cooling standpoint is virtually defeated.

The user's manual, although containing an excellent database of settings, doesn't double too well as an installation guide. The 72 page manual doesn't mention even the first steps of installing a motherboard, nor how to properly configure a board/troubleshoot, a definite discouragement for first-time builders. The manual also fails to mention that the overclocked FSB settings are accessed through the BIOS setup, and aren't available on the board itself. Speaking of board settings, the dip switches on the TI5VFG are incredibly low profile, often requiring a small flat head screwdriver or long fingernails to help configure, those of you with larger fingers will have some fun getting this board configured, especially if the board is already installed in your system.

Overall stability of the motherboard called for much improvement, even without occupying the 6 PCI slots, the AnandTech test system crashed an unacceptable amount of times during the stability tests giving the TI5VGF a below average overclocked stability grade and an average stability rating.

Features & the Test
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