When I received the FIC PA-2010+ I didn't expect it to be the world's fastest Socket-7 board, and I didn't expect it to have any undocumented 100MHz bus speed settings or anything of that sort. However, when it turned out to be the most stable Socket-7 motherboard I have ever tested...well...that came as a shock to me.


Motherboard Specifications

Socket Style: Socket 7
Chipset: VIA 580VP
Cache: 512KB
Form Factor: ATX (w/ AT & ATX P/S Connectors)
BUS Speeds: 50 / 55 / 60 / 66 / 75 / 83 MHz
Clock Multipliers: 1.5x / 2.0x / 2.5x / 3.0x / 3.5x
Voltages Supported: 2.8v / 2.9v / 3.2v / 3.3v / 3.52v
RAM Slots: 4 72pin SIMM Slots (EDO/FPM)
2 168pin DIMM Slots (SDRAM/EDO/FPM)
PCI/ISA Slots: 4 PCI Slots
4 ISA Slots (1 Shared / 4 Full Length)
BIOS: AWARD PnP BIOS
PCI EIDE Controller: Super I/O
2 EIDE Channels
1 FDD Channel
2 Serial /1 EPP

 


The Good

With Intel as controlling and powerful as they are who would've thought that another company could develop a chipset that could compete with their HX or VX chipsets. Actually it is quite easy to compete with those chipsets, you just simply have to exploit their weaknesses. VIA Technologies saw this opportunity and pushed production to the max, the result? The VIA 580VP chipset, although reminiscent of the Intel HX chipset has many more advantages than its competitors. It is this chipset which powers the FIC PA-2010+, and it is this chipset which sets it apart from the rest of the pack. First I should address the topic of compatibility, you might expect the PA-2010+ to be horrible when dealing with compatibility simply because its not using an "Intel" chipset, wrong. I had no problems what-so-ever with the PA-2010+, the setup was a breeze and configuring the bus mastering drivers required no extra effort. Just use the standard Win95 drivers and everything works out perfectly, no messy add-on drivers to work with and no incompatibility problems. Expansion is pretty much standard on the PA-2010+, its ATX form factor allows for all 4 PCI and 4 ISA slots to accommodate full length cards. The 4 SIMM and 2 DIMM memory slots make taking advantage of the 580VP chipset's 512MB cacheable memory encouraging. The only thing missing from the PA-2010+'s amazing configuration is a 1MB of L2 cache which can be found in the FIC PA-2007. I mentioned earlier that I didn't expect this motherboard to do too much, however it amazed me with its superb stability. I took the K6 233 up to 250 and 262.5 flawlessly without any tweaking of the BIOS Settings, I believe I can take the K6 up to 290.5MHz on this board if I try a little harder. The Pentium MMX went up to 290.5 without a hitch, I did however have to increase the core voltage to 3.2v to do this (it can be done at 2.8v with the Megatrends HX83). The PA-2010+ is an excellent example of a motherboard that comes as close to crash-proof as physically possible. If FIC used some larger Sanyo Capacitors they might've been able to squeeze even more stability out of the PA-2010+.

The Bad

In spite of its rock hard stability, the PA-2010+ turned out to be the slowest Socket-7 board I have tested so far. I must give it credit though, it is a very well designed board, just not up to par with some of the other excellent products I've tested. The highest Business Winstone I could achieve with the PA-2010+ was a meager 54.0 with the AMD K6 running at 250MHz! The video performance of the PA-2010+ is also quite disappointing, no where near some of its competitors.

 


IRQ Usage

  • Allows user to set IRQ assignment sequence

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

  • Allows user to reserve IRQ/DMA Channels if necessary

  • Auto-detects PnP Cards after HDD Detection

 


BIOS Settings

Here are my Recommended BIOS Settings for those of you who have been having problems with the PA-2010+ and higher bus speeds, I'm not sure why though since it was very stable when I tested it. Below are my recommended settings for bus speeds < 66MHz, and 75MHz. 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 3rd (66MHz Setting) column. The next column should be used if you are using the 75/83MHz bus speeds and EDO/SDRAM. Finally, if you are looking for the safest and most stable setting, use the last column.

FIC PA-2010+ Chipset Features Setup
Item Non - EDO 66MHz Setting 75/83MHz Setting Safe Setting
Video BIOS Cacheable: Enabled Enabled Enabled Disabled
System BIOS Cacheable: Enabled Enabled Enabled Disabled
Memory Hole At 15M - 16M: Disabled Disabled Disabled Disabled
2 Bank PBSRAM: 3-1-1-1 2-1-1-1 2-1-1-1 3-1-1-1
Sustained 3T Write: Disabled Enabled Enabled Enabled
CPU Pipeline: Enabled Enabled Enabled Enabled
DRAM Auto Configuration: Enabled Disabled Disabled Enabled
DRAM Timing Control: Normal Turbo Normal Normal
SDRAM Cycle Length: 2 2 2 2
SDRAM Bank Interleave: 2 Bank 2 Bank 2 Bank Disabled
CPU to PCI Write Buffer: Enabled Enabled Enabled Enabled
PCI Dynamic Bursting: Enabled Enabled Enabled Enabled
PCI Burst: Enabled Enabled Enabled Enabled
PCI Master 0 WS Write: Enabled Enabled Enabled Enabled
Quick Frame Generation: Enabled Enabled Enabled Enabled

 


Recommended SDRAM

This little addition to my review layout was put in here just so you all can have an idea of what brand of SDRAM I recommend and have tested with the board, just to avoid problems in the future if you decide to purchase the board.

Recommended SDRAM: Advanced Megatrends SDRAM
SDRAM Tested: 2 x 32MB Advanced Megatrends SDRAM DIMMs

Manufacturer: Advanced Megatrends
Purchase Web-Site: http://www.megacom.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.

Test Configuration

Processor(s): AMD K6-233 ANR & Intel Pentium MMX - 233
RAM: 2 - 32MB Advanced Megatrends SDRAM DIMMs
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 FIC PA-2010+

CPU Business Winstone 97
AMD K6-200 48.9
AMD K6-208 52.0
AMD K6-225 51.8
AMD K6-233 51.3
AMD K6-250 54.0
AMD K6-262.5 53.8
Intel Pentium MMX - 200 46.0
Intel Pentium MMX - 208 48.9
Intel Pentium MMX - 225 48.6
Intel Pentium MMX - 233 48.6
Intel Pentium MMX - 290.5 52.5

Well, the benchmarks are a little disappointing actually, very disappointing, but its the price you pay for stability I guess.

 


The Final Decision

The PA-2010+ is a very stable board, nicely designed, and has a great set of features to boast. This board is definitely not for the average speed freak, slow and steady characterizes the PA-2010+ pretty well.

 

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  • dolantj - Thursday, March 20, 2014 - link

    they've gone about as far as they can go . . . Reply

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