Soyo SY-5EMA+ Review

Introduction

Save for Intel, none of the major system board producers seem totally willing to abandon the socket 7 platform. While we saw an amazing renewal of interest in the platform with AMD's release of its K6-2 processor, many thought the super7 flame would shine hot and bright, but quickly flicker and die. They were wrong!   A good number of mainboard manufacturers have kept their fingers on the pulse of the platform. So, it is not suprising that SOYO Computers Inc., an innovative system board manufacturer, feeling the slight flutter of discontentment from a still strong market of socket 7 users, has produced, in its new SY-5EMA+, a mainboard that we've all been wishing for: namely, more power and expandability. With documented external CPU bus speeds up to 124MHz and 5 PCI slots, the SY-5EMA is sure to capture not only a lot of attention, but a strong share in a market that is still remarkably active.

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Established in 1985 SOYO has since rapidly become one of world's top ten computer mainboard manufacturers. With 13 years of experience, and to keep up with the rapid pace of computer innovation, SOYO is constantly dedicated to the development of advanced technology and high-quality products. In order to perfect its wide range of products, SOYO's R&D group adapts the latest technology and insight into the computer market in the development of its new products. And, after a thorough examination of the SY-5EMA+ it is easy to see why SOYO expects to sell over 1.9 million mainboards this year.


Packaging

No doubt due to its pre-release status the SY-5EMA+ system board I received for testing from SOYO came with only a quick-start guide and an IDE/Floppy cable pack. You can bet however, in final release SOYO will also include its Installation CD with the full manual and all of the necessary drivers for the ETEQ 82C6638/6629 AGP Chipset.

The Quick-Start Guide is a more than adequate, easy to follow 15 page pamphlet, containing all the information you'll need to get you up and running.


Features

The SY-5EMA+ hosts a full 1MB pipelined burst SRAM L2 cache onboard making for 256MB of cacheable memory and although the pair of SIMM slots on the earlier SY-5EMA are no longer present, the 3 168-pin DIMM slots can support up to 768MB of EDO/SDRAM/PC100 system memory. With front side bus speeds of 66/68.5/75/83/95/100/112/ and 124MHz, and CPU core voltages that range from 2.0v to 3.5v (in 0.1v increments), the ETEQ 82C6638/6629 AGP Chipset - a proprietarily remarked version of VIA's MVP3 chipset - provides support for all socket 7 processors currently available and, though currently documented to support the AMD K6-2 up to 350MHz, it will no doubt also support the upcoming Sharptooth (K6-3)   as well,  synch/asynch- CPU/Memory bus support for EDO/SDRAM or PC100 system memory, and two dual channel Ultra DMA-33 IDE ports - to support up to four devices.   The system board also sports 5 PCI Bus Mastering slots and 2 ISA slots along with its requisite AGP slot and dual USB ports, to make plenty of room for expansion.
The SY-5EMA+ also incorporates the SMC37C669 Super I/O chip that supports one LS120/1.2/1.44/2.88MB floppy drive and all of the double stack cable-less back panel ports ((PS/2 mouse & keyboard, 2 USB ports 2 COM and 1 LPT Printer ports), and Award Boot Block PCI BIOS that allows you to boot from EIDE, SCSI, CD-ROM, Floppy or Zip drives. Full system board specifications can be found here. CLICK!


Setup

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The SY-5EMA+ has the finest layout of any super7 I have yet seen. Every expansion slot is capable of handling full-length expansion cards and there is plenty of room around the CPU's ZIF socket so that even large oversized heat sink/fan combos fit and clamp down easily. Access to all of the jumpers is easy for even the chubbiest of fingers, although you will need to configure the CPU core voltage before plugging in the ATX power connector which crosses over the top of it.  If you don't want to bother with setting the core voltage though,  SOYO has an answer for you in its "Smart Detect CPU Voltage" feature, wherein shorting a single jumper can automatically detect the correct core voltage for all but the oldest processor models. The external CPU frequency is set by means of a set of six dip-switches located just to the left of the DIMM slots.
While the Quick-Start Guide only provides default settings for current processors, overclockers can use the online manual (.pdf) to gain access to the system boards full bus and core voltage settings. The ability to run the system memory in synch with either the CPU or AGP frequency is configurable through a 6-pin jumper block, so if you don't yet possess PC100 DIMM modules, your older EDO or 66MHz SDRAM DIMMS can be used until you are ready to upgrade.
The 12 x 7.5in ATX form factor, four layer PCB is just the right size - not so large as to crowd the case interior, nor so small that the electronic components and connectors get in each others way.
Once you have the board in the case and all of the connectors hooked-up, your all set to boot-up and configure the BIOS through CMOS setup. BIOS configuration is really very simple for the SY-5EMA+, with pretty standard screens throughout. The Chipset Features Screen doesn't allow for quite as much tweaking as I like but it is simple and straightforward. You do have quite a number of options where the Integrated Peripherals are concerned. For a more in depth view of BIOS Setup and configuration, download the manual by following this link - Click Here!!!.


Testing Configuration

SOYO SY-5EMA+ Test Configuration

Mainboard SOYO SY-5EMA+
L2 Cache 1024k Pipelined Burst SRAM
Processor(s) AMD K6-2 300
Cyrix MII 333
Intel P200MMX
Memory 64MB AOpen PC100/ 73.08864.P7L
Hard Disk Drive Western Digital Caviar AC 33100
Graphics Card ATI All in Wonder Pro 8MB AGP x2
Graphics Accelerator Diamond MonsterII 3D VoodooČ
8MB - 3Dfx DX6 Drivers
Operating System Windows 98

How I Tested:
The test scores reported here are averaged - in the case of Business Winstone 98, each score reflected the average of three runs of the benchmark at any given external clock speed.  With Graphics oriented benchmarks the scores reflect averages of five runs.  All of the graphics related tests were performed at a screen resolution of 640x480 with a color depth of 16bits.  Since I had no drivers CD, I downloaded and installed ETEQ AGP.vxd ver.2.9 AGP driver and ETEQ IDE Bus Master drivers V2.1.24. and ran all tests with the following BIOS Chipset Features configuration:

CMOS Chipset Features
DIMM DRAM TIMING Turbo
DRAM READ PIPELINE Enabled
Cache Rd+CPU Wt Pipeline Enabled
Linear Burst Enabled (for Cyrix MII tests)
Video BIOS Cacheable Enabled
System BIOS Cacheable Enabled
Memory Hole 15Mb Addr Disabled
AGP Aperture Size 64MB
AGP x2 Mode Enabled
OnChip USB Enabled



Performance


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