EPoX EP-6VBA2 Review
Aside from producing just about the finest super7 mainboards available, Taiwan-based EPoX Intl. produces an outstanding selection of socket 370 and Slot-1 platform boards as well. Their newest Slot-1 offering based on VIA's Apollo Pro133A chipset has a remarkable set of features and offers superb stability as well as exceptional flexibility. By taking their already fine EP-6VBA system board and updating it to include VIA's hottest new chipset, their new EP-6VBA2 integrates industry leading features such as AGP4X, a 133 MHz Front Side Bus, a 133MHz Memory Bus, and UltraATA/66, to provide the a powerful, and scalable solution extending the performance properties of the Intel® Pentium® II/III including 'Coppermine' and Intel® Celeron™ processors.
The VIA Apollo Pro133A chipset is based on innovative and scaleable architecture which offers proven reliability and performance. The two-chip set consisting of the VT82C694X North Bridge Controller and the VT82C686A South Bridge Controllers, as shown in the block diagram below also offers other features including support for up to four USB ports, AC-97 link for audio and modem, hardware monitoring, and power management.
EPoX' EP-6VBA2 ships with a comprehensive 72 page User's Manual, floppy and ATA-66 ribbon cables and a drivers CD which apart from the necessary patches for the VIA chipset and drivers for the AC'97 audio, also includes EPoX' USDM hardware monitor utility, and the OEM versions of Norton Antivirus and Ghost 5.1 from Symantec. The CD also offers online versions of many of EPoX' mainboard manuals in .pdf format. The included hard copy user's manual is well thought out and covers everything you'll need to know about setting up the EP-6VBA2. Both the physical and CMOS set up are thoroughly covered and you won't have any trouble at all understanding this well written tool.
The AGP4X interface on the EP-6VBA2 enables the today's high performance graphics cards to access the main memory at twice the speed (bandwidth) of previous platforms. A definite plus for the hardcore gamer or anyone interested in multimedia/video editing. The VIA Apollo Pro133A offers an asynchronous memory bus to support up to 768MB of system memory. This means that users can take advantage of faster PC133 if they so chose but aren't forced to use it to run the latest 133MHz FSB processors. Access to the DRAM controller is found within the BIOS and can be set to the Host CPU frequency, Host+33MHz, or Host-33MHz. The EP-6VBA2 memory controller will also support Error Checking and Correcting (ECC) when using parity SDRAM memory modules, use of which will detect multiple bit errors and correct 1-bit memory errors.
The EP-6VBA2 supports all current Slot-1 Intel processors including Celeron™, Pentium® II, and Pentium® IIIs including the higher speed 133MHz CPUs with the Coppermine core. It also offers excellent support for FC-PGA and PPGA processors provided you have a proper socket 370-to-Slot-1 converter card. With jumper enabled CPU host frequencies of 66/75/83/100/105/110/115/120/124/133/140 and 150MHz, the EP-6VBA offers genuine flexibility for overclocking stability for all processors requiring clock multipliers from 3.0 to 8.0 in 0.5x increments. CPU Host frequencies can be further tweaked in the BIOS with settings of 66.8, 68.5, 103 and 112MHz selectable.
Unfortunately, the EP-6VBA2 offers no direct access to CPU core voltage settings so unless your using a converter card you'll have to settle for what your processor is capable of at its default Vcore setting.
Expansion is provided for in the form of (1) 16 bit ISA slots, (5) 32 bit PCI slots, (1) 4X AGP slot, and (1) AMR slot. The EP-6VBA2 supports all five PCI slots as Bus Master slots and includes jumperless PCI IRQ control scheme within the BIOS which eases configuration woes when plugging in new PCI cards. All slots offer support for full-length expansion cards. The board also sports dual independent high performance PCI IDE interfaces capable of supporting ATAPI, PIO Mode 3/4 and Ultra DMA 33/66 devices.
Designed with on chip Multi I/O the EP-6VBA supports(1) floppy port, (1) parallel port (EPP, ECP), and (2) serial ports (16550 Fast UART), and the use of the VIA VT82C686A Southbridge chip provides the means for connecting PC peripherals such as; keyboards, joysticks, telephones, and modems to the four supported USB ports. ( At the time of this review a software patch is required to enable proper use of all four of these ports! ) The Southbridge also provides the hardware monitoring support you can take advantage of with EPoX own simple, but effective USDM utility.