Value Dual Socket-370 Motherboard Roundup - August 2001by Mike Andrawes on August 24, 2001 12:00 PM EST
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Just a few years ago, the phrase "dual processor system" was nothing more than a dream for most of us in the hardware community as it was mostly reserved for high-end servers or workstations. The simple reason, of course, was the prohibitively high price of such a system, which was the result of a few different factors. For starters, the processors prices were still relatively high, which made buying a second processor that much more expensive. Moreover, not all CPUs supported SMP back in the day. Similarly, only a handful of chipsets were available to support SMP, with a similarly high price tag, of course, that in turn raised the cost of such motherboards.
But quite possibly the biggest hindrance to the proliferation of SMP was the lack of mainstream OS support. Windows NT was the closest thing we had to a "mainstream" OS that supported SMP, but it's big problem was the lack of support for devices like USB and certain API's, such as Direct3D.
A lot of credit for this change can be given to the ABIT BP6, which took the relatively inexpensive i440BX chipset and teamed it up with two Socket-370 interfaces. At the time, the only Socket-370 CPU available was Intel's value oriented Celeron. Intel never officially supported SMP operation on Celeron's, which made ABIT's accomplishment that much more impressive. Unfortunately, the i440BX was already beginning to age and lacked quite a few features that newer chipsets supported, including AGP 4X, Ultra ATA 66/100, and official 133MHz FSB support.
More recently, VIA's announcement that their Apollo Pro 133A chipset was capable of supporting SMP was a big step in pushing SMP into the home user market. Besides the price, at that time the VIA Apollo Pro133A chipset was a pretty mature chipset, being in the market for quite some time already as a single processor solution. A lot of manufacturers were quite familiar and confident with their Apollo Pro133A designs, so taking the next step to enable SMP wasn't as difficult as it might otherwise be.
Further, the competition from AMD's Athlon/Duron processor have forced Intel to cut prices drastically as well. Even if you only consider top of the line processors, they are sold at much cheaper prices compared to high-end models of even one year ago.
The last key to the increased interest in SMP is the availability of Windows 2000, Microsoft's first NT based OS that offered hardware and API support comparable to the Windows 9X counterparts. At the same time, Linux continues to get more and more attention these days, which also flourishes with multiple processors.
It's been over a year since we first VIA Apollo Pro133A based dual Socket-370 motherboard, namely the MSI 694D Pro. Since then, almost everyone has released a competing solution and we've taken a look at some of the more popular ones with this roundup.
It turns out this roundup is quite different from those we have done in the
past. In most of our past roundups, all the boards are more or less the same,
using the same chipset with the same basic features forcing us to differentiate
them primarily by performance and stability. As you will see, we found quite
a few differences among the dual Socket-370 motherboards.
For the roundup, we are able to gather quite a few contenders, including the ABIT VP6, Acorp 6A815EPD, AOpen DX34 Plus, ASUS CUV4X-DLS, ECS D6VAA, EPoX D3VA, Gigabyte 6VXD7, Iwill DVD266-R, MSI 694D Pro, and MSI 694D Master-S.