Ever heard of Chaintech? Well I hadn't, until I received this awesome board from a distributor in Europe. After testing it I simply fell in love with it, although it isn't the world's fastest Pentium II board its combination of innovative features and high performance make it one of the world's best Pentium II boards in my opinion.


Motherboard Specifications

Socket Style: Slot-1
Chipset: i82440FX (NATOMA)
Cache: N/A (On Chip)
Form Factor: ATX
BUS Speeds: 60 / 66 MHz
Clock Multipliers: 3.5x / 4.0x / 4.5x / 5.0x / 5.5x
Voltages Supported: 1.5v - 3.5v (Auto Detect)
RAM Slots: 4 72pin SIMM Slots (EDO/FPM)
PCI/ISA Slots: 4 PCI Slots
4 ISA Slots (1 Shared / 4 Full Length)
BIOS: AWARD PnP BIOS w/
SeePU Jumperless CPU Configuration
PCI EIDE Controller: Super I/O
2 EIDE Channels
1 FDD Channel
2 Serial /1 EPP

 


The Good

When I received the 6FTM, the box itself immediately caught my eye. It is a very attractive enclosure, housing a world of goodies on the inside. After staring at the board for a few minutes, I got a huge surprise, the Chaintech 6FTM is a jumperless mainboard! And it doesn't use the SoftMenu CPU Configuration which the ABIT Jumperless boards use. Instead it uses a similar technology, called SeePU (Love that word!) Jumperless Configuration, which in my opinion is much more mature and advanced when compared to ABIT's technology. I didn't run into any problems at all with this board and the SeePU Jumperless setup, not even when overclocking! Although this motherboard suffers from only having 4 SIMM slots, its peripheral expansion slots are evenly divided (4 PCI / 4 ISA) therefore making system upgrades quite a breeze. The layout of this board is spectacular, it is much like the Megatrends FX66 in size, however since it is jumperless it isn't plagued by difficult to reach jumpers like most other Pentium II boards with ATX form factors. Also unlike most Pentium II boards, the 6FTM uses a switching voltage regulator with a visible low profile heatsink on-board, therefore making stability one of Chaintech's top priorities. This board did not crash once when I was testing it at all speeds. The AWARD PnP BIOS used on the 6FTM has by far the best BIOS Setup and Configuration options from all the motherboards I've tested, including those featuring the AMI WinBIOS! In the Chipset Features setup, you have the option of selecting a x1/2/3 DRAM Burst Read Timing!!! Tweaking my 50ns Micron Turbo EDO on the 6FTM was a breeze, I easily squeezed the most performance out of the system. I commented earlier on the stability of this board, and I just need to reiterate that this board is rock solid, and the Jumperless SeePU setup has no problems overclocking the Pentium II to 266 and 300MHz without any sacrifice to stability. The performance of this board is well above average, it is an excellent performer and the benchmarks prove that better than anything else. Chaintech paid much attention to the little details when they made the 6FTM, such as including a quick reference card with a sticky underside for posting on a wall/desk at your computer work area. They also include a pair of USB ports in the form of a standard AT interface slot cutout for easier access and installation, as well as an excellent users manual. The manual itself is composed of 70 pages of the best and most well written I have seen in a motherboard manual. Detailed diagrams describe the proper installation of the motherboard, Pentium II, and case peripherals with ease. The manual also accurately describes operation and configuration of the AWARD PnP BIOS Setup Utility as well as the SeePU jumperless configuration. An excellent manual as a compliment to an excellent board...

The Bad

This board left me wishing two simple things, a 75MHz bus speed (or at least a 68MHz bus speed) and a tad bit of a speed increase. Both of which comprise the only downsides to this superbly designed motherboard.

 


IRQ Usage

The usage of IRQs is a very important factor when choosing and configuring any peripheral, including a motherboard. How the motherboard manages and uses IRQs is very important, and often causes conflicts with other peripherals. The 6FTM does not skimp in this area, the AWARD PnP BIOS included with the 6FTM allows the user to enable or disable the usage of IRQ12 for a PS/2 mouse if one is present. Also you can individually set the IRQs for each Legacy ISA card just in case some are present in your system. You have the option of manually setting an IRQ for your Video Card if you desire to do so. The 6FTM is truly a board for the tweaker, it allows you to configure each and every IRQ usage setting to the max. As with most boards, you can select which IRQ your Serial and Parallel Port(s) use which often comes in handy when you have devices such as modems, printers, and serial mice attached to your system. Immediately after POST, the AWARD PnP BIOS detects and configures all PnP cards including PnP ISA cards. The board definitely does a great job of allow you to allocate IRQs in order prevent possible conflicts with other devices.

 


BIOS Settings

Here are my Recommended BIOS Settings for those of you who have been having problems with the 6FTM and higher bus speeds. Below are my recommended settings for bus speeds < 66MHz, and 66MHz. If you are using Non-EDO RAM, then use the settings the in the 2nd (Non - EDO) column, if you are using SDRAM/EDO RAM with a 50/60/66MHz bus speed use the 2nd (66MHz Setting) column. Finally, if you are looking for the safest and most stable setting, use the last column.

Chaintech 6FTM Chipset Features Setup

Item Non - EDO 66MHz Setting Safe Setting
Auto Configuration: Disabled Disabled Disabled
DRAM RAS# Precharge Time: 4 3 4
MA Additional Wait State: Enabled Disabled Enabled
RAS# To CAS# Delay: Enabled Disabled Enabled
DRAM Read Burst (B/E/F): x2/2/3 x1/2/3 x2/2/3
DRAM Write Burst (B/E/F): x2/2/3 x2/2/3 x2/2/3
ISA Bus Clock: PCICLK/4 PCICLK/4 PCICLK/4
DRAM Refresh Queue: Enabled Enabled Enabled
DRAM RAS Only Refresh: Enabled Enabled Enabled
DRAM ECC/Parity Select: Disabled Disabled Disabled
Fast DRAM Refresh: Disabled Enabled Disabled
Read-Around-Write: Enabled Enabled Disabled
PCI Burst Write Combine: Enabled Enabled Enabled
PCI-TO-DRAM Pipeline: Enabled Enabled Enabled
CPU-To-PCI Write Post: Enabled Enabled Enabled
CPU-To-PCI IDE Posting: Enabled Enabled Enabled
System BIOS Cacheable: Disabled Disabled Disabled
Video BIOS Cacheable: Enabled Enabled Enabled
8 Bit I/O Recovery Time: 1 1 2
16 Bit I/O Recovery Time: 1 1 2
Memory Hole At 15M - 16M: Disabled Disabled Disabled
DRAM Fast Leadoff: Enabled Enabled Enabled
Passive Release: Enabled Enabled Enabled
Delayed Transaction: Disabled Disabled Disabled
Flash BIOS Protection: Enabled Enabled Enabled
Hardware Reset Protect: Disabled Disabled Disabled

***** CPU Setup *****

CPU Type:

Depends on CPU


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.

Test Configuration

Processor(s): Intel Pentium II - 266 (512K)
BIOS Revision: Std BIOS
RAM: 2 - 32MB Micron 50ns EDO SIMMs
Hard Drive(s): Western Digital Caviar AC21600H
Video Card: Matrox Millennium (2MB WRAM)
Busmaster EIDE Drivers: Intel v3.01
Video Card Drivers: MGA Millennium 4.03.00.3410
OS: Windows 95 Service Release 2
Notes:  

 

Windows 95 Performance of the Chaintech 6FTM

CPU Business Winstone 97 Business Graphics Winmark 97
Intel Pentium II - 300 63.7 143
Intel Pentium II - 266 62.0 131
Intel Pentium II - 233 59.4 116

 

Disk Performance of the Chaintech 6FTM

CPU Business Disk Winmark 97 High End Disk Winmark 97
Intel Pentium II - 300 2970 3660

Although the 6FTM isn't on par with the Megatrends FX83-A, it is an excellent performer, and has the perfect combination of features that would make any user consider it. The Disk Winmarks are also excellent with the 6FTM, the Business Graphics Winmarks are even more spectacular than you would expect from this motherboard.

 


The Final Decision

Want a jumperless, reliable Pentium II board with speed and quality as two strong points? Give the Chaintech 6FTM a try, you might've not heard of the company before, but now you have...and they will most likely leave a lasting impression on you.

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