Soyo SY-5EHM Review

Soyo SY-5EHM AT Mainboard

The SY-5EHM, one of the first of the true super7 mainboards on the market was my second choice when I had first decided that it was time to upgrade from my old Intel HX mainboard. The only reason that I went ahead and purchased the FIC VA-503+ was because it had more (4) SIMM slots and I had more than enough to fill them. And though Soyo Computer Inc. offered this mainboard for review quite awhile ago this review has been plagued with technical difficulties. When the board first arrived it came sans it's necessary PS/2 mouse port connector, which being a rather proprietary 6 pin connector left me with a machine all set up and ready to go but, with no way to operate a mouse. (Oh, I know that I could have hooked up a serial mouse to one of the 2 COM ports, but I wanted to do a complete evaluation and this meant getting with Soyo's fine tech support people to let them know about the oversight. Once informed of my problem through their assigned channels a mouse port connector was rushed to me and I began the process of setting up the test system.


Included with the mainboard is a brief (15 page) but thoroughly concise Quick Start Guide that makes setting up the new mainboard a breeze. One of the most noticeable things apparent when you unpack the board are the pair of ETEQ chips which make up the core logic component of the mainboard. Although nothing more than a re-labeled MVP3 chipset from VIA, I had earlier decided to err on the side of caution and had installed a newly partitioned and reformatted hard drive. But more about that later.   As AT Super7 mainboards go, as far as expansion the SY-5EH is fairly typical with its required AGP slot above 3PCI and 3 ISA (1 shared) slots.  And as most AT Super7 mainboards, only 1 PCI slot will support a full length card such as required by the average VoodooČ card.  The same is true for the ISA slots with only one that is not inline with the processors ZIF socket.

Even with it's release early in the line of super7 mainboards, Soyo had put together somewhat of an overclockers dream board. Fully documented CPU frequencies of 60/66/75/83/90/100/and 112MHz (adjusted through the use of dipswitches) and a fully configurable core voltage jumper array that allows the user to adjust the core voltage from 2.0v up to 3.5v in 0.1v increments are enough to get even the tamest of overclockers excited pondering the possibilities of all the future tinkering that awaits once the board is properly setup.

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The ETEQ chipset provides the ability to run the CPU/DRAM bus frequency at your choice of the CPU freq. or asynchronously at the AGP clock freq. making the board capable of supporting non-PC100 DRAM. Making it a boon to the upgrader on a budget since it eliminates the expense of immediately having to shell out those extra bucks for memory. This option is thoroughly documented in the Quick Start Guide as well as the Online Manual included on the accompanying Soyo Drivers & Documentation CD, letting you know the exact speed of your DRAM clock frequency at both the CPU and AGP bus frequencies, and is configurable through the manipulation of 3 individual jumpers. The Quick Start Guide even makes note of the fact that you will need to use 8ns or faster PC100 modules when running the DRAM clock at the 90/100 and 112MHz CPU Host Bus Clock. Another jumper allows for the configuration of the CPU burst mode (linear for the Cyrix/IBM 6x86/L/MX processors and interleaved for all others). While still another pair allows for adjusting the DIMM voltage.  Another highlight, especially for the novice upgrader is Soyo's CPU Voltage Smart Detect, an optional jumper setting which automatically detects and adjusts the the CPU voltage to the proper value.  Anyone interested in overclocking will no doubt want to disable this feature.
Another feature which adds to the upgradability of this board is its ability to use either standard AT or ATX power supplies. On the chance that you may want to upgrade to an ATX case in the future, the board remains fully viable.


As I stated earlier I had installed a newly formatted hard drive and after the test system was all set up I popped in a boot disk and attempted to load Windows 98. Here I ran into more technical difficulties. While the files were copied to the HD without incident the hardware detection and setup would never complete correctly (it came very close several times) and I literally tore my ever thinning hair out trying to determine which of my peripherals was the offending device. I tried everything that I used in a different system and everything worked correctly. I was completely stymied until a friend mentioned trying to load Win98 with the L2 cache disabled. What do you know? It worked!!! However re-enabling the external cache resulted is a systematic corruption of many of the system files and so I tore the board apart again sadly expecting further delays while the board went back to Soyo and hoped that they would understand and send out another review board. Before packing it up I decided to have a look using a jewelers loupe at the pair of SRAM chips which make up the optional 1024k L2 cache and to my amazement discovered the culprit in the form of a tiny bead of solder that was slightly pointed and bent over causing a tiny short between the pins. Cutting away the little blob with an Xacto knife ( something I do not recommend - if you have trouble with a board send it back!!!) I again setup and hallelujah it loaded Win98 without incident.
I want to state briefly here that I have had many reports of bad L2 caches on a variety of mainboards. The problem seems almost platform wide and I felt very lucky that my particular problem with it was something I could remedy. If however you run across this problem with any mainboard I suggest you immediately return the board and don't tinker as you may void any guarantee made by the manufacturers.

Soyo SY-5EHM Benchmark

Testing Configuration

Mainboard

Soyo SY-5EHM

Cache

1024k L2 cache

BIOS

Award 4.51PG

Processors

AMD K6-2 333MHz, AMD K6-2 300MHz, Cyrix M-II 300, Intel P233MMX

RAM

64MB Corsair PC100, 64MB Generic EDO SIMMs

Hard Drive

Western Digital Caviar 33100

Graphics Card

Expert@Work 8MB AGP (800x600@16bpp)

Operating System

Windows 98

 

Soyo SY-5EHM Chipset Features Setup for Testing

BIOS Settings

 

EDO RAM @ AGP bus

PC100@ CPU bus

Bank 0/1 DRAM Timing:

60ns

Turbo

Bank 2/3 DRAM Timing:

60ns

Turbo

Bank 4/5 DRAM Timing:

60ns

Turbo

SDRAM Cycle Length:

3

2

SDRAM Bank Interleave:

Disabled

4 Bank

DRAM Read Pipeline:

Enabled

Enabled

Sustained 3T Write:

Enabled

Enabled

Cache Rd+CPU Wt Pipeline:

Enabled

Enabled

Read Around write:

Enabled

Enabled

Cache Timing:

Fast

Fastest

Video BIOS Cacheable:

Enabled

Enabled

System BIOS Cacheable:

Disabled

Enabled

Memory Hole At 15Mb Addr.:

Disabled

Disabled

Aperture Size:

64M

64M

AGP Transfer Mode:

2x

2x

 


As we have previously stated you should not choose a mainboard based solely on the scores that are posted here (as most are so very close to one another) but by its features, which, it is up to you to determine are those most necessary for you to be happy with your new upgrade.

Business Winstone Scores

 

AMD K6-2 300MHz

AMD K6-2 333MHz

Cyrix M-II 300

Intel P233MMX

 

(100MHzfsb x 3)

(112MHzx3)

(66MHzfsb x 3.5)

(100MHzfsb x 2.5)

64MB PC100

22.2

22.9

20.1

17.7

64MB EDO

20.9

21.4

18.9

16.9

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Although in the past we have posted scores for both OpenGL and Direct3D applications we have decided to dispense with those as they are much more dependent on the peripherals used than on any of the mainboards features...

Conclusion
We were fairly impressed with all of the included features supported on this board and were quite pleased with its stability at every speed we tested.  And with current prices of around $79.00 - $99.00 (depending on where you look) we feel the board is a great value.  Once all of our technical difficulties were resolved the board performed like a champ and even managed to overclock the K6-2 300 up to 350MHz with a core voltage of 2.3v and ran steadily for over 9 hrs before we slowed it down to continue testing.  All in all we're quite impressed scoring this mainboard a full 3 points in average over it's ATX counterpart the Soyo SY-5EMA and as such award it our Golden Super7 Award and give it our highest recommendation...

 

MediaTek Ratings

Soyo SY-5EHM

Performance 97
Value 98
Ease of Installation 97
Documentation 97
Stability 98
Overclockability 98

Overall Score

97.5

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