Introduction

For the longest time in the PC market dual processor systems have been reserved for high-end workstations, and  came with a price to match.  That all started to change two years ago when people discovered that Intel’s Celeron could be run in SMP mode with some modifications.  The modifications were not particularly easy to perform, keeping this market somewhat limited, but ABIT took a big step towards broadening that market by releasing the BP6, a dual Scoket-370 motherboard using the i440BX chipset.  With the BP6, you could simply drop in two Socket-370 processors and you were ready to go. The fact that the BP6 was relatively inexpensive, combined with the cheap Celeron CPU’s meant that anyone who wanted a dual processor system could have one at last.

As far back as Fall Comdex of 1999, we got word that the popular 694X North Bridge of the VIA Apollo Pro133A chipset actually featured SMP support, although it was not public knowledge at that time.  Before the 694X, an external ASIC was required to enable SMP support on the i440BX and i440GX chipsets, but the integrated SMP ASIC in the VIA Apollo Pro133A promised to lower the price of dual Socket-370 motherboards even further.  Nevertheless, it took quite a while before the Apollo Pro 133A was actually available on a dual processor board.  Fast forward a bit to last year’s Computex in Taipei, where we started to spot quite a few such boards. From there, the race was on, with just about everyone at least planning to release a dual processor board with the Apollo Pro 133A.

With the price of Intel processors constantly dropping, and operating systems such as Windows 2000 and Linux supporting multiple processors, dual processing is becoming more and more common.  For various sized companies, where intensive processing is needed, dual processor systems fit the bill perfectly.  Even for home users, a dual processor systemis now affordable enough for those needing (or wanting) more processing power.

As always, getting the right motherboard is quite possibly the toughest, and quite possibly most important, part of your decision making process when you still building your system.  You don’t want to spend more money on features that you don’t need, and most of all you don’t want to get a board with poor performance or stability.  Therefore in the coming weeks, we will try to review some of the most common dual Socket-370 motherboards available today and find out which one is the best.

Since the MSI 694D Pro was the first Apollo Pro133A dual Socket-370 board we received last year, right after the Computex, it only makes sense that this board has become the “reference” for comparison.

Keep in mind that this motherboard has been in the market for quite some time, yet it still manages to be a good pick.  Without further ado, let’s see how this board performs under AnandTech’s microscope.

MSI 694D Pro
CPU Interface

Socket-370

Chipset

VIA Apollo Pro133A
VT 694X North Bridge
VT 686A South Bridge

Form Factor

ATX

Bus Speed

66 / 75 / 79 / 100 / 110 / 114 / 120 / 124 / 129 / 133 / 138 / 143 / 147 / 152 / 154 / 159 / 162 / 166 / 171 / 180 / 190 / 200 MHz

Core Voltages Supported

Auto Detect
+0.05 / +0.1 / +0.2 / +0.3 / +0.4 / -0.05 / -0.1 V

Memory Slots

4 168-pin DIMM Slots

Expansion Slots

1 AGP Slot
5 PCI Slots (1 Full Length)
1 CNR Slot

On-board Audio

W83971D AC97 CODEC

BIOS

Award Modular BIOS 6.00PG

More Space for the Monster

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