EPoX P2-133A Review

Ready To Push To The Limits...

Introduction
Since acquiring EPoX' Socket 370 to Slot-1 converter card, I have been playing around with the ability to run a wide range of Celerons on Slot-1 system boards. EPoX, one of the top producers of super7 system boards, also produces an outstanding line of Slot-1 system boards. Since the company was kind enough to forward me some samples along with their converter card. I can now take a look at Slot-1 systems to better compare socket 7 & 370 system boards to them. The EPoX P2-133A is one of the companies early non-Intel based Slot-1 system boards based on VIA's Apollo Pro Plus core logic chipset.

Packaging
The P2-133A 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 VIA AGP, ACPM, and IDE drivers as well as Highpoint's XStore Pro Bus Master IDE drivers.

Features
The P2-133A uses the latest VIA Apollo Plus logic chipset. This chipset supports up to 133MHz host and memory bus. The P2-133A 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 (East 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 P2-133A has three DIMM sockets, which can be installed with 3.3 Volt unbuffered SDRAM modules. Each memory module can support up to 128 MB of memory so a maximum of 384 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.

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Setup
From the looks of the manual, the P2-133A is an early release mainboard for the Intel Deschutes' core with the exceptional ability to reach extended front side bus frequencies. Set up is quick and easy as you have a choice, you may select 66 or 100MHz external CPU frequency depending on your processor.  The table below shows the settings and frequencies for the P2-133A, selectable through EPoX ESDJ jumper configuration

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Basically, it is simply a matter of popping in your CPU and memory. connecting up the necessary I/O connectors and sliding in your expansion cards.  BIOS configuration is fairly straightforward if you want to go with the default settings and then, you're off...

Test Configuration for EPoX P2-133A

Mainboard EPoX P2-133A
Chipset VIA Apollo Pro
L2 Cache 128kb on-chip
Processor(s) Intel SEC Celeron 333MHz
Intel PPGA 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
As my Winstone 99 CD was recently damaged and I have yet to get a replacement, the P2-133A   was tested using Ziff-Davis' Business Winstone 98 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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Futuremark's 3DMARK™ 99 is not only a great benchmark application for testing your graphics card, 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
While I don't own a Pentium II or III, the Celeron can be pushed to the 100MHz FSB by simply moving the jumper.  75 and 83MHz values can be assigned through the BIOS without messing with any jumpers at all.  Depending on the quality of your Celeron, you may even want to try 112MHz.  I did make one attempt with a Celeron 333MHz at that speed but, unfortunately, while it would POST, I never got a clean boot, and since I don't possess the means to buy a lot of CPUs, I didn't push as hard as I could.  The System was extremely stable at 55, 75, 83, and 100MHz.

Conclusion
I really like the ease of set up, the stability and features that the P2-133A has to offer.  If I were looking for a VIA based slot-1 mainboard, this would definitely be on the short list. But then, so far I have been impressed a lot by EPoX.  The company seems to squeeze excellent performance and stability out of just about every board they produce. Their tech support is the tops for companies that focus on mainboards and their web site stays fresh, with bulletins and BIOS updates as they become available. 

Find out more about EPoX by visiting their web site at - http://www.epox.com
April. 27, 1999

 

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