MTech held the high ground for some time with their Mustang being the only truly successful motherboard based on a proprietary design concocted by Silicon Integrated Systems, otherwise known as SiS.  MTech based their entire Mustang design around the single chip solution of the SiS Trinity 5571 chipset.   However MTech now has some competition for the throne, with ABIT's introduction of their next generation SiS 5598 based all-in-one PD5N motherboard.  How well does it compare to the competition?  Does MTech finally have a worthy competitor for the SiS throne?  Let's find out...


Motherboard Specifications

Socket Style: Socket 7
Chipset: SiS 5598
Cache: 512KB
Form Factor: AT (w/ AT & ATX PS Connectors)
BUS Speeds: 50 / 55 / 60 / 66 / 68 / 75 / 83 MHz
Clock Multipliers: 1.5x / 2.0x / 2.5x / 3.0x / 3.5x
Voltages Supported: 2.8 / 2.9 / 3.2 / 3.38 / 3.5
RAM Slots: 4 72pin SIMM Slots (EDO/FPM)
PCI/ISA Slots: 4 PCI Slots
3 ISA Slots
BIOS: AWARD PnP BIOS
PCI EIDE Controller: Super I/O
2 EIDE Channels
1 FDD Channel
2 Serial /1 EPP

 


The Good

When ABIT referred to their new PD5N as an all in one motherboard they weren't kidding at all.  The PD5N integrates the standard, 4 PCI and 3 ISA slots, with the onboard SiS 5598 Busmastering PCI IDE Controller, as well a speedy SiS True Color PCI VGA Graphics accelerator!  This almost completely eliminates the need for a third party video adapter, however as you will be able to tell by the Winstone scores in the Test the onboard VGA controller is no match for a genuine Matrox.   Fully configurable via the AWARD PnP BIOS Setup Utility, the VGA controller is connected to the motherboard via a low profile cable included with the PD5N. 

The PD5N seems to break a lot of traditional ABIT practices found and implemented in their most popular motherboards like the AX5 and the IT5H.  Like ABIT's newest TX motherboard the TX5N, the PD5N provides users with a easy to use alternative to the popular SoftMenu Jumperless CPU Configuration ABIT has graciously spoiled us all with.   Instead of being tediously configured via jumpers, the PD5N can be completely setup using 2 sets of Dip Switches (8 switches in each set) with one set used to configure the Voltage settings and the other used to set the bus speed and clock multiplier.   The PD5N I received did not have a user's manual, however that was because it was one of the first out on the market it wasn't shipped with one, any PD5N units you'll purchase will have the classic ABIT manual which will provide you with hours of fun filled reading ;)

After setting up the hardware side of the PD5N, configuring the BIOS isn't that much of a task although it is a little different that what most people are used to with the AWARD BIOS.  Upon bootup, if using the onboard VGA controller (which can easily be disabled by plugging in your own video card and unplugging VGA connector cable) the BIOS not only displays the amount of system memory but also the amount of RAM shared by the video adapter (by default it is set to 1MB although it can be changed via the BIOS setup).  Using the AWARD Setup utility, you can also modify the memory clock of the onboard VGA accelerator, however when taken up to 70MHz (the maximum setting) some instability might result so be careful.  On a side note, the onboard VGA Accelerator isn't fully supported by Linux, however since it is based on the VESA specification you can simply select the VESA VGA driver or Standard VGA under X.

The features of any motherboard are made possible, for the most part, by the chipset it is designed around.  The PD5N, as mentioned earlier, is designed around the new SiS 5598 chipset which is a variant of the SiS 5597 chipset.   Unfortunately, very little is known about the SiS 5598 chipset other than the obvious.  Take a look at the chipset guide for a complete list of features  the 5597/5598 supports.  Here is an abridged list of features specific to the PD5N:

  • onboard VGA controller

  • onboard USB controller

  • Support for the 75MHz bus speed and Asynchronous PCI Bus

  • Support for UltraDMA Hard Drives

The performance and stability of the PD5N is about average for a motherboard based on a non-Intel chipset (excluding VIA based motherboards which simply rock), its undocumented support for the 83.3MHz bus speed (the 83.3MHz setting is: SW6 - ON SW7 - ON SW8 - ON, on the bus speed dip switch) makes it an even better value for those looking for an all-in-one solution for a low cost system. 

The Bad

Although the SiS 5598 chipset fully supports SDRAM, actual SDRAM slots are mysteriously missing from the PD5N.  This could indicate problems with the SiS 5598 and SDRAM, or just an attempt to reduce the cost of the motherboard.  Another disappointment is the lack of support for the Cyrix/IBM Linear Burst Mode as found in other SiS Chipsets.  SiS doesn't even mention future support for linear burst mode on their homepage, which is sad for the most part because that was one of the 5571's trademark features.  Of course that isn't a fault of the motherboard, rather the chipset, however for all of you 6x86 and 6x86MX users out there, don't expect to see bone shattering performance with the PD5N, although it is fairly competitive with those two processors. 

Features

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