A-trend ATC5010 Review
 
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Introduction
After receiving so many requests for help with Alton and PCChips M598 mainboards, the A-trend ATC-5010M seems to be a breath of fresh air. A stable implementation of the SiS530/5595 chipset, the A-trend ATC-5010M is an all-in-one AT mainboard solution offering on-board graphics and hardware monitoring that's great for the entry-level and business user both as a new computer or as an upgrade board for an existing AT system.
"Insistence on Perfection," the company's unofficial motto, is fully demonstrated through A-Trend's manufacturing process at their large ISO 9002 approved Taipei factory. The AQA (A-Trend Quality Assurance) control program assures that each product delivered is defect-free.

Their years of experience in mainboard development, marketing, sales and distribution have made A-Trend a professional manufacturer in providing total solution systems to its customers. Since its founding in 1990, the company has quietly and efficiently become a top producer of a wide line of quality mainboards with an astounding growth rate of over 50% last year, and judging by the quality of the 5010M system board it is easy to see why.

Packaging
AT-based system boards require connectors for the headers on the board to be available to the back panel and those that ship with the 5010M are first rate. Along with an IDE and floppy ribbon cable, three required back panel connectors; 1 serial/parallel port, 1 PS/2 mouse/serial port and a single VGA connector, the 5010 ships with an excellent full-length hard copy user's manual and a driver/utilities CD-ROM that offers all of the latest drivers and patches for the SiS530/5595 set, as well as an excellent system monitor utility.

Features
The A-trend 5010M supports a wide variety of socket7 CPUs; Intel P54/55C from 75-233MHz, AMD's K5, K6, K6-2 and K6-III, IDT's WinChip and Winchip2, and Cyrix 6x86 and MII all find individualized support settings in the manual. Front side bus speeds of 66/68/75/83/100/105/112/124/133MHz and CPU/memory bus speeds are soft-set through the BIOS and on the board all of the dipswitch settings for clock multiplier and core voltages for are silk screened for easy reference. The board's switching voltage regulator offers a full range of CPU core voltages from 1.5-3.5v in 0.1v increments. SiS' 530/5595 chipset offers support for up to 768MB of SDRAM system memory in the board's three DIMM slots all of which is cacheable in the large 1MB L2 pipeline burst SRAM cache. SiS530's on chip AGP graphics controller is set up on the ATC5010 to use shared system memory of from 2-8MB and allows you to set the memory speed for VGA graphics from 40-70MHz in 1MHz increments. The SiS chipset also supports a pair of dual channel UltraDMA/33 IDE interfaces that can support up to four devices. The 5010M offers expansion in the form of 3 PCI slots (only one of which can handle a full length card) and 2 ISA slots. The 5010M can use either AT or ATX power supplies as connectors for both type are on board, and a USB header is located on the system board but requires an optional connector to make use of it. It makes use of an AT style keyboard connector and PS/2 port mouse header that can be attached to the back panel I/O, lets you choose between using a serial or PS/2 mouse. The 5010M uses the SMC-FDC37M602 Super Multi-I/O chip to support the single FDD and parallel ports, a pair of 16550A fast UARTs compatible serial ports, an IrDA infrared port and WOL connector. It also has soft-off and Wake on LAN capabilities. Another great feature is the Hot key at boot failure, which uses the Insert key to easily clear the CMOS and recover the BIOS settings if you mis-configure your system. Advanced BIOS functions include Y2K Compliant, support for LS-120, ZIP, SCSI and CD-ROM boot up, Green function, Plug&Play, DMI, INT13 extension and Anti-Virus functions.

Setup
Although on first inspection the ATC5010's layout seems somewhat absurd, it is most assuredly one of the most user-friendly AT system boards I've ever set up. You can actually get your fingers in to this small (approx. 9.5 x 8.5in.) board and attach connectors and set dipswitches without the difficulties encountered on AT-style mainboards. Of course you'll want to install and configure the dipswitches for your CPU and install your memory before sliding the unit into it's case, but once there you'll be suprised at the unusual but clever location of things like the floppy and parallel port connectors and dipswitches. If you have full-length PCI expansion cards you may run into trouble as the system board can only handle one of these comfortably but the ISA slots handle full-length cards alright. The color coding of the IDE connectors was a nice feature and the large silk screen imprints of the correct dipswitch settings use a lot of carefully used space, which makes me tend to believe that the board designers genuinely had the end-user in mind when this was still on the drafting table. The Award CMOS set up utility (BIOS) for the ATC-5010M is deeper than most and were it not for a well worded and thorough user's manual, many first time upgraders would be really lost here. But, the manual covers all of the basics you'll need to get up and running and once you are you should jump on the web for information on those settings that confuse you.

Test Configuration for ATC-5010M

Mainboard ATC-5010M
Chipset SiS 530/5595
L2 Cache 1024kb PBSRAM
Processor(s) IDT Winchip2A 300
AMD K6-2 400MHz
AMD K6-III 400MHz
Memory 1x64MB PC100
Corsair CM 654S64-BX2
Hard Drive Western Digital AC36400
6.4G Ultra ATA/33
Graphics Adapter On Chip SiS6326
Operating System Windows 98

Performance
The ATC5010 offers truly remarkable performance in business applications and by reducing the amount of shared memory for the onchip AGP VGA graphics of the SiS 530 chipset. With the BIOS configuration tickled to it's optimal performance level the 5010M registered the following scores in Ziff-Davis Winstone 99 (averaged over three runs):

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The major trade-off is the poor performance of the on board SiS 530 3d graphics capabilities.  While the SiS chip offers very good 2D graphics which are clear and sharp with crisp, well-defined edges, it can't handle the rigors of today's 3D gaming applications.  While this shouldn't be a detriment to it's target market some of it's thundered may be usurped with the release of all-in-one boards based on VIA's MVP4 chipset. Using Futuremark's 3DMARK MAX 99 the ATC-5010M registered these marks at a screen resolution of 800x600 at a color depth of 16bpp (again an average of three runs):

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As you can see, the increase in shared system memory had some effect but hardly a drop in the bucket when compared to today's latest graphics adapters.

Overclocking
While the system board was exceptionally stable at 100MHz any increases to the external CPU speed beyond that resulted in a significant reduction of system stability.  While the system booted and ran applications alright at 112MHz (using AMD's K6-2 400MHz), anything that pushed the system, like benchmark applications, resulted in frequent exceptions, and errors until the system finally froze.  Again, this should not have much of an effect on A-trend's target market.

Conclusion
Without a doubt the ATC-5010M is the fastest implementation of the SiS 530/5595 chipset I have come across to date.  I was further impressed by the ease of installation and excellent manual.  A-trend has developed a fine product here that should get more attention from systems integrators.  Very stable at it's default settings the ATC-5010M offers a strong base for entry level and business workstations. Over the two weeks that the system ran I had no trouble with it whatsoever.
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  A big thumbs up to A-trend for developing a system board that actually unlocks the potential of the SiS 530/5595 chipset and, of course, we offer the ATC-5010M The Super 7 Hardware Guide's Super7 Award!

To find out more about this and other fine mainboards, check out A-trend's web site at -
http://www.a-trend.com

May 26, 1999
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