In spite of the fact that there are a limited few manufacturers that reside at the self-proclaimed, top of the charts when it comes to motherboards, there are literally hundreds of manufacturers that get little or no time in the lime light even though many have very well made products.  One manufacturer in particular that has just recently gained popularity among PC builders and upgraders is a company called A-Trend who has stepped up with their own line of Super7 and Slot-1 motherboards. 

A Taiwanese manufacturer, A-Trend, has produced motherboards which seem to be more readily available in local PC hobby shops and other such places making them a much easier buy for those not looking to deal with the entire mail order hassle.  Will A-Trend's ATC-5200 MVP3 Super7 board really give you a worthwhile experience or are you better off dealing with the "hassle" of mail ordering a motherboard?  Let's find out...


Anand Tech Report Card Rating
90/B

Motherboard Specifications

CPU Interface Socket-7
Chipset VIA MVP3
L2 Cache 512KB
Form Factor AT (w/ AT & ATX PS Connectors)
Bus Speeds 66 / 68 / 75 / 83 / 95 / 100 MHz
Clock Multipliers 1.5x - 5.5x
Voltages Supported 1.8v / 2.2v / 2.7v / 2.8v / 2.9v / 3.2v / 3.3v / 3.5v
Memory Slots 3 168pin DIMM Slots (EDO/SDRAM)
Expansion Slots 1 AGP Slot
4 PCI Slots (1 Full Length)
2 ISA Slots (1 Shared / 1 Full Length)
BIOS Award BIOS

The Good

Approaching you almost like any other Super7 motherboard, A-Trend's ATC-5200's spacious Baby AT PCB (Printed Circuit Board) provides shelter for the decent 4/2/1 expansion slot layout (PCI/ISA/AGP) as well as ample room for the three DIMM slots which allow you to take advantage of the 384MB rated memory capacity on the board.   The 512KB of L2 cache on the motherboard accommodates a full 128MB cacheable memory area on the MVP3 chipset (revision 'CE' was present on the board AnandTech tested).   Out of the 4 PCI slots, a single one of the slots is available for population by a full length PCI card and one of the 2 ISA slots is capable of holding a full length ISA card as well.   A-Trend ATC-5200

The layout of the motherboard is fairly clean, a concentration of electrolytic capacitors found its way around the Socket-7 IC in hopes of improving stability.  A single 5-ns cache chip is present just across from the VIA MVP3 North Bridge controller and happens to be surrounded by the general jumper and dip switch settings you'll need to get your system up and running using this motherboard.   As you can probably tell by now, the ATC-5200 is driven by a combination of jumpers and dip switches for configuration purposes.  The Front Side Bus (FSB) speed selection is controlled primarily by the combination of switches on a dip switch block on the motherboard as is the clock multiplier.  The ability to run your system RAM at a pseudo-synchronous frequency is present on this motherboard as well as all other MVP3 based boards, and this feature happens to be controlled by two individual jumpers.   The relatively few jumpers that are present on the motherboard are somewhat color coded depending on their usage to help you locate them. 

The ATC-5200 supports clock multipliers ranging from 1.5x to 5.5x making an upgrade path to a K6-2 350 or 400 almost natural, the support for the 95MHz FSB allows for the official support of the AMD K6-2 333 if you plan on purchasing one of those chips.  If you do see a 333MHz chip in your future you may want to bite the bullet and overclock it to 350MHz, otherwise you probably just spent a sizeable sum of money on a chip that barely outperforms a K6-2 300.

The ATC-5200 comes bundled with what you would expect from virtually any well designed product, especially a motherboard.  Your standard Mainboard User's Manual found its way into the packaging of A-Trend's only AT Super7 motherboard, while the manual fully documents all basic settings and does go on to document some of the more advanced features it is still a step or two behind the cream of the crop when it comes to written documentation.  Also bundled with the board are all of the latest drivers on an eye catching CD-ROM which was crammed in between two pages of the User's Manual.  Also stuffed into the manual was a recent addition to the manual which documented the newly implemented 95MHz FSB setting as well as the installation procedure for the VIA MVP3 Bus Master and AGP drivers. 

The Bad

Stability was a bit flaky on the ATC-5200, the reliability testing proved to be fairly successful on the motherboard however there were simple too many crashes present during the K6-2 333 testing for the board to be considered a rock-solid alternative to the competition.  Going along with the stability, the performance of the board was a bit low in comparison to your standard AT Super7 motherboards, however the difference wasn't large enough to be noticed in too many real world situations.

Although the board can accept one full length PCI card, a large electrolytic capacitor is in the path of the card and may be pushed slightly to the side with the installation of a Voodoo2 accelerator.   While this may pose some problems the board does technically have support for one full length PCI card, just be sure you don't break off the capacitor when installing that Voodoo2

Finally we are also blessed with the lack of any USB connectors provided with the motherboard, while the BIOS may support the operation of a USB keyboard that option does you no good without any USB ports to take advantage of.   Tack on an extra $10 to the cost of your motherboard purchase if you plan on using any USB devices, that's how much a set of USB ports will set you back at your local Computer Hardware Retail store.

 


USB Compatibility

  • Number of Universal Serial Bus Root Ports: 0

  • USB IRQ Enable/Disable in BIOS: Yes

  • USB Keyboard Support in BIOS: Yes

 


Recommended SDRAM

Recommended SDRAM: Mushkin CAS-2 PC100 SDRAM; Memory Man PC100 SDRAM
SDRAM Tested: 1 x 64MB Mushkin CAS-2 PC100 SDRAM; 1 x 64MB Memory-Man PC100 SDRAM

Manufacturer: Mushkin Memory
Purchase Web-Site: http://www.mushkin.com

Manufacturer: The Memory Man
Purchase Web-Site: http://www.memory-man.com

 


The Test

In recent times, choosing a motherboard cannot be completely determined by a Winstone score. Now, many boards come within one Winstone point of each other and therefore the need to benchmark boards against each other falls. Therefore you shouldn't base your decision entirely on the benchmarks you see here, but also on the technical features and advantages of this particular board, seeing as that will probably make the greatest difference in your overall experience.

How I Tested

  • Each benchmark was run a minimum of 2 times and a maximum of 5 times, if the motherboard failed to complete a single test within the 5 allocated test runs the OS/Software was re-installed on a freshly formatted Hard Drive and the BIOS settings were adjusted to prevent the test from failing again.  All such encounters were noted at the exact time of their occurrence.

  • Business Winstone 98 & 3D Winbench 98 was run at each individually tested clock speed, if reliable scores were achieved with the first two test runs of the suite an average of the two was taken and recorded as the final score at that clock speed.  If the test system displayed erratic behavior while the tests were running or the results were incredibly low/high the tests were re-run up to 5 times and an average of all the test runs was taken and recorded at the final score at that clock speed

  • All video tests were conducted using an AGP video accelerator

  • No foreign drivers were present in the test system other than those required for the system to function to the best of its ability

  • All foreign installation files were moved to a separate partition during the test as to prevent them from effecting the test results

  • All tests were conducted at 1024 x 768 x 16-bit color

  • 3D Winbench 98 tests were double buffered and conducted at 800 x 600 x 16-bit color

Test Configuration

Processor(s): AMD K6-2 333 AFR
Intel Pentium MMX 233
Cyrix M-II 300
RAM: 1 - 64MB Mushkin CAS-2 PC100 SDRAM DIMM
1 - 64MB Memory Man PC100 SDRAM DIMM
Hard Drive(s): Western Digital Caviar AC35100 - UltraATA
Video Card(s): Matrox Millennium G200 (8MB SGRAM - AGP)
Bus Master Drivers: Microsoft Win98 DMA Drivers
Video Drivers: MGA Millennium G200 Release 1677-411
Operation System(s): Windows 98

 

Ziff Davis Winstone - Windows 95 Performance

Winstone 98
Business
AMD K6-2 300 - 100MHz x 3.0 22.3
AMD K6-2 300 - 66MHz x 4.5 20.2
AMD K6-2 333 - 95MHz x 3.5 22.3
Intel Pentium MMX 200 - 100MHz x 2.0 17.5
Intel Pentium MMX 233 - 66MHz x 3.5 17.5
Cyrix M-II 300 66MHz x 3.5 21.5

 


The Final Decision

Your standard, run-of-the-mill, AT Super7 motherboard made available from A-Trend.  If you can pick one up at a good price then it doesn't make a bad board for a second system, you may want to think twice before using it for a high end primary system though.

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