The beauty of the human mind is that it holds one of the most powerful tools of the world, the imagination.  We all enjoy imagining how the world would be different if history had happened in a different way.  At the same time, we also like to imagine what life would be like if Porsche made a family sedan (perfect for a family man in a mid-life crisis), what life would be like if Sony made couches, and for the computer hardware enthusiast population out there, what a low-end motherboard manufactured by a high-end company would be like.

Here we have a clash of two worlds that don't seem to belong with one another, a low-cost and supposedly low-end motherboard standard, Socket-370, and a definitely high-cost and high-end motherboard manufacturer, Tyan.  Those who cannot afford to put down the major cash to purchase Tyan's high-end workstation boards always hope to have a bit of Tyan's excellence in the motherboards they can afford, however what happens when a company that is so used to making high-end server motherboards runs into a demand for a low-end Socket-370 boards?

Ideally, this would end up in a revolution of the low-end motherboard market, where Tyan would bring all of the stability, features, and jazz from the high-end market down to the level where Socket-370 motherboard owners could enjoy it.   If this were an idealistic market, then maybe, but as you all know, the reality of the matter is often times quite the opposite...

New Anand Tech Report Card Rating

Motherboard Specifications

CPU Interface Socket-370
Chipset Intel 440BX
L2 Cache N/A (on-chip)
Form Factor ATX
Bus Speeds 66 / 68 / 75 / 83
100 / 103 / 112 / 124 / 133
Clock Multipliers 1.5x - 8.0x
Voltages Supported 2.0v (Auto-Detect)
Memory Slots 3 168pin DIMM Slots
Expansion Slots 1 AGP Slot
5 PCI Slots (5 Full Length)
2 ISA Slots (1 Shared / 2 Full Length)

The Good

How do you tell if a motherboard was quickly put together just to meet the needs of the market?  If you see any similarities between the motherboard in question and a previous design from the company.  Looking at Tyan's S1856 Tomahawk BX you begin notice one thing, there is a lot of seemingly wasted space, giving the board a slot-1esque appearance.  Tyan can't be punished for saving time there though, it makes sense for them since there is no point in reinventing the wheel every time you design a motherboard. 

Click to Enlarge
Click to Enlarge

The BX based S1856 boasts many of the features Tyan's line of single Slot-1 BX motherboards boast, including the now commonplace 5/2/1 (PCI/ISA/AGP) expansion slot configuration.  Due to Tyan's trademark bending of the front panel interface pins (the pins that control the HDD lights, etc...) towards the front of the case, all of the expansion slots are capable of accepting full length cards.   This is something that is unfortunately overlooked by many motherboard manufacturers, and many users for that matter.  Although a considerable amount of today's PCI peripherals are only 1/2 length, you never know when you may run into something that requires a little extra clearance.  The Matrox Marvel G200 and the ATI All in Wonder 128 are two AGP cards that require full length slots, needs that are met by the Tyan S1856.

The nature of the S1856 dictates that it won't be used as a high-end workstation or server motherboard, meaning that there is no need for a full set of 4 DIMM slots.  For this reason the S1856 is outfitted with 3 DIMM slots, capable of accepting up to 768MB of total system memory.  AnandTech's SDRAM compatibility test indicated that our 256MB Corsair test modules would not work reliably in the motherboard, so the realistic expectation for the motherboard is 384MB of total system memory using 128MB SDRAM sticks.  Chances are that someone who purchases a $100 Celeron processor isn't going to spend six times that price on a 256MB stick of memory.  Not too big of a penalty for Tyan here, just cutting costs.

The board features a fully jumpered setup, however the beauty of the Celeron processor is that the clock multiplier is already locked on the processor's end, and the motherboard does an auto-detect (by default) of the CPU's official FSB speed therefore eliminating the need for you to even touch a jumper when configuring the motherboard.  The board could be set for a 3X clock multiplier, and your Celeron 433 would still run at 433MHz, simply because the clock multiplier is a function of the CPU, not the motherboard.  The S1856 does feature a jumper to control the status of the B21 pin on the Celeron CPU, setting the FSB detection to either auto-detect, force 66MHz or force 100MHz.  While the latter setting won't be officially needed until the 100MHz FSB Celerons are released, owners of the Celeron 300A may want to play around with it to see if their processors will boot at 450MHz.

The initial setup and configuration process is further simplified by Tyan's utterly incredibly User's Manual.  As mentioned in the Tyan Thunderbolt review, the User's Manual proves to be an excellent utility for the first time system-builder.  Its high quality step by step pictures help with the setup and installation of the basic components on your motherboard, including the CPU and memory.   The 83 page User's Manual provides a useful glossary section containing a few buzzwords and their respective definitions in addition to an error code dictionary, once again, extremely helpful if you've never approached a bare motherboard before.

Tyan's BIOS setup does allow for the overclocking of the FSB frequency of the board to a decent extent.  The important settings when dealing with a non-300A Celeron processor are the 75MHz and 83MHz FSB frequencies, which the S1856 had no problems with hitting.  For 300A owners that are looking to try their luck, in addition to the 100MHz FSB, the S1856 provides the 112MHz option which may come in handy if your processor is fortunate enough to be stable at 504MHz.

Performance is no longer an issue with the latest wave of BX motherboards.  During the days of the TX chipset, motherboard manufacturers were still experimenting with configuring their motherboards with the best combination of stability and performance, and back then an individual manufacturer could be crowned as being the fastest performer.  However today, if a motherboard manufacturer tries to sell you some PR junk of them being the fastest performer out of a motherboard roundup, smile and walk away.  A motherboard's primary assets are not its performance, as every average motherboard will perform within a few percent of its competitors, the points which you need to consider are features, stability, and quality.

The Bad
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