FIC SD-11 AMD 750/VIA 686A Slot-A ATXby Mike Andrawes on January 9, 2000 1:14 AM EST
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It turns out that all this wackiness with the SD-11 is due to the fact that it is really an engineering sample that was never meant to be released to the public. But when the Athlon was released, FIC was caught with its pants down and without a motherboard ready to ship. The SD-11 was rushed to production and that is now what you can buy from your favorite FIC retailer. The upcoming SD-13 should be considered FIC's "real" Athlon solution.
Like the other Athlon motherboards that have found their way into the AnandTech lab, the SD-11 uses a voltage regulator setup very similar to AMD's reference design. Like many other Athlon motherboards, the SD-11 skimps on the voltage regulator. Although FIC went ahead and included the regulator heatsinks, they have only included half the regulators found on the reference design. The SD-11's PCB was designed with the complete regulator setup in mind, but production models simply do not have all the regulators installed. Like the reference design, there is one large 1000uF capacitor next to the Slot-A connector that tries its best to help keep things stable.
As with most other Athlon boards, the SD-11 features a pretty basic BIOS setup. FIC has chosen to use the AMI's text BIOS (i.e. not the AMI WinBIOS that everyone either loves or loves to hate), rather than the almost ubiquitous Award 4.51PG. Although FIC broke the mold with the core BIOS code, it is still a very minimal setup with virtually no tweaking options.
The SD-11 was the first Athlon motherboard to offer overclocked FSB speeds with 124 and 133 MHz settings, available via the BIOS setup. Unfortunately, AnandTech's testing has shown that the AMD 751 north bridge is currently not stable above 110 MHz, so these speeds are effectively useless. Fortunately, overclocking the Athlon can now be accomplished through manipulation of the multiplier using a "golden fingers" device.
When AnandTech first looked at the FIC SD-11 at the preproduction level, stability was terrible in all situations. We had trouble running Athlon's faster than 600 MHz on the board. Fortunately, with revision 1.8, FIC seems to have worked out all the bugs as the SD-11 was quite stable. This time, we had no trouble running CPU's up to 800 MHz, the fastest available from AMD. Rest assured that revision 1.8 or higher should be the only thing on the market at this point.
Power management consists of pretty much the standard stuff these days. Wake on LAN and wake on modem ring headers are available to allow the system to power on in the presence of network activity or incoming call. The BIOS can be set to turn on the system at a specific time. The CPU fan can be shut off when the system suspends to quiet things down a bit. Full ACPI support is included for additional power management options under an ACPI compliant OS, such as Windows 98 or 2000.
Although lacking details on installing a motherboard, the manual is otherwise decent for the experienced user and includes detailed information on all connector pin outs as well as the various BIOS settings. The software bundle includes Norton Ghost, AntiVirus, and Virtual Drive. FIC's own driver CD also includes all the VIA and AMD patches you'll need to get your system running properly. Rather than include the regular VIA bus mastering drivers, FIC decided to go with HiPoint XStore Pro busmastering drivers. We highly recommend that you just head over to the VIA website and grab the latest VIA 4-in-1 Service Pack.
Hardware monitoring is integrated into the VIA VT82C686A Super South Bridge. Along with standard system voltage and fan speed monitoring, the Super South Bridge supports external thermistors. Interestingly, FIC has chosen to place a thermistor behind the Slot-A connector, next to the voltage regulators. Apparently FIC felt it necessary to watch the temperature of the regulators, quite possibly another artifact of the SD-11 being an engineer sample. Two 3-pin fan headers are included on either side of the Slot-A connector.