Shuttle AI61 Review

   Shuttle Inc. seems poised to make a major push of their product line and with mainboards such as the AI61 in their repertoire it is likely to be a successful one.  With the release of this, their first Athlon mainboard based on the AMD 750 chipset Shuttle has ignored the safe road, choosing instead to release a fully PC '99-compliant system board with absolutely no ISA slots.  That also means there are no legacy hardware headaches that may be found on the majority of the Athlon mainboards in current release.  More impressive, the AI61 takes the AMD 750 to the bleeding edge of performance yet still housing it on a mainboard with enough real estate to provide more than adequate cooling for the K& processor.  The AI61 is almost extraordinarily stable and as fast as an "Irongate" board can be made to go and easily one of the best performing and best value  AMD-based Athlon boards on the current market.  If you all can't tell by now, we're thoroughly impressed!

   The Shuttle AI61 ships with what these days is considered pretty standard fare (UDMA66 IDE and floppy cables, drivers disk and manual) but also includes a years free ISP service and Netscape Communicator.  I know what you're thinking...   Free ISP service sure but I have to look at a bunch of banner ads and it's hard to connect during peak times etc., etc., etc.  Absolutely not so! This is the real deal - providing FULL Internet access with all the bells and whistles at speeds up to 56K, to over 95% of the United States and most of Canada! All for FREE!!!  It is frankly amazing.  I have used it for all of three weeks now and no junk mail, no ads, nothing but free online access to the web and an email address!  That will pay for the cost of this upgrade over the course of 6 mos. to a year depending on what you now currently shell out to your ISP every month!
   I should also mention that the "User's Manual" is Shuttle's best effort to date - with clear easy to understand instructions for getting the AI61 up and running virtually hassle free from start to finish.  So, whether you are a first time do-it-yourselfer, or a seasoned professional, the AI61 is likely to be the easiest and most satisfying upgrade of this type your going to encounter this year. 
   The included drivers disk has recent versions of AMD's bus master drivers as well as AGP and IRQ miniport drivers as well as a complete online manual in .pdf format and the ZVHDD.exe or Zero Voltage Hard Drive Suspend functions.

   The Shuttle AI61 offers expansion strictly in the form of 5 x 32-bit bus master PCI slots accompanying the requisite AGP (X2 compliant) slot.  No cumbersome ISA slots or, handy but hardly fitting a performance board, AMR slots to clutter up the spacious 305mm x 244mm ATX compliant landscape.  The AMD 751 Northbridge supports the AMD Athlon's 100MHz DDR bus and is listed on Shuttles website as supporting the Athlon at frequencies up to 750MHz.  CPU frequency and core voltage are handled internally within the BIOS so there's no need to mess with jumper configuration however, Shuttle did include a jumper block that allows you to manipulate the CPU's core voltage  from 1.3v, 1.5v - 2.0v in 0.05v increments documented for overclocking.  But settings for the CPU/PCI bus within the BIOS only allowed for default, 100/33MHz and 133/33MHz ( although the manual includes 66/33mHz and 50/25MHz settings - perhaps for future CPUs).  I should also add that the voltage regulation on the AI61 is the best as far as stability goes of any of the Athlon boards we've tried.

   There are three 168-pin DIMM slots to support from 16MB to 768MB of PC100 SDRAM - and yes you can use PC133 SDRAM if you so choose but it will only be running at 100MHz.  Two UltraDMA 33/66 Bus Master Dual-channel IDE ports provide support to a maximum of four IDE devices (one Master and one Slave per channel). The IDE Bus implements data transfer speeds of up to 33/66 MB/sec and also supports Enhanced PIO Modes 3 & 4. 
   The board has LPC Super I/O Onboard to provide for a variety of I/O interfaces: 1 x Floppy interface for 3.5-inch FDD with 720KB, 1.44MB, 2.88MB format or for 5.25-inch FDD with 360KB or 1.2MB format, 1 x PS/2 mouse connector, 1 x PS/2 Keyboard connector and up to 4 x USB connectors. The 2 x DB9 Serial connectors are 16550 UART compatible (Serial port COM2 can also be redirected to an external IrDA Adapter although there is 1 x ASKIR and HPSIR compatible Infrared communications port onboard. There's also 1 x DB25 Parallel port supporting Standard, Enhanced and Extended Capabilities Parallel Port (SPP, EPP and ECP) data transmission schemes.
   The AI61 ACPI interface features four power savings modes: Snoop, Suspend to RAM, Suspend to Disk, and Soft-Off. ACPI provides more efficient Energy Savings Features controlled by your operating system that supports OS Direct Power Management through Award V4.51PG BIOS on 2MB Flash EEPROM which supports Green PC and Desktop Management Interface (DMI).

Advanced features include:
Dual Function Power Button - The system can be in one of two states, one is Suspend mode and the other is Soft-Off mode. Pushing the power button for less than 4 seconds places the system into Suspend mode. When the power button is pressed for longer than 4 seconds, the system enters the Soft-Off mode.
Keyboard/Mouse Power-On - This mainboard implements a special jumper to enable a system power-on function by keyboard or PS/2 mouse.
Wake-on-LAN (WOL) - The onboard WOL connector can be attached to a network card that supports this function to wake up the system via the LAN.
Modem Ring Power-On - The system can be powered on automatically by activation of the modem ring.

Optional features include:
Voltage Monitoring - Monitors various voltages of key elements, such as the CPU, and other critical system voltage levels to ensure stable current reach to mainboard components. System voltages include Vcore/ VTT on CPU, and +5V, +12V, -5V, -12V on system.
Fan Status Monitoring - To prevent overheating of CPU, the CPU fan is monitored for RPM and failure. (CPU Cooling FAN with RPM sensor is required.)

Setup & Performance

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