EPoX EP-BX3 Review

Introduction
The EP-BX3 is based on the Intel 440BX chipset, an AGPset offering a 100MHz Bus Clock, supporting a single Slot-1 Celeron, Pentium II or Pentium III operating at 233-550 MHz. While primarily released for the Deschutes core, EPoX latest BIOS revision offers excellent support for the Pentium III as well as features like the ability to assign IRQs to individual PCI slots. Using the Intel 82443BX AGP core logic chipset, the EP-BX3 supports up to 133MHz host and memory bus.

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The EP-BX3 uses both jumpers and the system BIOS to set the processor frequency, clock multiplier and voltage so default system configuration for all current supported processors can be made using BIOS rather than jumpers but can also be hardwired (jumper configured)using EPoX' ESDJ (Easy Setting Dual Jumper) for overclocking the front side bus at 103, 112, 124 and 133MHz.

The mainboard has an AGP expansion slot so that you can optionally install any of the new generation of AGP cards. The system meets the AGP 1.0 standard with support for sideband transfers and BIOS control of the memory display buffer. Five 32-bit PCI and two 16-bit ISA slots offer generous room for expansion. The EP-BX3 has three DIMM sockets, which can be installed with 3.3 Volt unbuffered SDRAM modules. Each memory module can support up to 256 MB of memory so a maximum of 768 MB can be installed. The mainboard has a full range of standard I/O ports; two Ultra DMA/33 IDE channels each supporting two devices, one floppy diskette connector supporting up to two drives, one parallel port and two serial ports, two USB ports and PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports.

Packaging
The EP-BX3 comes nicely boxed with IDE and Floppy ribbon cables. As with most of today's ATX form factor system boards, all of the back panel I/O connectors are pre-installed on the board. Something that I find very handy as it makes setup a breeze. The mainboard ships with an excellent User's Manual, EPoX also includes a drivers disk that along with all the latest relevant drivers and patches, features the well developed USDM hardware diagnostic utility, as well as, Norton Antivirus and Ghost utilities.


EP-BX3 Features:
• Designed with Intel’s 82443 BX AGPset.
• Supports up to 768 MBs of DRAM (minimum of 16 MB) on board, You can
use 168-pin DIMM x 3. It will automatically detect Extended Data Output
(EDO) DRAM at 66MHz only or Synchronous DRAM memory (SDRAM) at
66MHz or 100MHz
• EP-BX3 will support Error Checking and Correcting (ECC) when using parity
DRAM memory modules. This will detect multiple bit errors and correct 1-bit
memory errors.
• Supports (2) 16 bit ISA slots, (5) 32 bit PCI slots, (1) AGP slot and provides
(2) independent high performance PCI IDE interfaces capable of supporting
PIO Mode 3/4 and Ultra DMA 33 devices. The EP-BX3 supports (5) PCI
Bus Master slots and a jumperless PCI INT# control scheme which reduces
configuration confusion when plugging in PCI card(s).
• Supports ATAPI (e.g. CD-ROM) devices on both Primary and Secondary IDE
interfaces.
• Designed with Winbond W83977TF Multi I/O: (1) floppy port, (1) parallel port
(EPP, ECP), and (2) serial ports (16550 Fast UART).
• Includes a PS/2 mouse connector.
• Allows use of a PS/2 keyboard.
• Features Award Plug & Play BIOS. With Flash Memory you can always
upgrade to the current BIOS as they are released.
• EP-BX3 utilizes a Lithium battery which provides environmental protection and
longer battery life.
• Supports the Universal Serial Bus (USB) connector. The onboard PIIX4E chip
provides the means for connecting PC peripherals such as; keyboards,
joysticks, telephones, and modems.
• Built-in ATX 20-pin power supply connector.
• Software power-down when using Windows 95/98.
• Supports ring-in feature (remote power-on through external modem, allows
system to be turned on remotely.
• Resume by Alarm - Allows your system to turn on at a pre-selected time.
• Power Loss Recovery - In the event of a power outage your system will
automatically turn itself back on without user intervention.
• Supports CPU Hardware sleep and SMM (System Management Mode).
• Supports Desktop Management Interface (DMI) facilitating the management
of desktop computers, hardware and software components and peripherals,
whether they are stand-alone systems or linked into networks. (optional)
• Supports Hot key, Any key or password Keyboard power ON function
(KBPO).
• Supports USDM software to offer motherboard various status on Windows
95/98, or Windows NT 4.0/5.0.
• Supports the CPU, PWR and Chassis fan Auto stop in sleep mode.
• Supports the System Power LED (PANEL) blinks in the sleep mode.
• Built-in WOL (Wake On LAN) Connector.
• Built-in SB-LINK Header for Creative Blaster AWE64D PCI Bus Sound
Card.

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Setup
Possibly one of the easiest system boards I have ever come across, the BX3 is designed with everything located exactly where you expect to find it. 

esdj.gif (1934 bytes) EPoX ESDJ jumpers make CPU configuration a snap and, hey, if you forget to configure them! No worries, CPU configuration can also be accomplished through software in the system board's BIOS.  The foldable processor retention clips hold your CPU firmly in place and the roomy system board offers plenty of room to get your fingers in to connect the connectors or set jumpers.  If you spend more than twenty minutes setting up this mainboard it will only be because you've lost the User's Guide.

Test Configuration for EPoX EP-BX3

Mainboard EPoX EP-BX3
Chipset Intel 440BX AGPset
L2 Cache 128kb on-chip for Celeron
512kb on-cartridge for PII/III
Processor(s) Intel SEC Celeron 300/400MHz
Intel Pentium II 400MHz
Intel Pentium III 450MHz
Memory 2x64MB 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
EPoX EP-BX3 seems to offer silky smooth stability in even the most rigorous of tasks.   Our stability stress test, a batch file which runs Ziff-Davis' Winstone 99 in perpetuity offered no evidence of even a slight hiccup over the 5.5 hrs. it ran. Benchmark scores in the Winstone 99 application were on par with any BX board we have tested so far.   Scores below reflect an average of three runs for each setting...

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OverClocking
The EP-BX3 offers an excellent variety of external CPU frequency settings although the ability to adjust the CPU core voltage is missing from the board somewhat limiting it's capabilities.  EPoX Unified System Diagnostics Manager software offers an excellent means of checking the system's cooling properties so you'll know when and if it is time to slow it down.  We ran the system very comfortably at the 112MHz FSB setting but, while the system booted and operated at 124MHz with the PIII 450MHz CPU, any major stresses such as 3D gaming or benchmark applications stuttered, then slowly denigrated to BSODs.

Conclusion
If Slot-1 is your cup of tea you most certainly could do a whole lot worse than the EP-BX3.  While the recommendation of the system board from a web site dedicated to the super7 platform seems somewhat ludicrous, the BX3 offers everything anyone should look for in a new system board.  Stability, ease of installation, frequent BIOS support extensions from it's manufacturer, excellent documentation and ease of use all add up to another excellent offering from EPoX.

For more information on this or other fine mainboards - check out EPoX web site at http://www.epox.com

June 21, 1999

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