After poor motherboard support for the AMD K6 series, the success of the Athlon was very dependent on the motherboard support it would be able to acquire. The initial prognosis looked good, with AMD's Fester reference board coming out of the gates strong. It was a very basic board, but was extremely solid and got the job done without a hiccup. When we got a hold of Athlon boards from Gigabyte and MSI, it was evident that they were heavily based on the AMD reference design with a few minor modifications. At the time, FIC's SD-11 looked to be the only board on the horizon that would deviate from the AMD reference design. As we found out, it was as different as you can possibly get and still be an Athlon motherboard.


New Anand Tech Report Card Rating
85/B

Motherboard Specifications

CPU Interface Slot-A
Chipset AMD 751 North Bridge
VIA VT82C686A Super South Bridge
L2 Cache N/A (on-chip)
Form Factor ATX
Bus Speeds 100 / 124 / 133
Voltages Supported Auto Detect
Memory Slots 3 168pin DIMM Slots
Expansion Slots 0 AMR Slots
1 AGP Slot
5 PCI Slots (4 Full Length)
1 ISA Slot (1 Shared / 1 Full Length)
BIOS AMI BIOS

sd11_sm.jpg (21622 bytes)
Click to Enlarge

The Good

The FIC SD-11 was the first board to stray from the AMD Fester reference design, and the changes are evident immediately. The board itself is physically much larger than any other Athlon motherboard to date, but this is not due to the addition of any special functionality. Rather, there is just a lot of space between all the components. While this does make it a little easier to work with the board, the increased trace lengths can reduce stability due to added capacitance or interference.

The SD-11 is also the first to use a hybrid AMD/VIA chipset. The Northbridge is the AMD 751, while the south bridge is the VIA VT82C686A "Super" South Bridge. Using the VT82C686A offers a few small advantages over the AMD 756 south bridge used on most Athlon boards. The Super South Bridge supports 4 USB ports, an AMR slot, and has built-in hardware monitoring. A small header offers support for the two extra USB ports, which can be run to an expansion slot cover or to the front of your case if it supports such a feature. Despite support in the 686A, there is no AMR slot, which is no big deal since we've found it to be pretty useless for most users. Expansion is rounded out by a unique 5/1/1 (PCI/ISA/AGP) slot configuration and the standard 3 DIMM slots.

As mentioned previously, the SD-11 is a very large board with a very unique layout. In fact, the SD-11's layout is nothing like that intended by the ATX specification. The IDE connectors are to the left of the DIMM slots, right in front of the AGP slot, which could pose a problem for a long AGP card. At the very least, it is annoying as the IDE cables will run right over the DIMM slots. Like the reference design, the ATX power connector is behind the DIMM slots. The ATX I/O panel is also not the typical double decker found on most motherboards and cases. Instead, the USB and PS/2 ports have switched positions and everything is shifted half an inch. Further, there is only one onboard serial port. Why FIC chose to implement such a strange ATX I/O panel is beyond us as it offers no advantages whatsoever. Fortunately, FIC has included an ATX 2.01 compliant I/O shield in the box, so it shouldn't cause a problem for most users.

More Good

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