FIC CE31-A SiS 620 Socket-370 microATXby Anand Lal Shimpi on April 25, 1999 2:31 PM EST
- Posted in
As soon as the Socket-370 Celeron processors hit the market, the supply of overclockable Slot-1 300A's seemed to diminish. Then came the 366/400MHz Socket-370 Celerons along with their Slot-1 counterparts, and while the availability of higher speed Slot-1 Celerons didn't drop, the price of their Socket-370 counterparts did. Tomorrow Intel will release the Intel Celeron 466, and the first true Socket-370 Chipset, the Intel 810 (the 440ZX was nothing more than a scaled down version of the 440BX). Intel is doing their best to push the Socket-370 market, and since the beginning of this year, they have done so tremendously.
Also with the increase in popularity of the Socket-370 standard came the increase in popularity of alternative chipset solutions, such as VIA's Apollo Pro Plus, providing cheaper and more "feature filled" alternatives to the standard Intel LX/BX/ZX options for Socket-370 motherboards. One of the first to implement SiS' Slot-1/Socket-370 chipset, the 620, is the well known FIC. AnandTech was shown FIC's 620 board at last year's Comdex, and now it's finally time to see how well the chipset performs on FIC's CE31-A.
New Anand Tech Report Card Rating 82/C
|66 / 68 / 75 / 83 / 95 / 100
|1.5x - 6.5x
|2.8v / 2.0v (Auto-Detect)
|2 168pin DIMM Slots
3 PCI Slots (3 Full Length)
1 ISA Slots (0 Shared / 0 Full Length)
|No AGP slot?!?! No, the CE31-A isn't a step back into 1997, instead it is taking what many analysts call the path of the future, integrated video. Integrating video into the motherboard is something that has been around for quite some time, and it definitely helps cut down on the cost of a system. With Intel pushing for a sub-$600 PC platform in 1999, it's going to take much more than integrated video to push PC's down to that price point. This is where SiS comes in.
|The SiS 620 chipset was a prominent player on the motherboard scene last year in Vegas, primarily because it integrates the normal functions of a North Bridge controller (PCI interface, etc...) with a 2D/3D graphics accelerator. The 620, combined with its South Bridge, the 5595 (PCI IDE controller, etc...) make up a highly integrated and low-cost solution that seemed ideal for FIC's Socket-370 CE31-A. Because of the integrated video, the 620 allows for the AGP slot to be physically removed from the motherboard's PCB, cutting costs there too.
With the absence of the AGP slot, the microATX CE31-A features 3 PCI slots, and a single ISA slot. The beauty of this unique 3/1/0 (PCI/ISA/AGP) expansion slot configuration is that none of the slots are shared, meaning they can all be occupied at the same time. The three PCI slots are capable of accepting full length cards, unfortunately the front panel connectors prevent the sole ISA slot from doing the same.
The right hand side of the motherboard provides home to the HDD/FDD connectors, as well as the two SDRAM DIMM slots. The board worked fine with up to 256MB of SDRAM, however it failed AnandTech's 256MB module test using Corsair's 256MB registered DIMMs. Chances are that if you're going to be buying a board like the CE31-A you probably won't be looking to shell out $600 on a 256MB SDRAM stick just for kicks. The ATX power supply connector is wedged between the Socket-370 interface and the first DIMM slot, fortunately it does not interfere with the installation of the heatsink/fan combo on your CPU (although it does make things quite tight for those of you with larger fingers).
The board comes outfitted with an on-board Ensoniq ESS Solo-1 PCI Audio controller, which provides excellent quality considering it is considered to be an "el-cheapo" on-board sound controller. As mentioned before, the SiS 620 provides for a 2D/3D accelerator integrated into the North Bridge of the chipset, much like the Trident accelerator in VIA's MVP4. As in the case of the MVP4, the integrated video, since it is on the North Bridge of the chipset, is capable of transferring data at speeds greater than AGP 2X transfer rates. To be specific, the integrated video provides up to 800MB/s of bandwidth, greater than that of AGP 2X video accelerators. While SiS provides the option of cutting costs even further by sharing system memory with the graphics accelerator, FIC chose to outfit the CE31-A with 8MB of on-board SDRAM.
Another powerful feature of the SiS 620 chipset, thus a powerful feature of the CE31-A, is the 5595 South Bridge's Ultra ATA 66 support. As you are already probably familiar with, Ultra ATA 66 is not supported by Intel and will not be until the release of the i820 chipset in Q3/Q4 '99. Ultra ATA 66 is supported on newer releases of the VIA Apollo Pro Plus chipset with an updated South Bridge controller, however most boards do not feature the updated South Bridge just yet. This leaves the SiS 620 as a powerful contender on the low-end, with integrated video, audio, and an Ultra ATA 66 controller.