Yesterday we brought you a look at Intel’s first 0.13-micron Pentium III processor based on the Tualatin core.  The performance of the CPU was respectable, often remaining competitive to the Athlon 1.2GHz.  In fact, the only real downside to the CPU was the incredible price tag Intel is charging for the CPU.  As we established in our review, the reason for the Pentium III’s excessive pricing is to prevent it from competing with the Pentium 4 in the desktop market. 

Even if the price weren’t enough of a barrier to purchasing the new Pentium III, the fact that it requires a new chipset/motherboard combination spoils the CPU as a possible upgrade solution for owners of older Pentium IIIs. 

These new motherboards that support the Tualatin core are known as Universal Motherboards because they support all Socket-370 processors.  The most common Universal Motherboards use the B-Stepping of Intel’s 815 chipset (aka 815 B-Step) or VIA’s Apollo Pro 266T.  Today we’re rounding up four 815 B-Step boards that we’ve been testing in the lab in hopes of illustrating the few but important requirements that a good Universal Motherboard must have. 

Because the demand for these desktop 0.13-micron Pentium IIIs is expected to be pretty low, we’ll limit the focus of this motherboard roundup.  It should serve as an overview for what to look for in Universal Motherboards while giving you a handful of real world examples. 

Motherboard Compatibility

One of the biggest rumors that surrounded the Tualatin was that although it wouldn’t work on current Socket-370 motherboards, it would work on older BX motherboards.  This rumor, like many others that are prevalent today, is indeed false.  Looking back at our Tualatin review we mentioned that the Tualatin uses a lower voltage AGTL bus signaling than the AGTL+ FSB supported by all previous Socket-370 chipsets (1.25V vs. 1.50V).  The combination of this and the fact that earlier motherboards did not have the two new pins (VID25mv & VTTPWRGD) that the Tualatin requires for proper operation results in no possibility that the Tualatin will work on older motherboards that don’t properly support the CPU. 

ABIT has released an updated BIOS for their Socket-370 BX133 RAID that claims support for the “Coppermine-T” CPU.  Note that this isn’t a 0.13-micron Tualatin CPU, rather just a version of the 0.18-micron Coppermine core that this BIOS update happens to support.  The BX133 RAID as well as all other motherboards that don’t support the VRM 8.5 specification will not work with the Tualatin. 

The Candidates

The boards being compared here are the ASUS TUSL2-C, Intel D815EEA2U, Soyo SY-TISU, and the Tyan Tomcat i815T (S2080). 

ASUS TUSL2-C: One major oversight

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