VIA Apollo Pro 133/133A Motherboard Roundup - February 2000by Anand Lal Shimpi on February 28, 2000 1:13 AM EST
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In the past few years, motherboards have increased in quality, reliability and performance but the main things you look for in a motherboard haven’t really changed. You look for stability, expansion and features. Cost is often a concern, but for the most part, motherboards in the same category (such as those based on the 133A chipset) go for approximately the same cost.
One consideration that hasn’t been a factor in the past is performance. Generally speaking, motherboards of the same type (i.e. BX boards) should perform within a few percent of one another. However, this is not the case with 133/133A based motherboards as there is quite a bit of tweaking that can be done on the BIOS side of things to improve performance as well as stability, so keep in mind that in this roundup performance is a factor.Form Factor & Size
VIA’s chipsets have always been aimed at the desktop and/or low-cost market, so you’ll be hard pressed to find a 133A based motherboard aimed at anything in the workstation, much less the server, market. Because of this, 133A boards will be available in two form factors, ATX and microATX with no WTX or extended ATX based designs.
The nature of the 133A dictates that it will be a direct competitor to Intel’s 820 chipset and a successor to the Intel BX; this results in the most common layout for a 133A board being the standard ATX form factor. At the same time, the low-cost nature of the chipset and the highly integrated 686A Super South Bridge option make producing microATX 133A boards very attractive to motherboard manufacturers.
The i820 chipset is simply too expensive of a solution to make it into many microATX designs that OEMs will buy, but the 133A chipset, with its SDRAM support makes for a very desirable alternative for OEMs looking to put together some sub-$1000 microATX systems.
Size is also a big issue with motherboards, especially if you’re going to be putting together a system in a cramped case where maintaining sufficient airflow can quickly become an issue for cooling and overclocking.
With the transition to FC-PGA 370 designs, most manufacturers will be promoting their Socket-370 boards more than their Slot-1 solutions. In an effort to help make the transition as smooth as possible, some manufacturers will be outfitting motherboards with both Socket-370 and Slot-1 CPU interfaces, which obviously takes up some extra space on the PCB.
Standard ATX Socket-370 motherboards are oftentimes just as large, if not larger, in terms of surface area, as their Slot-1 counterparts because of the fact that a Slot-1 connector actually occupies less space since it’s just a thin straight line versus a Socket-370 connector, which is more of a square.
Luckily, because of the target market of the Apollo Pro 133/133A chipsets, finding a board based on these chipsets that exceeds the standard ATX specification with its dimensions should be a difficult task. The only decision you’ll have to make here is whether you want a microATX or a regular ATX motherboard and choose your case accordingly.