The Super7 Motherboard Market is DEAD.  Try telling that to the thousands of Socket-7 AGP and Super7 advocates around the world and see if you don't get confronted with a nice little mob.  AMD has incredible plans for the future of Socket-7 and the Super7 standard, however they cannot be carried through if mainboard manufacturers don't realize that there is a demand for high-end Super7 motherboards.  If AMD is going to treat the Super7 platform in its dying years as a potentially high-end arena, and if AMD is going to challenge Intel using an interface that dates back to over 2 years ago, motherboard manufacturers are going to have to take the risk with AMD.  One manufacturer that is ready and willing?   One of the first to release a board based on the ALi Aladdin V Chipset, Iwill Corporation has followed in the footsteps of such greats as ABIT, ASUS, and AOpen, and has attempted to perfect and imperfection in a previous design of their own.  Let's take a second look at the newly renovated Iwill XA100Plus Super7 motherboard based on the ALi Aladdin V Chipset, is this what you'll need to truly harness the power of AMD's upcoming CPU's?


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 66 / 75 / 83 / 100 / 103 / 110 / 115 / 120 / 125 / 130 / 135 / 140MHz
Clock Multipliers 2.0x - 5.5x
Voltages Supported 2.0v - 3.5v in 0.1v increments
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 Award BIOS

 

The Good

The human psyche interprets the circle as a symbol of closure, a perfectly round existence in theory and a beauty in practice, it is upon this simple theory which Iwill's XA100Plus, code-named Venus, revolves around.  Prominently defined on the box of the XA100Plus, Venus is the second planet from the Sun and the sixth largest.  It's orbit is the most nearly circular of that of any planet, with an eccentricity of less than 1%.  A description applicable to both the sixth largest planet in our solar system, and the top Super7 motherboard out in its class.  The XA100Plus is the spark the Super7 industry needed to restore the fire which once burned continuously throughout the days and nights.  Following their slogan, Iwill truly made things happen with the XA100Plus, starting out with a full version of McAfee VirusScan bundled with the motherboard and a newly redesigned Y2K Compliant Award BIOS, Iwill means business once again as they present the XA100Plus to the market as a new product. Iwill's XA100Plus

The ATX layout of the XA100Plus does not deviate from the original design of the XA100, featuring 4 full length PCI expansion slots, 3 ISA, and a single AGP slot all on a PCB the size of your average Pentium II motherboard.  Like the original board, the XA100Plus features a full 512KB of L2 cache, enabling a 128MB cacheable memory area with the 8-bit Tag-RAM.  Iwill did make some notable modifications to the design in order to improve its ease of use, performance, stability and reliability as well.  The three DIMM slots as well as the expansion slots remained stationary in their position, however by using a single L2 cache module in addition to the external Tag-RAM instead of the two used by the original XA100, Iwill managed to free up enough room to effectively double the number of mid-sized electrolytic capacitors around the CPU socket.  In the process, many of the smaller capacitors got the boot in favor of full sized caps distributed more evenly around the ATX power supply connector to regulate the clarity and consistency of the power current.  Iwill moved the Easy Set jumper block (a single jumper is used to configure the FSB speed and another one for the clock multiplier, meaning no complicated settings) to the very edge of the PCB and pushed the floppy connector flush against the third memory bank.  The voltage jumpers are now an 8 pin block instead of the 14 pin block they once were on the original XA100.  Another switching voltage regulator now takes the place of a single capacitor whose previous home was at the very corner of the board near the memory slots to improve stability in the most extreme of operating situations. 

The board features clock multipliers from 2.5x up to 5.5x, theoretically providing support for the upcoming K6-2 450 and above processors.  On the PCB, like its predecessor, the XA100Plus allows for FSB selection via a single jumper as mentioned above for the now common 66, 75, 83, and 100MHz FSB settings.  The core voltage manipulation on the revised XA100Plus has changed greatly since the time of the first XA100, instead of offering a limited number of choices, the board allows for selection of CPU core voltages from 2.0v to 3.5v in 0.1v steppings for the most precise overclocking and system tweaking.  From within the Award BIOS Setup, you can enable/disable options such as the increasingly popular keyboard power-on as well as enable custom configurable FSB settings, such as the 110, 115, 120, and 125MHz settings described above in the mainboard specifications. 

The packaging contains the usual Iwill goodies, a driver CD-ROM which contains all of the latest drivers and patches for the Aladdin V chipset, including the AGP GART drivers for proper AGP operation.  At the time of the review, v1.40 of the drivers was not available which resolved many compatibility problems between the Aladdin V chipset and the Matrox G200 graphics accelerator, the file is now available for download on Iwill's site as well as www.ali.com.tw.   The XA100Plus comes bundled with a box full of the standard cables you'll need in addition to a quick start guide which documents the basic installation and configuration of the motherboard, all other documentation is present on CD-ROM.

The overclocked FSB frequencies add more depth to the performance of the XA100Plus, putting it over the top of the list of competitors in some cases.  The 120MHz FSB setting seems to be the sweet spot as the K6-2 running at 120 x 3.0 (360MHz) produced a Business Winstone 98 score equal to that of a Pentium II 400 on most systems.  In comparison to other Super7 motherboards, the Iwill XA100Plus performs with the cream of the crop, although it is a little slower than the reigning VIA MVP3 based champ, the FIC PA-2013. 

The Bad

In spite of the seemingly endless configuration options the XA100Plus offers the FSB settings above 120MHz weren't reliable enough for normal operation even with the highest quality Samsung SDRAM.  In addition to that, the layout does suffer from a semi-outdated creation period as the board is using the fail-safe 4/3/1 PCI/ISA/AGP expansion slot configuration, with more PCI peripherals hitting the market, some users may find that the XA100 lacks the extra PCI slot they need for whatever purpose whether it is a PCI sound card, PCI modem, Ethernet adapter, or even a Voodoo2.  The final complaint about the XA100Plus deals with the placement of the large electrolytic capacitors mentioned above, a cluster of three of the caps may interfere with the installation of some CPU heatsink/fan combos as they are incredibly close to the CPU socket.  Be careful when installing the fan as to make sure that you don't accidentally sever the connection between the board and one of those precious capacitors.

The Test

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now