Before I even touched a PA-2007 it had already made a huge impression on me, according to basically everyone that had used the motherboard it smoked the competition and then some...the biggest shock was that it doesn't use an Intel chipset! Let's find out a little bit about this titan, include its shortcomings.


Motherboard Specifications

Socket Style: Socket 7
Chipset: VIA Apollo VP2 (AMD640)
Cache: 1024KB
Form Factor: AT
BUS Speeds: 50 / 55 / 60 / 66 / 75 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
3 ISA Slots (1 Shared / 1 Full Length)
BIOS: AWARD PnP BIOS
PCI EIDE Controller: Super I/O
2 EIDE Channels
1 FDD Channel
2 Serial /1 EPP

 


The Good

512MB of Cacheable memory, 1MB of L2 Cache, excellent performance, SDRAM, Ultra DMA Support and much more...no this isn't a concept motherboard, it is in existence and in my opinion is one of the best Socket-7 motherboards I've ever tested, not only because of its speed but because of its outstanding feature set. This feature set and performance is courtesy of the VIA VP2 chipset which we have come to know as the AMD640 chipset. When I first setup the motherboard for testing I encountered a few problems, the biggest problems came from the lack of a Busmaster drivers disk, so I was forced to use the standard Windows 95 drivers. I soon realized that the performance and compatibility with those drivers was impaired and quickly went off searching for the proper drivers. In order to get them working properly you must first remove the Dual PCI IDE Controller, and upon rebooting stick in the disk with the driver file on it when Win95 prompts you for them. After I got passed that, all problems were resolved so I could move on to testing the board. The expansion features of the motherboard are pretty average since it is only available in an AT form factor. It features the standard 4 SIMM / 2 DIMM slots configuration with 4 PCI slots and 3 ISA slots, once again we notice the downside to using an AT form factor when designing a board since you can only use one ISA slot for a full length card, and with a modem, and a sound card that third ISA slot can become occupied in an instant. Although the speed of the motherboard is not the fastest as some have claimed, it comes very close to holding that title. Close enough that it makes its Winstone scores seem irrelevant especially since this motherboard has a combination of features matched by no other product on the market. The 1MB of L2 cache provided on the PA-2007, although doesn't improve performance much with 64MB of RAM, really shows its strength when using 128MB or more. Using that much RAM isn't a huge ordeal with the PA-2007 especially since the VP2 chipset can cache an amazing 512MB of RAM. The VP2 chipset, which is also known as the AMD640 chipset, boasts many of the features of Intel's latest TX chipset while combining a unique few options that make it a near perfect chipset. I had no troubles overclocking my Pentium MMX to 262.5MHz on the PA-2007 (the highest possible speed since it doesn't support the 83MHz bus speed) unfortunately I couldn't get the K6 up that high. Like its PA-2010+ partner, the PA-2007 supports Cyrix/IBM's Linear burst mode so when using the 6x86 or 6x86MX processor you can expect a small performance increase when enabling this feature. The Shuttle HOT-569 got my recommendation for best TX based motherboard, and now the FIC PA-2007 gets my recommendation for best motherboard for use with the AMD K6 processor...

The Bad

Two downsides of the PA-2007, first it is only available in an AT form factor which is horrible for cooling since we all know that the ATX form factor is much more organized from a cooling perspective. Secondly, the FIC PA-2007 does NOT support the 83MHz bus speed, and as far as I know it doesn't have any undocumented settings enabling one. That's a major downside especially if you planned on running your system at 208 or 250MHz.

 


IRQ Usage

  • 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-2007 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 75MHz bus speed and EDO/SDRAM. Finally, if you are looking for the safest and most stable setting, use the last column. There are more Chipset Features Setup options than those I have listed here, but they pertain to Serial/Parallel Ports and have nothing to do with memory timings so I left them out intentionally.

FIC PA-2007 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 Timing Control: Normal Turbo Normal Normal
DRAM Ecc Mode: None None None None
SDRAM Cycle Length: 2 2 2 2
SDRAM Bank Interleave: Enabled Enabled Enabled Disabled
Linear Burst Mode: Disabled Disabled Disabled Disabled
OnChip IDE First Channel: Enabled Enabled Enabled Enabled
OnChip IDE Second Channel: Enabled Enabled Enabled Enabled
IDE Prefetch Mode: Enabled Enabled Enabled Enabled
IDE HDD Block Mode: Enabled Enabled Enabled Enabled
IDE Primary Master PIO: Auto Auto Auto Auto
IDE Primary Slave PIO: Auto Auto Auto Auto
IDE Secondary Master PIO: Auto Auto Auto Auto
IDE Secondary Slave PIO: Auto Auto Auto Auto

 


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: VIA 2.03
Video Card Drivers: MGA Millennium 4.03.00.3410
OS: Windows 95 Service Release 2
System Cooling: 1" Heatsink/Fan Combo
2 Case Fans
Generic OEM Mid Tower Case

 

Windows 95 Performance of the FIC PA-2007

CPU Business Winstone 97 Business Graphics Winmark 97
AMD K6-200 53.0 110
AMD K6-225 56.3 114
AMD K6-233 55.4 115
Intel Pentium MMX - 200 51.0 102
Intel Pentium MMX - 225 53.9 113
Intel Pentium MMX - 233 52.2 110
Intel Pentium MMX - 262.5 56.3 123

The benchmarks say it all, the PA-2007 is an excellent performing motherboard. The video performance I noticed when using the PA-2007 was simply outstanding, the PA-2007 is obviously geared towards use with an AMD K6 however it performs quite well with a Pentium MMX. When I receive a 6x86MX I will try to post benchmarks of that also with the PA-2007.

 


The Final Decision

Want more than 64MB of RAM? Looking for features you thought only existed in the Intel TX chipset? Try the FIC PA-2007 but be prepared to be blown away by its outstanding performance and complimentary feature set. A must have for any AMD K6 owner since it is essentially using the AMD640 chipset =)

 


User Feedback

What do owners of the PA-2007 have to say?   Here are some interesting comments you may like to hear:

"This motherboard ver. 1.1 with the L2 coach of 512KB does not allow us
to use serial port mouse or serial touch pad pointer no matter how we
try to change any setting of the BIOS. It would howerver let us to use P/S mouse only not P/S touch pad. I did
try to reach technical support (fic.com.tw) by e-mail for 3 times, there
was no return of any e-mail reply. I suspect there may be a little bit
of design problem!!!!!!"

This problem was soon brought to my attention, and a fix was quickly suggested.  Apparently the PA-2007 is quite picky about the cables it uses and if you ever do experience this problem you are better off buying a new set rather than sending the entire motherboard back to the manufacturer.  The PA-2007 still retains its excellent quality and reliability in spite of this minor problem.

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  • bji - Thursday, June 02, 2011 - link

    Back in the day. I can still see the PA-2007 silkscreened lettering on the motherboard PCB in my mind ... Reply

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