Overachievers often bring on feelings of jealousy and envy among those around them, and in comparison to the competition, Diamond Multimedia has definitely made an impression on the market as a whole, and it's not out of the ordinary to notice a few manufacturers turning their heads as Diamond's product releases consistently seek rave reviews.  So what's next for a company that's managed to conquer the worlds of sound, video, and multimedia in general, with style, dedication, and the elegance that has earned them the place in the homes of many hardware enthusiasts?  Motherboards.  With the recent acquisition of Micronics, Diamond has added a new genre of products to their already immense line, motherboards, and making its competitive mark in the realm of BX motherboards is the C400.   How well does Diamond's first real entry into the current motherboard market stack up against the competition?  Should the boys over at Diamond stick to sound cards and 3D accelerators or have they found a place among the top motherboard manufacturers?


Note: Do not compare newer scores to older ones, the newer scores are much more aggressive
New Anand Tech Report Card Rating
86/B

Motherboard Specifications

CPU Interface Slot-1
Chipset Intel 440BX
L2 Cache N/A (on-chip)
Form Factor ATX
Bus Speeds 66 / 100MHz
Clock Multipliers 2.5x - 4.5x
Voltages Supported Auto Detect
Memory Slots 3 168pin DIMM Slots (EDO/SDRAM)
Expansion Slots 1 AGP Slot
5 PCI Slots
2 ISA Slots (1 Shared / 2 Full Length)
BIOS Award BIOS

 


The Good

There's one thing that's for sure, Diamond knows what the public wants.  The C400 starts out with a roomy yet cost-effective ATX layout, featuring a 5/2/1 expansion slot configuration (PCI/ISA/AGP) all of which are full length slots.  Every inch of the C400's PCB is taken up by the slots as well as other components on the board, the design is quite reminiscent of the ABIT BH6 even down to the 3 DIMM slots running parallel to the Pentium II's SEC slot.  A unique mark on the C400 are the color of the DIMM slots, why Diamond chose to go for the classic off-white colored sockets is beyond the grasp of this reviewer, however in terms of quality and operation, they are no different from the best.  Diamond C400

Further into the depths of the C400 we find the more common features on BX motherboards such as the SB-Link which isn't really of much use for most users now with the release of the SB-Live! as well as your standard Modem Ring and Wake on LAN headers.  The board features two cooling fan connectors, so for those of you with the newer Glacier cooling fans you'll have to make use of the 3-pin to 5-pin power converter to power all three fans. 

In the elegantly colored DiamondMM box for the C400, the motherboard is accompanied by a drivers installation CD which contains the latest bus mastering drivers as well as a full user's manual in Adobe PDF format.   Like many motherboard manufacturers, Diamond opted to forego a full written user's manual in favor of a quick installation guide.  The poster-like design of the installation guide and the photo-realistic diagram of the motherboard helps the installation procedure tremendously, although the C400 is a fairly high-end single processor BX motherboard, the installation process is geared towards the first time builder. 

Using the installation guide as an easy reference, the initial configuration and processor selection for the C400 couldn't be easier.  The configuration process is driven by four jumpers whose function is documented both in the manual and on the motherboard itself, once again evidence that the board is a more simplistic design approach as the FSB frequency and clock multiplier settings cannot be controlled independently.  The Award BIOS setup allows for the general configuration manipulation of the features of the motherboard, however you won't find anything unusual in there, the settings are the most generic and don't really allow for any incredible amounts of tweaking. 

From an engineering perspective, the C400 makes sparse use of high quality, oversized electrolytic capacitors near the memory banks and processor slot to keep the motherboard running as clean and stable as possible.   And from a stability perspective, the C400 is up there with the best of them, and when combining that with the 1st class performance that the C400 (and virtually all other BX motherboards for that matter), Diamond seems to have made a very well rounded motherboard for their first attempt in quite some time...however as manufacturers, Diamond included, have proven to us all nothing is perfect. 

The Bad

The two biggest faults that you'll probably have with the Diamond Micronics C400 can be fairly large ones depending on the type of user you are.  The first fault is the placement of the ATX power supply connector which may introduce some cooling problems if you happen to have a smaller ATX case as the air circulation in front of your CPU will be hindered greatly.

The auto-detection the C400 performs on your CPU to calculate the FSB frequency makes the C400 a definite non-overclocker, the only possible FSB frequencies are 66MHz and 100MHz, leaving very little room for experimentation in terms of overclocking. 

 


USB Compatibility

 


Recommended SDRAM

Recommended SDRAM: Mushkin SEC -GH PC100 SDRAM; Memory Man SEC -GH PC100 SDRAM
SDRAM Tested: 1 x 64MB Mushkin PC100 SDRAM; 1 x 64MB Memory-Man PC100 SDRAM

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

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

Test Configuration

Processor(s): Intel Celeron 300A
Pentium II 300 OEM
Pentium  II - 350 OEM
Pentium II - 400 OEM
RAM: 1 - 64MB Mushkin 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 98 Performance

Business Winstone 98
Intel Celeron 300A (66 x 4.5) 23.3
Intel Pentium II - 300 (66 x 4.5) 23.5
Intel Pentium II Deschutes - 350 (100 x 3.5) 26.5
Intel Pentium II Deschutes - 400 (100 x 4.0) 28.1

 


The Final Decision

If you're not interested in overclocking, and if you're just looking for a motherboard that'll cover your basic needs then the Diamond C400 is a very well rounded solution.  However if you're the type of user that likes to squeeze every ounce of performance out of their system, then you may want to look towards the ABIT BH6 or another motherboard of that class.  Diamond did a fair job with the C400, they just need a little more experience in the motherboard department before they can release a truly competitive product to please a greater percentage of the hardcore tweakers. 

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