EFA Viking 3 Review

EFA Corp.'s P5MVP3-AT Mainboard

Introduction
If I hadn't been checking AMD's website for K6-2 400MHz CPU compatible mainboards, It might have been awhile before I had run across the EFA Corp . name. With marketing strategies geared towards the VAR market, it wasn't a name I was at all familiar with. That however is sure to be rectified most certainly if all the components they build are of the same quality as their P5MVP3-AT Viking 3 super7 mainboard -  one of less than a handful of AT form factor mainboards currently approved by AMD for use with their K6-2 400MHz processor.   Based both in Taiwan and Santa Clara, CA, the company currently maintains a somewhat elite line of about 15 Pentium and Pentium II based mainboards and I am sure their name will become more familiar over the next few months.

Packaging
Pretty standard fare here, the Viking 3 comes packaged along with IDE and floppy ribbon cables, Ps/2 mouse, LPT, and COM port connectors as well as somewhat outdated AGP and IDE Bus Master drivers (on floppies) from VIA. Also in the box is EFA's clear and concise Viking 3 User's Manual which documents pretty much everything you'll need to know to get up and running with a minimum of fuss.

Features
EFA's decision to base the Viking 3 on VIA's MVP3 chipset means that the use of PC100 SDRAM is optional as the chipset supports both synch/asynch operation of the CPU/Memory bus (capable of running at either the CPU or AGP frequency). The chipset also provides full local enhanced dual channel IDE support for data transfer rates up to 33MB/s - Ultra ATA/33. With documented CPU frequencies of 60/66/75/83/95/100MHz operable at clock cycles of 1.5-5.0 and documented core voltages of 2.2/2.5/2.8/2.9/3.2/3.3/and 3.52v the board offers support for all current socket 7 CPUs however there is no documented support for overclocked settings. The Viking 3 comes with 512K of fast Pipelined Burst Write-back SRAM L2 cache for a cacheable memory area of 128MB, and with 3 DIMM slots that will hold up to 768MB of system memory. The board also supports up to 2 USB ports but does require connectors, however, the most outstanding feature is the board's ability to avail itself of either AT or ATX power supplies.  A full specification sheet for the Viking 3 can be found here .

Setup
With User's manual in hand the Viking 3 sets up with ease but, as with all Baby AT boards, is a bit skimpy on real estate in the upper-left corner where the majority of connectors plug in, although it is better than most. EFA Corp. also has made available for download from their website, an interactive motherboard jumper setting program, which graphically displays the proper jumper configuration based on your choice of processors and memory type (see below). 

The Program from EFA makes full use of tooltips for every item in red lettering.

After downloading and installing the latest BIOS update from EFA, and the latest AGP, IDE and IRQ router drivers from the VIA website, you are ready to fly...


Testing Configuration and BIOS

BIOS setup on the Viking 3 is so simple it is almost almost not worth mentioning.   Suffice it to say that everything is standard and easily configured within minutes.

Test System Specifications

Mainboard EFA P5MVP3-AT Viking 3
L2 Cache 512K Pipeline Burst SRAM
Processor(s) AMD K6-2 350, 380, 400MHz
Cyrix MII 333
Intel P233MMX
Memory 64MB PC100 (CAS 2)
Corsair CM 654S64-BX2
Hard Drive Western Digital AC36400
6.4G Ultra ATA/33
Graphics Adapter Diamond Viper 330 AGP 4MB
Operating System Windows 98


Performance
As my copy of Winstone 99 has not yet arrived I am forced to use the 98 version of the ZDBop benchmark, but since I have used it on all of the previous mainboards it will still give a good starting reference point.  Scores below are the average of three separate runnings of each test.  You'll no doubt notice that even with the smaller L2 cache size that the Winstone 98 scores are on par with most super7 boards with a full 1MB of cache.

Conclusion

awardblu.gif (5629 bytes) So, what's so special about the Viking 3?  Extraordinarily stable in every situation the board did not once require a boot into "safe mode" even when changing major components (processors, memory, graphics cards, etc) and has currently been running the Linux OS for 5 days straight without shutting down or rebooting.  To my mind this is as stable a mainboard as you can get.

If you're an avid overclocker, you can find some hidden system settings with a little experimentation, however, with processor power the likes of AMD's K6-2 380-400MHz, there seems little need to (other than to say you did).  Here at 'The Super 7 Hardware Guide' we can honestly say that the Viking 3 is a stable workhorse that will meet your needs without configuration hassles or worries about processor compatability and with online prices in the $70-$80.00 range, the Viking 3 won't make a big dent in your wallet...

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