With the hype over the initial release of the VIA VP3 AGP Chipset finally dying down, it is time to make the final judgements on the boards that cut it...and those that don't.  In the ATX arena, Tyan and Shuttle seem to have conquered the competition, even putting the good ol' FIC PA-2012 to shame in terms of features, performance, and reliability...however the competition in the AT world doesn't seem to be as well defined.  With the biggest AT VP3 contender being the FYI VP3 things are quite different for AT loyalists, fortunately Chaintech, a manufacturer quite popular in Europe, has come to the aid of those in need once again with their attempt at the best AT VP3 motherboard.  And the survey says...


Anand Tech Report Card Rating
93/A-

Motherboard Specifications

CPU Interface Socket-7
Chipset VIA VP3
L2 Cache 512KB
Form Factor AT (w/ AT & ATX PS Connectors)
Bus Speeds 50 / 55 / 60 / 66 / 75 MHz
Clock Multipliers 1.5x - 5.0x
Voltages Supported 2.2v / 2.8v / 2.9v / 3.2v / 3.3v / 3.5v
Memory Slots 2 72pin SIMM Slots (EDO/FPM)
2 168pin DIMM Slots (EDO/SDRAM)
Expansion Slots 1 AGP Slot
3 PCI Slots
3 ISA Slots (1 Shared / 0 Full Length)
BIOS Award BIOS

 


The Good

"We don't imitate, We Innovate" - is the logo you'll see on the tiny box of the Chaintech 5AGM, stating Chaintech's intentions and their motivation for making a motherboard.  The 5AGM isn't like a toned down version of any FIC, ABIT, or Tyan motherboard, it is an innovative creation, unique in its class, made for the user, with the user in mind and with quality as a number one concern. 

Staying away from the ATX form factor, Chaintech managed to fit 3 PCI, 3 ISA, and 1 AGP slot onto the Baby AT 5AGM along with 2 DIMM and 2 SIMM slots.  While this leaves very little room for expansion, there isn't much more that could have been done when given the constraints of a Baby AT layout.   In spite of this, Chaintech managed to keep the configuration and setup of the 5AGM plain and simple.  While the board doesn't feature the Jumperless See-Pu Setup notorious for being included on Chaintech motherboards, the jumpers are a breeze to configure for an AT motherboard (location-wise).  The Chaintech manual, albeit reminiscent of the outstanding ABIT manuals, carries Chaintech's unique style across each page of the fairly thick manual.  The documentation includes all the basic information necessary for getting your board up and running, not to mention the sticker included in the rear of the manual that documents all of the major jumper settings and parts of the motherboard. 5agm.jpg (14195 bytes)
Chaintech chose to include an extremely useful CD-ROM with the 5AGM.  On the CD-ROM you can find a handful of useful utilities, in addition to the desperately sought-after VIA Bus Master IDE Drivers and the newest version of the VIA AGP Gart VxD, necessary for taking advantage of the sole AGP slot on the motherboard. 

For you K6/266 & 300 users out there, the 5AGM does support the required 2.2v core voltage setting so you're not out of luck.   Along with a nice selection of voltage settings, the board also features official and unofficial settings for bus speeds ranging from 50 to 75MHz, unfortunately the 83.3MHz setting is absent from this motherboard as with most VP3 boards.

Dealing with stability, the 5AGM had no problems running the K6/266, Pentium MMX, or 6x86MX at normal and overclocked speeds.   Making this board the ideal AT form factor VP3 for those of you that are concerned with speed/reliability, it is obvious that Chaintech placed those two items at the top of their priority list with this motherboard among other things.  As with most VP3 boards, the Chaintech 5AGM performs much like its competition, however it differs from the rest of the pack in that the overall performance of the 5AGM doesn't show any weaknesses, as the Tyan Trinity did with the Pentium MMX.

The Bad

It seems like an 83MHz bus speed setting is too much to ask from a VP3 based motherboard, so we'll leave that out of "The Bad" section of this review, however the 5AGM's lack of expandability features do leave many AT fans (especially those with HUGE AT cases, looking to fill up a board with peripherals) in the dust with no hope of a solution.  If you don't plan on using too many expansion cards, or memory modules with your newly upgraded system, then you shouldn't have much of a problem with the 5AGM...otherwise, search for a new ATX case.

 


BIOS Settings

 

Chaintech 5AGM Chipset Features Setup

Item Recommended Settings
  FPM EDO/SDRAM 60/66MHz Bus EDO/SDRAM 75MHz Bus Safe
Bank 0/1 DRAM Timing: 70/12 ns 60/10 ns 60/10 ns 60/10 ns
Bank 2/3 DRAM Timing: 70/12 ns 60/10 ns 60/10 ns 60/10 ns
Bank 4/5 DRAM Timing: 70/12 ns 60/10 ns 60/10 ns 60/10 ns
SDRAM Cycle Length: 3 2 2 3
SDRAM Bank Interleave: Disabled 4 Bank 4 Bank Disabled
DRAM Read Pipeline: Enabled Enabled Enabled Disabled
Sustained 3T Write: Enabled Enabled Enabled Disabled
Cache Rd+CPU Wt Pipeline: Enabled Enabled Enabled Enabled
Read Around write: Enabled Enabled Enabled Enabled
Cache Timing: Fast Fast Fast Fast
Video BIOS Cacheable: Enabled Enabled Enabled Disabled
System BIOS Cacheable: Enabled Enabled Enabled Disabled
Memory Hole At 15Mb Addr.: Disabled Disabled Disabled Disabled
AGP: Enabled Enabled Enabled Disabled
Aperture Size: 64M 64M 64M 8M
AGP 2X Mode: Enabled Enabled Enabled Disabled
Flash BIOS Protection: Enabled Enabled Enabled Enabled

 


Recommended SDRAM

Recommended SDRAM: Corsair PC100 SDRAM; Memory Man PC100 SDRAM
SDRAM Tested: 1 x 64MB Corsair PC100 SDRAM; 1 x 64MB Memory-Man PC100 SDRAM

Manufacturer: Corsair Microsystems
Purchase Web-Site: http://www.nf-ny.com

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

 

The Test

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