The time is coming, and sooner than you might think, when there will be a PC of some form or another in every room of your house. Smaller, faster and cheaper solutions seem to be the focus of a number of component manufacturers as we head into the next millennium and ECS (Elitegroup Computer Systems) is one of them.
With flexible and compact FlexATX architecture built against Intel's integrated i810E chipset, Elitegroup's P6IWP-Fe seems an exceptional solution for the all-in-one "value" SOHO workstation and home entertainment market.
ECS' first board to adopt the new smaller FlexATX platform (9.0"x7.5"), the P6IWP-Fe/i810E will provide system developers the flexibility to create many new small and compact designs. Imagine, no more need for hard copy cookbooks because your kitchen is equipped with a mini-PC that not only stores recipes but gives access to even more recipes via the internet and also offers the option of ordering the ingredients you're out of online, or never having to take a magazine you know where because instead you can now simply surf the web.
P6IWP-Fe/i810E is based upon socket 370 architecture and supports FC-PGA PIII and Celeron PPGA processors and will very likely support the upcoming "Joshua" line of processors from VIA/Cyrix. The i810E with its incorporated 2D/3D graphics engine and 4MB 133MHz display cache provides exceptional entry-level graphics. P6IWP-Fe/i810E is also equipped with ECS' AMRplus technology offering very good audio performance provided by the on board CMI8738 audio chip.
Economically packaged along with the P6IWP-Fe is a Diskette drive ribbon cable and UltraATA/66 IDE drive ribbon cable, a drivers CD and User Guide. The board can also be ordered with options such as a V.90 Fax/modem Card
(DAA module) or TV-Out/LCD Riser Card. Since the P6IWP-Fe was developed and released before Intel's new FC-PGA PIII processor, information in the manual is vague at best about using this board with the new PIII. Apart from that, the User's Guide does a splendid job of directing the user in the proper setup of the system board.
Incorporating Intel's 82810E(GMCH), 82801AA(ICH) and 82802(FWH) the P6IWP-Fe supports UltraATA 33/66 and high speed (133MHz) 4MB display cache. Designed on a FlexATX (9.0"x7.5") structure the board's 2 x DIMM sockets support up to 512MB of system memory and must use PC100 (or PC133) SDRAM memory modules regardless of what kind of CPU is being installed. The integrated video system uses a shared memory architecture so that you must reserve some of the installed memory as video memory using the system BIOS.
With features such as audio, video, networking and an optional DAA module for a modem, that normally require expansion cards built in, the two 32-bit PCI slots provide plenty of expansion potential for an entry-level personal computer. The P6IWP-Fe PCI slots support UDMA 66 bus mastering. The mainboard also has TV-Out and LCD Riser slot for exporting the system video output to an external TV receiver or LCD panel.
The mainboard has a full set of I/O ports and connectors. The I/O template on the
back panel includes two PS/2 ports for mouse and keyboard, one serial port, one parallel port, one VGA monitor port, one RJ45 socket for an
Ethernet cable, one game/MIDI port, two USB ports and audio jacks for microphone, line-in and line-out. The board also features a header for the optional installation of an IR port, a second serial port, and 24-bit digital audio.
The integrated network adapter supports twisted-pair Ethernet networking using 10BaseT or 100BaseTX technology. The adapter supports PCI power management
v1.0a routines such as On-Now and Wake On LAN. Driver support is provided for Win 9X/NT, Windows 2000, OS/2, Netware, ODI, SCO Unix, and Linux.
The P6IWP-Fe also sports a built-in 56 Kbps fax/modem that supports the V.90 protocol. The chip is integrated within the onboard audio system and supports voice as well as data transmissions. In order to use the built-in fax/modem, you must install the optional DAA module that supplies the RJ11 sockets for your telephone line.
This system board features the Elite PCI Audio CMI 8738 single chip solution for PCI 3D audio. The chip provides Sound Blaster 16-bit-compatible audio, plus support for Microsoft's DirectSound 3D specification and Aureal's A3D interface and includes jacks for speakers, microphone and stereo in, and a game/MIDI port. The onboard audio supports full duplex operation and drivers are available for Win 9x/NT. The audio system can output sound to 4 loudspeakers and also supports SPDIF 24-bit digital sound input and output.
The P6IWP-Fe incorporates some of ECS' most advanced technologies such as "Magic Setting IV", "Suspension Indicator", KBPO, WOM/WOL and Hardware Monitoring capabilities. The "Magic Setting IV" provides end-users or system integrators a convenient way of adjusting the CPU core voltage and CPU frequency through the BIOS setup program instead of the annoying jumper setting steps. The green LED on the system board is the "Suspension Indicator" which indicates the system power saving status and is designed to prevent expansion cards from getting
damaged during the hot-plug process for SI/OEM/VAR or the DIY market. Keyboard Power On (KBPO) is one of ECS motherboards' standard features and allows you to turn the system on by simply pressing a hot-key or typing a pre-defined password, instead of pressing the power button. With LAN/Modem Power On capability, systems can be easily awakened from "Sleep Status" to receive an incoming fax, voice-mail or data transfer. And, the P6IWP-Fe is equipped with a hardware monitor function through hardware and
ITE Smartguardian software allowing you to detect and monitor system voltages and temperatures, chassis intrusion and fan speed status.
The manual also mistakenly alludes to the fact that standard 66MHz SDRAM can be
used. Intel's i810E chipset however runs the memory bus at 100MHz whether
you choose a 66, 100 or even 133MHz external CPU frequency. This could
result in memory errors if standard SDRAM were installed and while PC133 will
function just fine, the i810E cannot take advantage of the extra speed the
memory offers. Each DIMM slot can handle memory modules of from 32 to
256MB in size which means that you do have the option to add increased memory if
your needs require.
The FlexATX form factor means this mainboard is quite small
however, ECS seems to have gone to great lengths to make sure that setting
up is a breeze. Since the manual was written before the release of
Intel's FC-PGA CPUs you will have to set one jumper if you are using a
PIII instead of a Celeron to adjust the FSB speed to 100MHz. It is
important that the CPU be installed first because the heatsink/fan unit
used to keep the processor cool may be difficult to clip down once the
memory is installed.
The P6IWP-Fe is surprisingly well laid out for such a small
mainboard. It is worth mentioning I think to note that the optional DAA
modem module will likely interfere with the use of the first PCI
slot. I cannot state this for a fact though as the sample sent to
us for testing came without this option. It did come with the
TV-out LCD Panel link riser card which slips easily into its slot but
offers no slot cover typically found on expansion cards. I have
yet to receive a FlexATX case so I had to test the board within the
confines of a standard ATX mid-tower which offered lots of room to work
but looked somewhat lost in such a large case.
Outfitted with 2 x 2MB Samsung G12 133MHz DRAMs to act as a display
cache for Z-buffer data in 3D applications, the P6IWP-Fe also, through the Intel
80810E GMCH, allocates some of your system memory to to act as a VGA frame
buffer. If you intend using this system board to run any 3D
applications I recommend to have a minimum of 64MB of system memory installed.
Both of the IDE connectors support UltraATA 33/66 protocol and once
hard drive CD/DVD and floppy drives are connected you have simply to attach the
front panel led and switch connections to make before you are ready to boot up
The P6IWP-Fe uses Award Modular BIOS v6.00PG and the CMOS setup is
clearly detailed in the manual and offers numerous ACPI configurations.
One notable default setting you can immediately change is the local memory
frequency from 100MHz to 133MHz although this setting generates only a little in
the way of increased performance it does get your display cache up to the rated