SOYO SY-5SSM Review

Introduction
Features, features, features. Just how feature laden can a mainboard be. This seems to be the impetus behind SOYO's development of the SY-5SSM SiS530 based super7 mainboard. But just how do all of these technical enhancements affect performance? Let's take a closer look...

The SY-5SSM AGP/PCI Motherboard is touted by SOYO as a high-performance MICRO-ATX form-factor system board. SY-5SSM uses SiS530 PCI Chipset core logic technology and supports all current Pentium ® class processors, and is fully compatible with industry standards.

Use of the SiS530 chipset provides an onboard AGP video graphics accelerator that functions at the external CPU frequency as opposed to the normal 66MHz. While the chipset's VGA controller can support up to 8MB of onboard frame buffer memory, the SY-5SSM offers no onboard memory, choosing instead to rely on shared system memory, operator selectable through the BIOS at 2, 4, or 8MB. This means that the amount of system memory you select is set aside by the BIOS for use solely by the VGA controller. Extremely cost efficient it offers thoroughly acceptable 2D performance but sadly the impact of relying on system memory for VGA frame buffer is somewhat slow for 3D applications.


Packaging
The SY-5SSM is boxed along with an excellent Quick Start Guide, IDE and Floppy cables and a single serial cable with a 9-pin connector and the SOYO Installation CD-ROM containing all of the requisite drivers and full length product manual. As you can see in the image of the back panel I/O (left), there are connectors for PS/2 mouse and keyboard, a single COM port, parallel port, VGA, audio line-in, line-out, MIC, and joystick. The VGA connector takes the place of the usual COM2 port connector and this is the reason for the additional serial port connector in the bundle. The online manual is quite well done and informative and the CD-ROM also offers SiS530 VGA drivers, SOYO SpeedPro Bus Master Drivers, SiS530 Bus Master Drivers ESS ES1688 Audio drivers and the ESS Soundtrack application for Windows. And, to round things out, SOYO also includes their CD Express utility -to enhance CD-ROM drive data throughput by using hard drive space as cache.

Features
The SY-5SSM offers an onboard Video Graphics Accelerator (VGA), provided by the SiS530 chipset and related application programs. This accelerator supports the 32-bit AGP 1.0 bus standard, has a built-in 64-bit BITBLT graphics engine, and a built-in programmable 24-bit true-color RAMDAC.

  As previously stated, the VGA shares system memory for use as frame buffer memory but does support the super high resolution graphics modes: 640x480 - 1280x1024 8/16/32 bpp @ 85 Hz NI and supports virtual screens up to 2048x2048 and 80/132 columns text modes. The chipset supports single frame buffer architecture to save the DRAM cost, and graphics/video overlay function by color-key and/or chroma-key operations. The SY-5SSM makes use of the ES1938 3D sound chipset technology and it's related application programs and features three built-in audio-stereo ports (line-in, line-out, and mic jack) which are convenient to directly plug-in all your external audio devices. The 1 MB L2 cache on board offers a cacheable memory area of 128MB but the three DIMM slots offer support for up to 768MB of system memory using DIMM modules from 8MB to 256MB. (For 66MHz host bus CPUs, 12ns or faster DIMM modules are required; for 83MHz+ host bus CPUs require 8ns modules). The SiS530 supports CPU voltage from 2.0V to 3.5V in 0.1V increments, and offers external CPU frequencies up to 133MHz. The Chipset also supports Ultra DMA 33/66 (Ultra DMA/66 requires a special 40-pin, 80-conductor cable), 3 x 32-bit bus mastering PCI slots and 1 x 32-bit bus slaving PCI slot. 2 x USB ports and 1 x IrDA port.  And the list just goes on and on.  For complete specifications - CLICK HERE!


Setup
The SY-5SSM sets up easily. The Quick Start Guide is very clear, concise and easy to understand as it walks you through jumper configuration for CPU core voltage and external frequency and multiplier settings.  Everything is clearly marked and easy to find and since the sound and graphics controllers are already onboard, you don't have to mess with many expansion cards.  BIOS configuration is relatively simple if you leave most of it up to the chipset itself to configure and since the SiS530 can be somewhat touchy, especially with AMD processors, this is the best course of action.  You may wish to try some of the advanced settings a little later on but the default settings will get you up and running quite well. The online manual covers all aspects of the BIOS setup utility in a more thorough manner than most I've seen, so tweaking your system is more easily accomplished on the SY-5SSM than on any of the other SiS530 based boards I've run across.

Performance
If you are looking for high performance graphics and 3D gaming features the SY-5SSM is not the mainboard for you. (Although I did do some testing with the addition of a Voodoo˛ card and got reasonably decent frame rates, using shared system memory still tends to bog things down a bit.)

Testing Configuration for SOYO SY-5SSM
Mainboard SOYO SY-5SSM
L2 Cache 1024K
Processor(s) Rise mP6 PR266
Intel P233MMX
Cyrix MII 333
AMD K6-2 350-400MHz
Memory 64MB PC100 (CL2)
Corsair CM 654S64-BX2
Hard Drive Quantum Fireball EX 3.2G Ultra ATA
Graphics Accelerator Onboard SiS530

The SY-5SSM generated exceptionally decent marks under ZDBOp's Business Winstone 99 and the scores reflected here are an average of three runs of the test under each processor.

sy_5ssm1.gif (9077 bytes)

If you'd like to know more about the performance of SiS530's VGA graphics accelerator, you can read more about it here .

Conclusion
The SY-5SSM is unquestionably the most stable instance of a mainboard based on the SiS530 chipset that I have come across.  Since it's release The Super 7 Hardware Guide's HelpDesk has been inundated with requests for assistance on SiS530 based mainboards and yet less than a handful  have been from SY-5SSM users (and then were unrelated to issues of stability). 

While in no way is the SY-5SSM a high end 3D gamer, the cost/features/performance ratio cannot be beat.  The board is exceptionally well suited to the networked business workstation, SOHO, beginner, student and 2nd home PC markets.  Currently in wide release the SY-5SSM is available at Specialty Tech and all over the web at exceptionally reasonable prices. For more information, check out SOYO's Website. Super7 Award

  Just think of it, all you need add is a case, CPU, memory, HD, floppy and CD-ROM and you've got an efficient and stable workhorse. Or as we stated at the beginning, Just Add Water...

 

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