EPoX EP-ZX370A Review
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Introduction
EPoX, which to my mind, still produces the best overall super7 mainboard; in the form of the EP-MVP3G-M (as well as some pretty mean Slot-1 system boards), chose to produce system boards for the socket 370 Celerons in a number of flavors. The first we'll be covering is the EP-ZX370A. Based on Intel's ZX chipset, and loaded with many of the fine features EPoX is known for, this system board is already well on it's way to becoming a market winner.


Packaging
An ATX form factor mainboard (sort of a Baby AT board rotated 90 degrees within the case and with an more efficient power supply system), all of the standard back panel I/O connectors are already taken care of for you.

This means that the only necessary hardware that needs to accompany the EP-ZX370A are the included IDE and floppy ribbon cables. EPoX has, in the past, had some problems with the manuals that accompany a few of the system boards it produces, but, I am happy to report that this does NOT seem to be the case here. The shipped "Users Manual" seems thoughtfully laid out and informative without getting overly technical. Well illustrated, the step by step process for getting your new system board up and running is thoroughly simple but covers even the more technical aspects in plain, easy to understand terms. Along with the cables and manual, EPoX includes an Installation CD-ROM with all of the latest patches and drivers as well as system monitoring and Norton's Antivirus and Ghost utilities.

Features
Based on Intel's 82443 ZX AGP chipset, the EP-ZX370A supports the Mendocino core of the PPGA (Plastic Pin Grid Array) socket 370 Celeron at all current rated speeds although documented to only 433MHz. In the case of the Celerons, the clock multiplier is a function of the CPU rather than the chipset. Two DIMM slots on the board allow you to run the system board with up to 256MB of EDO, standard or PC100 SDRAM; the maximum allowed by the ZX chipset. (ECC is not supported when using parity DRAM modules.) The board sports 4 PCI, 3 ISA and 1 AGP slot for expansion cards and supports two independent dual channel IDE interfaces for up to four devices at PIO Mode 4 and Ultra DMA/33 modes. The EP-ZX370A supports 4 bus master PCI slots and a jumperless PCI INT# control scheme to reduce configuration problems. Designed using the Winbond W83977TF Multi- I/O chip the board supports a single floppy and parallel port (EPP, ECP) and 2 serial (16550 Fast UART) ports. The onboard PIIX4E provides support for PS/2 mouse and keyboard, and two USB ports and offers advanced features in the way of remote power-on by modem ring, Wake-On-LAN, HotKey etc. And Supports EPoX USDM system monitoring software utility.

Setup
The simple but effective manual walks you step by step through a genuinely easy set up process. EPoX ESDJ (Easy Setting Dual Jumper) CPU configuration allows you to set jumpers for the external CPU frequency and clock multiplier, or can be set to auto and configured through software in the CMOS set up program (BIOS). External CPU frequencies available on the EP-ZX370A are 66/75/83/100/103 and 112MHz which offers lots of options for overclocking as well as support for the future 100MHz FSB Celerons. The board is quite roomy although the CPU socket is somewhat cramped with can-type electrolytic capacitors is such close proximity as to make using an oversized CPU cooler somewhat difficult if not downright impossible. Everything else seems thoughtfully placed to make setup and service of the board simplicity itself and once all of your connectors and expansion cards are secured in place you are ready to boot to CMOS setup. The BIOS set up is deep enough to offer some level of tweakability but not so deep as to be confusing and to correctly set up an OS, you can go with the defaults without need for concern about mis-configuration.
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Test Configuration for EPoX EP-ZX370A

Mainboard EPoX EP-ZX370A
Chipset Intel ZX AGP set
L2 Cache 128kb on-chip
Processor(s) Intel PPGA370 Celeron 300MHz
Intel PPGA370 Celeron 400MHz
Memory 1x64MB PC100
Corsair CM 654S64-BX2
Hard Drive Quantum Fireball EX
6.4G Ultra ATA/33
Graphics Adapter Diamond Viper 550 16MB AGP
Operating System Windows 98

Performance
The EPoX EP-ZX370A has the ability to generate exceptionally high benchmark scores. It never ceases to amaze me of the level of performance attainable by these Celeron CPUs for their low price and when matched up with a good stable mainboard like the EP-ZX370A, the price-performance ratio is about as good as it gets.  The system board was tested using Ziff-Davis' Business Winstone 99 performance benchmark, Futuremark's 3DMARK™ 99 MAX and Quake II's Demo 1 and Crusher FPS for OpenGL gaming performance and the Unreal fly-by FPS in D3D applications.  The marks recorded after three runs of each benchmark are then averaged to reflect the scores here

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Not too bad for such a reasonably priced system. huh?  The scores for Winstone 99 varied by only 0.1 or so, demonstrating outstanding stability.   Futuremark's 3DMARK™ 99 is a great benchmark application for testing your graphics card,  and, the scores it reflects for performance in the form of 3Dmarks and synthetic CPU 3Dmarks can also be a fair reference for overall system performance.      The following are scores generated testing at a resolution of 800x600 and again are the average of three runs of each test...

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I have also included the Quake II frame rates for Demo 1 & Crusher, and the D3D version of the Unreal flyby to demonstrate the board against a real world gaming application...

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Overclocking
Just a brief word here for those of you that, like me, just can't seem to stop tweaking the most performance out of your systems.  Like super7 mainboards, capable of achieving the 100MHz Front Side Bus frequency, ZX based mainboards, the AGP frequency does not get clock divided until you hit that magic 100MHz FSB.  This means that your AGP frequency will match your external CPU frequency and your PCI frequency will run at 1/2 the external CPU frequency (as reflected in the table below...)

System Clock CPU Bus Clock AGP Clock PCI Clock
66MHz 66MHz 66MHz 33MHz
75MHz 75MHz 75MHz 37.5MHz
83MHz 83MHz 84MHz 42MHz

This is important to keep in mind because your AGP card and other expansion cards will have to be capable of functioning properly at these frequencies in order to overclock your system.  Under our testing configuration the EP-ZX370A was absolutely solid when running at 66 and 75MHz but the 83MHz FSB seemed just a bit flaky. For this reason I did not include the benchmark scores for the tests run at that frequency.  Hitting 450MHz using a PPGA370 Celeron 300A is a fairly simple task though, so if you really want a good price/performance ratio, go that route.

approved370.gif (8837 bytes) Conclusion
I found the EPoX EP-ZX370A to be among the best ZX-based board for PPGA Celeron support and heartily approve it for ease of installation, stability, manageability and performance.  The Super 7 Hardware Guide's Seal of Approval easily goes to this fine system board and I hope to see a BX based socket 370 based board from EPoX soon.
Check out EPoX excellent we site at http://www.epox.com for more

 

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