Chaintech 5AGM2 Review

Chaintech's 5AGM2 Mainboard

For the past 12 years or so Chaintech has been building a fine reputation for building and supporting it's line of mainboards and VGA graphics and sound cards and their first entry in the super7 platform is no exception. Built closely on the heels of the VP3 based 5AGM, the 5AGM2 is an AT mainboard with all of the requisite necessities defined in the super7 initiative and support for a wide variety of processors.

   Nicely packaged, the mainboard comes with all of the necessary cables to get you up and running, the latest drivers and a full featured copy of Trend's PC-cillin anti-virus software and a few other useful utilities on CD and a great, easy to follow manual. Full product specs can be found here...  

Based on VIA's MVP3 chipset the 5AGM2 is equipped with a 512k L2 cache, which can provide the user with access to 128MB of cacheable system memory (in write through mode) for Windows applications although its 3 DIMM slots support up to 384MB of EDO or Synchronous DRAM.  The board is quite simple to set up as AT mainboards go.   Chaintech wisely rotated the ZIF socket 90° to make access to the jumpers easier and attaching a heatsink/fan combo is as simple as it gets.  (A real plus when you change processors as often as I do.)  Configuring the processor's core voltage is accomplished through the use of a 12 pin jumper block that can handle voltages from 2.0v up to 3.5v in 0.1v increments which will make all of the overclockers happy campers.   Note: This board exhibits the most precise core voltages of all of the mainboards I have so far tested which is a very useful attribute in correctly running processors at speeds greater than those recommended by their manufacturers.  The CPU bus and clock frequency are manipulated through another 18  pin jumper block that provides documented support for 60/66/68/75/83/95/100MHz fsb speeds.  This means it is capable of supporting all of the current split voltage socket 7 processors available on the market today.  By incorporating the MVP3 chipset the 5AGM2 also has the advantage of running the system memory at your choice of the CPU or AGP bus frequencies which means that you don't need to shell out the extra bucks for PC100 SDRAM if you happen to have EDO or SDRAM DIMMs in your existing system.

Unfortunately only one of the 3 PCI expansion slots is capable of supporting a full-length PCI card of the proportion of say a VoodooČ card so you won't be running in SLI mode unless you can afford Quantum3D's Obsidian x2 graphics accelerator but as the new generation of graphics cards slowly make their way to market, this should be of little concern.  There are also 3 ISA (one shared) slots that along with the requisite AGP slot round out the mainboards expansion capabilities. 
A word of caution here,  this board requires an optional USB Kit if you wish to use a PS/2 mouse as the USB, PS/2, and Infrared functions are grouped together for use through a USB block connector.  Another option that you may want to take advantage of is Chaintech's Fan 78 hardware monitoring and cooling system.

Fan 78

With this option installed you can take advantage of Chaintech's Shepherd software for hardware monitoring and control. 

Test Configuration

Mainboard

Chaintech 5AGM2
512k L2 Cache

BIOS

Award 4.51PG
09/07/1998*

Processors

AMD K6-2 300
Intel Pentium 233MMX
Cyrix MII 333

Memory

64MB PC100 SDRAM (7ns)

Graphics Adapter

ATI All in Wonder Pro 8MB AGP x2
Lonsdale b37x drivers
Via AGPvxd ver. 2.9

Hard Drive

WDC ACS 33100 UDMA

Operating System

Windows 98

* - beta BIOS update which enables WB for Cyrix MII but reduces cacheable area to 64MB

5AGM2 BIOS Chipset Features Setup

Bank 0/1 DRAM Timing: PC100
Bank 2/3 DRAM Timing: PC100
Bank 4/5 DRAM Timing: PC100
SDRAM Cycle Length: 2
SDRAM Bank Interleave: Enabled
DRAM Read Pipeline: Enabled
Cache Strategy: WT*
Cache Rd+CPU Wt Pipeline: Enabled
Read Around Write: Enabled
Cache Timing: Fastest
Video BIOS Cacheable: Enabled
System BIOS Cacheable: Enabled
Memory Hole At 15Mb Addr.: Disabled
AGP: Enabled
Aperture Size: 64M
AGP 2X-Mode: Enabled
Flash BIOS Protection: Enabled
* WB cache strategy used for MII 333

It is important to note that we don't suggest purchasing your Super7 mainboard according to how it scores in various benchmarks as most fall within a very narrow margin.   The Business Winstone scores recorded below are averaged over 5 runnings of the test for each processor.  Most of the scores fell within 0.1 points of each other with the exception of the Cyrix MII 333, whose test varied by as much as 1.1 points...

Business Winstone 98 Scores

AMD K6-2 300 - 100MHz x 3.0 22.4
Intel Pentium MMX 233 - 66MHz x 3.5 17.4
Cyrix M-II 333 - 83MHz x 3.5 21.4

Graphics marks are averaged over 3 runnings of each test with the AMD K6-2 300MHz and are as follows:

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At current prices I find this board to be a great value and a rock solid performer.  The high precision voltage regulator is a definite plus an even with 512k cache memory this board is as quick as any out there.  The design and layout are first-rate and easily manipulated when overclocking as everything is within easy reach.   The documentation is outstanding and Chaintech's support is reportedly outstanding. As a matter of fact if not for the lack of an onboard PS/2 port this would have to be at the top of the list for AT form factor mainboards. As it is, I would have to rate it among the top 5.  It took everything I threw at it in stride which included numerous expansion card changes and was the only mainboard that got any stability at all out of the Cyrix MII 333 that I have been testing for review - which I have come to learn was an unstable and defective CPU. 

MediaTek Rating

Chaintech 5AGM2

Performance 97 awardgold.gif (6926 bytes)
Value 96
Ease of Installation 98
Documentation 98
Stability 100
Overclockability 97

Overall Score

97.6
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