You pull your chair up to the desk, reach for your cup of coffee, turn up your speakers, and fire up your new computer with, literally, the stroke of a key or two.  The Keyboard Power On function found on Epox's newest ATX Socket-7 Motherboard, the MVP3E-M, is just one of many features users will definitely appreciate, what else does this intriguing motherboard provide you with?   Let's find out as AnandTech takes a look at Epox's first ATX Super7 motherboard...


Anand Tech Report Card Rating
91/A-

Motherboard Specifications

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CPU Interface Socket-7
Chipset VIA MVP3
L2 Cache 1024KB
Form Factor ATX
Bus Speeds 60 / 66 / 75 / 83 / 100 MHz
Clock Multipliers 2.0x - 5.5x
Voltages Supported 2.1v / 2.2v / 2.8v / 2.9v / 3.2v
Memory Slots 3 168pin DIMM Slots (EDO/SDRAM)
2 72pin SIMM Slots (EDO/FPM)
Expansion Slots 1 AGP Slot
4 PCI Slots
3 ISA Slots (1 Shared / 3 Full Length)
BIOS Award BIOS

 


The Good

If it weren't for the Socket-7 CPU connector on the MVP3E-M you would probably think this large ATX form factor motherboard was made for a Pentium II.  As the name implies, the Epox MVP3E-M is based on VIA's MVP3 chipset, a Super7 chipset which allows for a Socket-7 CPU to be used in conjunction with support for the Accelerated Graphics Port, and the 100MHz Front Side Bus (FSB).  This chipset, placed near the Socket-7 CPU interface, leaves the 3 DIMM and 2 SIMM slots placed close to the ATX I/O back-pane with the CPU Socket moved towards the lower right hand corner of the motherboard.  With all of this shifting around many users will be glad that the 4 PCI and 3 ISA slots didn't have to sacrifice any accessibility in favor of including another DIMM/SIMM slot.  mvp3e.jpg (12955 bytes)

Straight out of the box, the MVP3E-M provides you with everything a good motherboard should, driver disks consisting of VIA Bus Master IDE Drivers and VIA's AGP GART VxD, as well as a well written User's Manual to help you set your system up for the first time.  The configuration process with the MVP3E-M, like most Epox motherboards, is beyond simple.  Epox's flagship Super7 ATX motherboard features their own Easy Setting Dual Jumper CPU configuration setup which allows you to select the FSB and Clock Multiplier using a single jumper for each.   The voltage settings are also configured using a single jumper, allowing you to select from core voltages ranging from 2.1v to 3.2v, including the 2.2v setting required by AMD's K6-266/300, and AMD's new K6-2.  

Another unique feature of the MVP3E-M, mentioned in the introduction of this review, is its support for Keyboard Power On.   By switching the position of a single jumper you can enable this user friendly feature, simultaneously pressing any 2 keys on the keyboard at the same time will power up your system by making use of the features of your ATX Power Supply.  Powering down the System can also be done automatically using Windows 95/98's support for the ATX Soft-Off function. 

One may wonder as to why Epox would choose to include SIMM slots on a motherboard that supports the 100MHz FSB, since the 100MHz FSB demands high quality memory to be used in order for your system to remain stable at the increased bus frequency.  The MVP3 chipset introduces a unique feature into the Super7 arena, the ability to run the Memory Bus Speed at 66MHz, while using a 100MHz Bus Speed to derive the Processor Clock.  Therefore, by enabling this setting, your memory can be run at a 66MHz bus frequency while your CPU and L2 cache take advantage of the 100MHz FSB, the two most important parts of your system when dealing with increases in Bus Speeds.  This allows you to reuse old 72pin EDO SIMMs that are capable of working at the 66MHz bus speed while running your CPU/L2 cache at the 100MHz FSB speed.  If you happen to have some old EDO SIMMs in your K6 system, this may be the ideal upgrade for you. 

The MVP3 chipset, coupled with the Tag RAM and 1MB of L2 cache on the board itself allow for a maximum cacheable memory area of 256MB on the MVP3E-M, a size that seems to be beyond the scope of most users today which makes it less of a limit.

The performance of the MVP3E-M is currently unparalleled by any other motherboard AnandTech has reviewed, including the MVP3E-M's Baby-AT brother, the MVP3C-M.  The MVP3E-M's 1MB of L2 cache does account for some of its performance edge over the competition, however most of it comes from the ability of the motherboard to run at the 100MHz FSB reliably with virtually any CPU.  Unfortunately, once again, the 6x86MX unit used in the tests failed to run at the 100MHz FSB Frequency. 

The Bad

Unlike the MVP3C-M AnandTech Reviewed, the MVP3E-M did not seem to have any problems associated with the asynchronous operation of the AGP bus or the SDRAM clock for that matter.  The only two things left to be desired from the MVP3E-M are more voltage steps between 2.2v and 2.8v to allow for more overclocking possibilities with the K6/266 and 300, as well as a 112MHz bus speed.  If neither of those interest you, then you may want to consider the MVP3E-M, except if you happen to be plagued with motherboard size constraints as the MVP3E-M is a bit on the large side.

 


IRQ Usage

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

 


BIOS Settings

Epox MVP3E-M Chipset Features Setup

Item Recommended Settings
  FPM EDO/SDRAM 60/66MHz Bus EDO/SDRAM 75/83/100MHz Bus Safe
Bank 0/1 DRAM Timing: 60 ns Turbo Turbo Normal
Bank 2/3 DRAM Timing: 60 ns Turbo Turbo Normal
Bank 4/5 DRAM Timing: 60 ns Turbo Turbo Normal
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
Aperture Size: 64M 64M 64M 8M
AGP Transfer Mode: 2x 2x 2x 1x
Cyrix M2 ADS# Delay: Enabled Enabled 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

Test Configuration

Processor(s): AMD K6/300 AFR
Intel Pentium MMX 233
Cyrix 6x86MX-PR2/200
RAM: 1 - 64MB Corsair PC100 SDRAM DIMM
1 - 64MB Memory Man PC100 SDRAM DIMM
Hard Drive(s): Western Digital Caviar AC21600H
Video Card(s): Matrox Millennium II (4MB WRAM - AGP)
Bus Master Drivers: VIA 2.14
Video Drivers: MGA Millennium 4.07.00.700
VIA GART VxD
Operation System(s): Windows 95 Service Release 2.1

 

Ziff Davis Winstone - Windows 95 Performance

Winstone 98 Winstone 97
Business Business
AMD K6/300 - 66MHz x 4.5 --- 60.6
AMD K6/300 - 100MHz x 3.0 21.8 66.7
AMD K6/266 -66MHz x 4.0 --- 59.6
AMD K6/250 -100MHz x 2.5 --- 62.7
Intel Pentium MMX 250 - 100MHz x 2.6 --- 58.8
Intel Pentium MMX 233 - 66MHz x 3.5 16.6 53.1
Cyrix 6x86MX PR2/200+ - 66MHz x 2.5 --- 54.9

 


The Final Decision

When compared to the AT version of the board, the MVP3E-M is everything it should have been, and more.  While there is still a world of competition out there that also happens to have their own MVP3 based motherboards either out or in the works, there virtually nothing stopping you from purchasing the MVP3E-M from Epox.

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