Gigabyte BX2000 Slot 1 Motherboard Reviewed by Vijay Anand (15/6/99)
The variety of BX motherboards in the market
are huge but it has almost been a stagnant market with very minor changes.
Besides manufacturers coming up with more Soft-Bios look-alike of Abit's
and introducing voltage controls, nothing new has really come up in
the BX arena. Then all of a sudden, the big-time motherboard maker,
Gigabyte, who hasn't been in the limelight for sometime, comes up with
an updated BX motherboard with a new item called Dual-Bios. We'll discuss
more of this further down.
One look at the motherboard and you'll know it's got the best configuration that most of us are looking for; A 5/2/1(PCI/ISA/AGP) expansion slot configuration with 4 DIMM slots to support up to 1GB of memory! Expansion-wise, this board is perfect, just like the Asus P2B-F. The main connectors like the FDD,HDD are located in front of the ram as usual. A few other connectors are also situated here, such as STR-DRAM Led, STR-Enable/Disable jumper and STR-External Led Connector. I shall explain these features in another Paragraph.
The casing connectors, IrDA connector, System-after AC Back jumper, CMOS Battery and CMOS-clear jumper are located in front of the ISA slots. This is OK if your ISA slots aren't occupied with full-length cards that will block access to these. Other jumpers/connectors around the motherboard are KB/mouse power-on, Turbo-option, WOL and Casing Intrusion.
The board includes a golden-coloured heatsink over the 440BX chipset and three 3-pin power connectors for CPU, Chassis & Power fan installation. very oddly, the Power-fan and CPU-fan connectors are located almost near each other. Useful for Dual-fan CPU cooling but normally one of them is placed near the AGP slot for an APG Video-Card fan connector or for other uses. A SB-Link connector is also available for some PCI cards such as the Yamaha-192XG WaveForce that gives you legacy DOS sound support. Cards such as the Creative-Live do not use this connector.
Unlike many new motherboards, Gigabyte used a DIP switch block to control the FSB and multiplier selection. The available FSB settings are very limited, 66, 75, 83, 100, 112, 124, 133Mhz and a maximum multiplier support of 8x. Now this seems outdated for a brand new board.
The selling point of this motherboard is it's Dual-Bios function. This board is equipped with 2 small soldered Flash-Bios chips located at the back of the PCI slots. Both contain the same information as each other but one acts as a Main and the other as a Back-up. Many people would dismiss the feature as unnecessary and as gimmicks to sell the product. But give it some thought, it is a helpful setup. 3 main examples are that you've flashed the wrong Bios or you've lost power while flashing and the final big reason, to protect against viruses that corrupt the Bios. If any of these things should happen on a normal motherboard, you could be left with a dead motherboard and your only course of action would be to bring the board to the shop and ask them to help you flash the Bios back or replace the Bios chip and if you have a very old motherboard, most likely, you would have to change it.
With the BX2000, just boot the PC, Main-Bios error message would be flashed and you can press the combination keys shown to access to the Dual-Bios management options (This combination key is always shown and not only in such an emergency). There, you'll be able to boot your PC again by using the option to boot from the Stand-by Bios or you could re-program the corrupted Main Bios using the Stand-by Bios, all which can be done in matter of few seconds. Very handy for those unlucky times! My only gripe is that this outstanding-feature's operation is not documented in the Manual. But not to worry because when you access the Dual-Bios Management setup, the directions and options given are fairly straight-forward and understandable.
The other function that is new to the BX motherboard line-up is the Suspend-To-Ram (STR) feature. It acts very much like that Suspend-to-Disk, except now, your working contents are stored in the Ram before your PC goes to 'sleep'. This is the full explanation:
STR is a Win98 ACPI sleep-mode function. When recovering from STR (S3) sleep mode, the system is able, in just a few seconds, to retrieve the last "state" of the system before it went to sleep and recover to that state. The "state" is stored in memory (RAM) before the system goes to sleep. During STR sleep mode, your system uses only enough energy to maintain critical information and system functions, primarily the system state and the ability to recognize various "wake up" triggers or signal, respectively.
You cannot have this feature to work successfully unless you follow the given instructions in the manual to setup the feature. The main thing is to install the Windows98 using "D:\setup /p j" where D is your CD-ROM drive letter. The other operands will enable ACPI support. Sheesh! And I thought Win98 IS APCI ready by default. The 2nd step is to go to your Device Manager and update the driver for your "Plug and Play Bios" to an "Advanced Configuration Power Interface (ACPI) Bios" (it is inside windows driver database, no need for any external media). Then ShutDown the system and change the jumpers to enable STR. You can now put Win98 in STR mode by pressing Start, ShutDown and selecting the Stand-by option.
Or you can go into Power-Management in Control Panel, under the "Advanced" tab and select "Stand-by" in Power Buttons section. After another restart, you can just push your Power-Button to activate STR. When system is in STR, the STR DRAM Led will be lighted on but the system acts as if it's been ShutDown. Press any key or Power-button and your system will come alive as to where you left it within 8 seconds. The STR-Dram led will be on all the time until you ShutDown the system. This is a very cool and timesaving feature but you must make sure that your Power-Supply can give out at least 720mA at the 5VSB source.
The given CD comes with these software: Trend
PC-Cillin-98, Triones ver:3.70 and XStore-Pro ver:1.10 Bus Master Drivers,
Suspend to Disk Utility ver:2.3, Intel LDCM ver:3.11, Adobe Acrobat
Reader ver:3.01, System Information Viewer (SIV) ver:1.4a, DirectX6,
and Win95/98 patch. This is the System Information Viewer:
The Manual has got a very nice front and back cover but the contents are made up of recycled paper. It's very informative with some benchmarks and diagrams but the presentation method can improve as the 1st glance gives you a feeling that it's slightly chaotic.
Wintune 98 Results
Sisoft Sandra-98 & Norton SI
Lack of proper FSB and voltage controls put this board out of the overclocking league. Furthermore, it uses the older fashioned DIP-switches instead of a Bios-controlled setup.
There is a voltage regulator extremely close to the last PCI slot and AGP slot and it is usually very hot. Not very comforting to the already hot AGP cards we have these days.
The Bios chips are not socketed just in case of any mishaps.
The led connectors & others are bunched into one corner which is not easy to pull out & put back if the board & other parts are all fixed inside the case. Although it's labeled, it's hard to see them within the case in one small corner.
The KB/Mouse Power-on jumper is quite hard to reach.
This board is an extremely stable board, excellent expansion with fast performance to boot! The new Dual-Bios feature will really be treasured by important office-PCs with little down-time to spare as well as end-users like us who aren't keen in overclocking but would like to spend on safety and reliability of their system.
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