Decreasing the overall cost of a system requires that costs be cut in a number of areas, not just one. If you were to skimp on memory size alone, you'd end up with an excellent system that had very little RAM, or if you were to skimp on the quality of your video card you'd end up with a speedy system that can't play games. In an effort to provide users on a budget with an easier time in finding the best way to cut down on the cost of a system, motherboard manufacturers have started integrating many components into their motherboard designs such as video chipsets and sound controllers. While this step, in theory, is a full proof solution to the problem of keeping costs low and quality high, most motherboard manufacturers cut costs themselves in the process of integrating these components, therefore producing lower quality solutions which have received a bad reputation in recent times.
Luckily there is a motherboard manufacturer out there that has finally gotten the hint, and is willing to spend the extra development time in producing a high performance solution with the gamer on a budget in mind. IWill, known for their contributions to the Super7 market with the XA-100 and XA-100+ Aladdin V based solutions as well as their extensive line of Single and Dual Processor Slot-1 motherboards, has jumped on the Socket-370 motherboard bandwagon with their own low-cost solution with integrated sound, the LE370. However this is one of the first motherboards that seems to have a gamer in mind as IWill chose to outfit the board with none other than a gamer's sound solution. How well is the rest of the board? And will it find its way into your next low-cost Celeron based system? Let's find out...
New Anand Tech Report Card Rating 87/B
|66 / 68 / 75 / 83
|1.5x - 8.0x
|2.0v - Auto Detect
|3 168pin DIMM Slots
5 PCI Slots (4 Full Length)
2 ISA Slots (1 Shared / 2 Full Length)
|Something is beginning to indicate that Taiwanese motherboard manufacturers need to start spreading their offices out a little more, as the design of the Taiwanese manufactured IWill LE370 is virtually identical to that of most ATX Socket-370 boards of this nature such as the ABIT BM6/ZM6. The layout is pretty much standard when it comes to Socket-370 motherboards, and allows for all components to be easily accessed and manipulated if necessary without worrying about damaging too much while installed in a case.
|The motherboard's standard size complements its standard 5/2/1 expansion slot configuration (PCI/ISA/AGP) and 3 DIMM slots. The feature set of the board is courtesy of the Intel 440LX chipset, IWill's decision to pursue a LX based design rather than a newer BX or ZX solution was probably inspired by cost constraints of the motherboard and possibly excess supply of LX chipset parts remaining from older motherboards. This should keep the overall cost of the LE370 within a manageable level for a Socket-370 motherboard, and especially since the market is finally beginning to notice a drop in the cost of Socket-370 Celeron processors, a low-cost LE370 would be ideal for any gamer on a budget.
For those of you that may have forgotten since the days of the 440LX's introduction back in August of 1997, the chipset is essentially the same as the Intel 440BX with one exception, being the lack of support for the 100MHz FSB. The highest ever achieved FSB setting on a 440LX based motherboard was the 92MHz FSB setting of the old ABIT LX6, however the inclusion of that particular setting was a rare fluke in the design process and the highest realistically achievable FSB setting on the LX chipset is the once popular 83MHz FSB frequency. Other than the lack of 100MHz FSB support, the LX chipset is identical to the BX chipset, supporting all of the same features including AGP 2X compliance. Since all Celeron processors planned for release in the near future will require only the 66MHz FSB for proper operation, there is no real need for the 100MHz FSB in a Socket-370 motherboard solution just yet.
As briefly mentioned and alluded to earlier, the LE370 does not feature your standard el-cheapo integrated sound controller, rather it features a fully functional 3D audio controller based on Aureal's Vortex chipset with A3D support. The Aureal Vortex is the same 3D audio controller that gained its popularity when the initial batch of A3D enhanced games were released, now the A3D API has grown to a point where its presence is made known on most of the popular 3D games out there, and it happens to be a technology that truly separates sound cards from 3D audio controllers. Unfortunately, in order to keep costs reasonable, IWill could not outfit the LE370 with a Vortex2 controller (the chip used on the Diamond MX300) for A3D 2.0 support, however the Vortex controller that is on-board does an excellent job of providing integrated 3D audio support at a low-cost. The LE370 is the first motherboard AnandTech has reviewed that has truly provided a useful audio solution rather than a cheap integration of a no-name audio controller.
The other features of the motherboard are definitely not outshined by the inclusion of the Vortex audio controller, rather amplified by its presence. IWill has paid extreme attention to the construction and user friendliness of the installation and configuration of the LE370. Since the board is a Socket-370 only solution, there is no need for a complex jumper setup, rather IWill has taken the path of MSI and ABIT and made the LE370 completely jumperless via IWill's own modifications to the Award BIOS setup.