A few months prior to its release, the hot topic on the web seemed to be the Microstar MS-5169 Super7 (Socket-7 + AGP + 100MHz Front Side Bus) motherboard based on the Acer Lab's ALi Aladdin V Chipset.  Unfortunately for ALi, delays in the release of the chipset paved the way for VIA's MVP3 chipset to make a grand entrance in just about every Super7 motherboard released at first.  At the same time, manufacturers such as ABIT, who had at one time supported the Aladdin V, began to drop their Aladdin V based products either in favor of the "superior" MVP3 solution or in favor of the Slot-1/BX market.  This abandonment hit Acer Labs hard, and left the Aladdin V Chipset on what seemed to be a sinking ship. 

At the same time, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) was on the verge of releasing their K6-2 Processor and was in desperate need of a stable yet high performing motherboard to use in their Evaluation Systems.  Their choice?  The Microstar MS-5169 Motherboard, based on the Aladdin V Chipset.  Did AMD make a wise choice by going with the Microstar board?  There's only one way to find out...


Anand Tech Report Card Rating
96/A

Motherboard Specifications

CPU Interface Socket-7
Chipset ALi Aladdin V
L2 Cache 512KB
Form Factor ATX
Bus Speeds 60 / 66 / 75 / 83 / 100 MHz
Clock Multipliers 1.5x - 5.0x
Voltages Supported 2.2v / 2.5v / 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
3 ISA Slots (1 Shared / 3 Full Length)
BIOS AMI BIOS

The Good

The MS-5169 that was tested by AnandTech was supplied in a modified state from AMD, the board was modified to support a 95MHz FSB Setting, a feature which isn't present in the retail version.

Microstar, known for their outstanding performance in the Motherboard Industry couldn't resist the temptation of a challenge when constructing their "ideal" Super7 motherboard.  The MS-5169 was announced well before the release of the K6-2, and it was released prior to the chip as well.   While the rest of the market waited patiently for AOpen, ABIT, and Shuttle to step forward with their ultimate, knock-out, Super7 solutions Microstar simply aimed to attain success from moving back to basics.

It was obvious that an AT form factor design was out of the question, the sacrifice Microstar would have to make with PCI/ISA slots in order to release an AT board would be unacceptable to most Super7 advocates, this was definitely made clear in the ATX design of the MS-5169.  With a layout virtually identical to that of the Iwill XA100, a competing Aladdin V motherboard, the MS-5169 is reminiscent of most of the smaller BX based Pentium II motherboards out today.  With the exception of the CPU Socket, as opposed to the Slot-1 interface of the Pentium II, the 3 DIMM, 4 PCI, 3 ISA, and 1 AGP slot creatively disguise the Socket-7 nature of the MS-5169.  None of the expansion slots are blocked by any of the motherboard's on-board components, leaving room for a total of 7 expansion cards to be installed, all of which can be full length cards. 

Based on the ALi Aladdin V Chipset, an official "Super7" chipset, Microstar's flagship Socket-7 AGP motherboard benefits tremendously from the incredible power and excellent feature set of the Aladdin V.  Included in these benefits is the support for a 256MB Cacheable Memory Area, even in spite of the fact that the MS-5169 ships with a maximum of 512KB of L2 cache.  The internal Tag RAM of the chipset allows for such a massive cacheable memory area, driving the need for the 3 DIMM slots on board.  Performance is also aided by the Aladdin V's on-chipset 16K x 2 SRAM, a feature that also benefits users by decreasing the overall cost of the MS-5169 by a small yet considerate amount. 

The board itself is sparingly populated by mid to large sized capacitors, with the majority of them concentrated around critical components such as the Socket-7 IC (Integrated Circuit) and the Aladdin V Chipset.   Configuring and setting up the motherboard is done using extremely easy to reach DIP Switches whose functions are completely documented on the MS-5169 PCB (Printed Circuit Board) making the ease of installation with the 5169 a definite A+.

Support for AMD's K6-2 is naturally expected and provided for by the MS-5169, which also takes the extra step to include support for the 2.5v core voltage setting, a feature which may aid users in pushing the limits of their K6-2 chips which run at an official core voltage of 2.2v.  Supporting more than enough clock multipliers to take you well past the K6-2 generation of processors, the MS-5169 officially supports the 66/100MHz FSB settings in addition to the overclocker's favorites the 75/83MHz FSB speeds for convenience at the least. 

The Bad

For those of you that have a few PCI devices you may want to shift your attention to the TMC TI5VG+ since the MS-5169 only features a total of 4 PCI slots, 3 of which are usable if an ISA card occupies the shared slot.   Forgetting about the 112MHz FSB setting which you shouldn't expect to be too popular on Aladdin V boards, the Microstar MS-5169 is definitely a very well made and overall decent Super7 motherboard.

 


IRQ Usage

  • Allows user to individually set IRQs for each Legacy ISA card

  • Allows user to assign IRQ to PCI VGA

  • Allows user to assign Off-board PCI IDE IRQ's

 


BIOS Settings

Microstar MS-5169 Chipset Features Setup

Item Settings
  Recommended Safe
USB Function: Disabled Disabled
USB Legacy Support: Disabled Disabled
DRAM Timing: Auto Auto
Gated Clock: Enabled Disabled
Graphics Aperture Size: 64MB 8MB
Primary Frame Buffer: Enabled Disabled
VGA Frame Buffer: Enabled Disabled
Data Merge: Disabled Disabled
Passive Release: Enabled Disabled
ISA Line Buffer: Disabled Disabled
Delayed Transaction: Enabled Disabled
AT Bus Clock: Enabled Disabled

 


Recommended SDRAM

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

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

Manufacturer: 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 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

  • After each motherboard was tested a complete format of the test hard drive was initiated and the OS/benchmarking software was re-installed afterwards a defragment was initiated using Windows 95's Disk Defragmentation Utility

  • Tests using AGP Video cards were only run under Winstone 97, as the AGP Millennium II does not affect the Business Winstone 98 score when compared to the PCI Millennium II used in the tests.

  • 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 800 x 600 x 256 colors

The Microstar MS-5169 was used in the AnandTech K6-2 Review benchmarks, for a comprehensive comparison of all performance benchmarks take a look at the Performance Comparison pages on the K6-2 Review

 


The Final Decision

Armed with little more than a bucket, Microstar managed to help bail the Aladdin V chipset out of a seemingly doomed sinking ship.  For the "average" computer user with a desire for a Super7 motherboard, the Microstar MS-5169 makes a perfect choice.  For those of you that crave more PCI slots or wish to enter the realm of the 112MHz FSB setting then you may want to peer into the world of VIA's MVP3 Chipset.

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  • Anonymous User - Sunday, July 13, 2003 - link

    Ms 1569 issues , I need a picture of the board with
    a full zoom shot of where the power sw goes on the jfp.
    Reply

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