Singapore Hardware Zone

Chaintech CT-6BTA3 ATX Motherboard
Reviewed by CPU-ZILLA  (23 Mar 99)

Motherboard Specifications

Processor

  • Intel Celeron Processor 266MHz-400MHz (66MHz).
  • Intel Pentium II Processor 233MHz-366MHz (66MHz).
  • Intel Pentium II Processor 350MHz-450MHz (100MHz).
  • Intel Pentium III processors 450MHz-500MHz (100MHz).

Chipset

  • Intel 82440BX two chip AGP set 

Cache memory

  • CPU Built-in 128KB/512KB L2 cache for Celeron/Pentium II Processor 

System Memory

  • 4 x 168-pin 3.3v DIMM sockets support 
  • Supports 8/16/32/64/128 MB DIMM Module (256MB compatibility not guaranteed) 
  • Supports SDRAM PC66 & 100(Supports ECC, 1-bit Error Code Correct function) 
  • Supports up to 512MB of memory size 
  • Supports 66/75/83/100/103/112/133 MHz System Clock Speed Setting
  • Supports 3.0-7.0 Multiplier Setting 

PCI IDE

  • 2 X PCI Bus Master UDMA/33 IDE ports (up to 4 ATAPI Devices) 
  • Supports for PIO Mode 0-4, UDMA/33 IDE & ATAPI CD-ROM 

I/O Interface

  • 1x floppy port (360KB-2.88MB) 
  • 2x serial ports (16550A compliant) 
  • 1x parallel port (SPP/EPP/ECP) 
  • PS/2 Keyboard 
  • PS/2 Mouse 
  • 2x USB 
  • 1 IrDA connector (supports up to 115.2Kbps)
  • 1 Audio port with Line-Out, Line-In & Mic-In (Creative/Ensoniq ES1373 dual audio chip PCIset) and 1 MIDI/Game Port

Expansion slot

  • 4 x PCI 32-bit slots, PCI 2.1 compliant 
  • 2 x ISA 16-bit slots (one PCI/ISA shared slot) 
  • 1 x AGP (1x & 2x Mode,66/133MHz) slot 
  • Supports Creative PCI Sound Card SB-Link™. 

Power Management

  • Power On by LAN, Modem, Keyboard/Mouse, RTC Alarm & Soft-Power Switch 
  • Power Off by Windows 95/98 Shut down & Soft-Power Switch 
  • ACPI (Advanced Configuration and Power Interface) feature
  • Fan power On/Off control in suspend mode, Override power button, Power failure recovery, Blinking LED in suspend
  • Supports optional FAN-II (EISCA v1.0 compliant cooling fan)

Form Factor

  • ATX Form Factor : 305mm(L) x 200mm(W) x 4 layers PCB
  • Fits into regular ATX Case (six mounting holes) 
  • ATX Connector on Board 

BIOS

  • 2 Mbit (256KB) FLASH-able BIOS
  • Award PCI BIOS with APM, PnP, DMI and Anti-Virus Functions 
  • Floppy, LS120, ZIP-ATAPI, ATAPI CD-ROM, HDD (IDE/SCSI) multi-device booting 

<Introduction><The Good><The Test> <The Bad><Conclusion><Rating>

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Introduction

Watching the Oscars on TV and writing this review is not an easy feat. However, the different types of costumes Whoopi Goldberg wore throughout the entire award ceremony was surprisingly funny (most of the time), yet amazing. In the same way, it is always surprising to discover what lies inside an attractively packaged product like the Chaintech motherboard I received. Reminds me of my childhood and how excited I get when my dad brings something home from work. Well, enough of babbling and on to the review.

Chaintech was founded in 1986 and have since grown to become one of the top 10 PC motherboard manufacturers in Taiwan. This ISO 9002 certified company is also a well known manufacturer for display and sound cards. Just like most motherboard manufacturers, they too have a string of awards to impress any potential customers.

This new Chaintech BX motherboard offering includes all the standard features available in most leading BX motherboards with the exception of built-in on-board audio. The on-board audio chip utilises the Creative® Ensoniq ES1373 chipset.

The package comes with FDD & HDD cables, a printed copy of the motherboard manual and a CD-ROM that includes all the necessary drivers and utilities (e.g. Award Flash Utility, Exclamation Mark Remover Utility, Trend PC-cillin 98 and AIRBAG software group that includes Norton Ghost, Norton AntiVirus and High Point Xstore Pro).

Now, let's see what this board has to offer.

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The Good

The first thing that caught my attention when I took out the motherboard for testing was the position of the power connector. The ATX power connector of most motherboard are almost always built beside or behind the Slot-1 connector. This makes setting up a real hassle due to a lot of obstruction. In addition, most users dislike the fact that it is obstructing air flow which is a major concern to a lot of users since processor overheating may be a problem. However, I believe the casing design for proper air flow is more important to prevent heat build-up inside the casing. Now, where was I? Oh yes, the ATX power connector for this motherboard is actually built right at the corner of the board, after the 4 DIMM slots. In this design, I could see that they are actually isolating all the thicker and bulkier cables to one corner, thus leaving more room for the processor. It is also good since you can tuck all the thick cables away neatly, but that really depends on your casing layout and your creativity in tucking things away. However, Dr. Vijay did tell me that DFI motherboards have a similar layout as well.

The board also comes with 4 generous 168-pin DIMM slots for your 64/72-bit unbuffered Synchronous DRAM modules. This really comes useful to those who want expandability. Imagine being able to expand up to 1GB of RAM with four pieces of 256MB SDRAM DIMMs. It would be interesting to see how Unreal or Half-Life run off a RAM disk. However, since 256MB DIMMs are not mainstream yet, it is difficult to predict its compatibility in supporting this type of SDRAMs. This is, of course, according to the Chaintech manual. Anyway, I really doubt anyone would increase their system RAM to more than 512MB and run Windows 95/98 on it. It would be one of the greatest joke around.

As with most newer motherboards, the motherboard does come with the option to override the FSB setting. This is useful for overclockers who want to change their 66MHz Celeron FSB to 100MHz. It really eliminates the hassle of pasting the B21 pin to trick the motherboard into using 100Mhz FSB instead of 66Mhz. The BIOS also comes with the option of overriding the bus speed setting during bootup in case the system refuses to boot when you over-overclock your chip. And of course, most settings are done through the BIOS, thus making this board "jumperless".

Another neat and attractive feature is the foldable SECC retention mechanism. Its lock and slide mechanism for securing the Celeron is pretty convenient when it comes to inserting and removing the CPU.

The built-in audio support for the board really helps to make setting up a system simple and neat. It is like as if you have a Creative® PCI64 sound card built in. It is convenient since you have one less card to install and I always like a "clean" looking system. For those who don't know, the card has 128 General MIDI WaveTable instruments and supports 64-voice polyphony for wavetable audio and sound effects such as reverb, chorus and treble. It is also compatible with Legacy DOS games and supports DirectSound/3D/Music and Aureal A3D. I really believe this is what most people would settle for a cheap sound card nowadays. It's great for those who want to build a simple system with the Creative® PCI 64 sound card in mind. Moreover, the on-board sound device can be easily disabled in the BIOS should you decide to upgrade to a better sound card.

Now, on with some tests!

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The Test

For all the tests, I used the famous Pentium II 300 SL2YK chip. Overclocking the CPU was quite simple since it can be easily overclocked to 450MHz at only 2.0V. However, overclockers may feel a little restricted as the BIOS does not allow you to change the core voltage of your chip. Darn! I thought I could fry some eggs for supper (just kidding).

As usual, I always like to compare the results with other motherboards. Here, I've included the results from my previous test with the MS-6163 and also my own Elitegroup P6BX-A+.

Test Configuration

Processor(s):

Pentium II - 300 Retail, batch=SL2YK, 2.0V, Malay

RAM: 1 x 64MB Samsung PC100 (GL) SDRAM DIMM
Hard Drive(s): Quantum 840AT - 800MB
Video Card(s):  ECS Riva 128 AGP
Bus Master Drivers: Windows 98 Bus Mastering Drivers
Video Drivers: NVidia Ref. Drivers Release 2.77
Operation System(s): Windows 98 (build 4.10.1998)

Wintune 98 Result for Intel Pentium II 300 Mhz @ 4.5 x 66 Mhz

CPU  (1) Intel Pentium II with MMX@300 MHz 
Video Board  ECS Riva 128 AGP
Video Mode  1024x768@16bits/pixel
RAM  128 MB (MS-6163, P6BX-A+), 64MB (CT-6BTA3)
OS  Windows 98 4.10.1998 
Area Tested  Value (MS-6163) Value (P6BX-A+)
Value (CT-6BTA3)
CPU Integer  871.9818 MIPS 870.9869 MIPS 872.3492 MIPS
CPU Floating Point  349.1383 MFLOPS 349.1219 MFLOPS 345.3366 MFLOPS
Video(2D)  39.11494 MPixels/s 38.46286 MPixels/s 39.45264 MPixels/s
Direct3D  90.48956 MPixels/s 89.92081 MPixels/s 90.59966 MPixels/s
OpenGL  64.68133 MPixels/s 64.56181 MPixels/s 64.68468 MPixels/s
Memory  519.7512 MB/s  522.9412 MB/s 517.3807 MB/s
Cached Disk  64.03638 MB/s 64.89151 MB/s 58.48613 MB/s
Uncached Disk  2.259023 MB/s  2.780753 MB/s 1.47017 MB/s

Wintune 98 Result for Intel Pentium II 300 Mhz @ 4.5 x 100 Mhz

CPU  (1) Intel Pentium II with MMX@450 MHz 
Video Board  ECS Riva 128 AGP
Video Mode  1024x768@16bits/pixel
RAM  128 MB (MS-6163, P6BX-A+), 64MB (CT-6BTA3)
OS  Windows 98 4.10.1998 
Area Tested  Value (MS-6163) Value (P6BX-A+)
Value (CT-6BTA3)
CPU Integer  1309.82 MIPS 1303.563 MIPS 1304.988 MIPS
CPU Floating Point  523.7256 MFLOPS 523.1732 MFLOPS 519.8313 MFLOPS
Video(2D)  55.26153 MPixels/s 55.11017 MPixels/s 55.12511 MPixels/s
Direct3D  94.66859 MPixels/s 94.27676 MPixels/s 94.6703 MPixels/s
OpenGL  66.65624 MPixels/s  66.97032 MPixels/s 66.99781 MPixels/s
Memory  781.3519 MB/s  774.7418 MB/s 772.4934 MB/s
Cached Disk  97.26661 MB/s  93.57198 MB/s 88.03957 MB/s
Uncached Disk  2.426502 MB/s 2.83783 MB/s 1.46535 MB/s

Winbench 99 v1.0 Results

CPU Mark 32 (Winbench 99) MS-6163 P6BX-A+ CT-6BTA3
300MHz (66 x 4.5) 750 750 746
450MHz (100 x 4.5) 1130 1120 1120

FPU Winmark (Winbench 99) MS-6163 P6BX-A+ CT-6BTA3
300MHz (66 x 4.5) 1540 1540 1540
450MHz (100 x 4.5) 2310 2300 2310

The test results revealed nothing interesting. The performance of this motherboard is quite similar to most motherboards in the market right now. You should note that the cached and uncached disk Wintune scores were not due to poor motherboard performance. It was because I used an old Quantum 800MB hard disk for this test, as compared to the IBM Deskstar 8 which I used in other tests.

The motherboard also proved to be very stable. In one isolated test, I pushed the FSB all the way up to 133MHz and played games on it for hours without any problems surfacing at all. A lot of you must be wondering how I did that, well, stay tuned and I'll post some results of those tests when I'm done with my other reviews.

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The Bad

As mentioned before, there are no core voltage controls in the BIOS unlike the ABIT BH6/BX6 or the Microstar MS-6163 motherboards. This is obviously not very attractive to overclockers, especially when extreme speeds can be achieved by tweaking the voltage higher. However, voltage tweaking can still be done, but that requires some form of physical modification to the CPU pin outs.

In addition to its inability to change the core voltage, there is also one less PCI slot for expansion. Most motherboards come with 5 PCI slots. I suppose the missing PCI slot was actually taken up by the on-board audio. The number of PCI slots could reduce to 3 if you have one of those "hot" graphic chipsets like the Voodoo Banshee or Nvidia Riva TNT, since most users would have attached a heatsink fan to cool their graphic chipsets. For those who plan to use up all the slots, they should really consider other methods of cooling their graphic card.

Another disappointment was the CD-ROM connectors built on-board for the Creative PCI64 audio. When I first tried to attach the audio connector from my ASUS CD-ROM drive, I was confused at which to use. As I later discovered, there were two CD-ROM Audio In connectors, one for Sony compatible connectors, and the other was designated as just CD-ROM Audio-In connector. The Sony compatible connector fit fine, but at closer inspection, I found that the pin assignments was wrong. The pins were assigned as GND, R, GND, L instead of the normal R, GND, GND, L. Even if there was sound, the right speaker would have the wrong polarity, and may result in a strange combination of audio output from both the speakers. On the other hand, the other CD-ROM Audio-In connector had the correct pin assignments, but it uses a smaller connector (the pins had finer pitch). Thus, there was no way I could fit my CD-ROM audio to the board. This was frustrating, since I would have to either modify my cable, or buy a new audio cable with a smaller connector (I don't think it is easy to find such connectors). I finally decided to use the AUX IN which has the right connector size and correct pin assignments. I hope I have not confused any of you, but you will know what I mean when you get the board. Anyway, it is a small problem, and I'm sure most of you would have a way out of this. I always like a challenge when building a system. It challenges your creativity, but when there are just too many hiccups, one would get frustrated easily.

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Conclusion

This latest Chaintech offering is a fine performer in terms of stability and features. It is ideal for those who wants simplicity and built-in features in their motherboard. System integrators would find the built-in audio support convenient and at the same time, cost effective. However, I would not recommend this board if you intend to overclock your CPU, although tests have shown that the board runs stable even at 133MHz FSB (with a lot of cooling). The lack of voltage control is unattractive, unless you are one of those who are willing to take the challenge?

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MOTHERBOARD RATING

Overall Rating (Out of a maximum of 5 Star)

Installation ***½
Performance ****
Price ****
Overclockability ***
Material Quality ****
Stability ****
Overall Rating ***¾

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