AOpen AX59Pro Review

AOpen's AX59Pro

With 22 years of R&D and manufacturing experience under their belt it is no wonder that AOpen would bring to the Super7 market a mainboard with all of the quality and stability they build into all of their products. The majority of their mainboards currently in production are based on Intel chipsets, the AX59Pro being one of only three exceptions. The company had set out to provide a strong contender in the socket 7 world with its AP59S board incorporating the SiS 5591/5595 AGP chipset. Finding the 83MHz front side bus support on that board too limiting, AOpen picked up the VIA MVP3 chipset solution to this speed limitation and though one of the first Super7 mainboards available, there is most certainly nothing to suggest that the process of designing and building the 100MHz AX59Pro was rushed.  See the mainboards full specifications here...

Great design and execution in the manufacture of the AX59Pro were immediately evident upon inspection of the board the company supplied for review. The spacious layout provides not only easy access to all of the component plug-ins but plenty of room to get your fat fingers in for jumper configuration. The welcome inclusion of configurable dipswitches instead of jumpers for the CPU voltage and frequency settings is a definite plus as well. The somewhat unusual placement of the FDD and ATX Power connectors at the back of the board cause a bit of clutter and the CPU socket while handy is out of line with the case fan but since I always use an overhead fan for CPU cooling (a good rule of thumb for overclocking) presented no problem.
Included in the box aside from AOpen's Bonus Pack CD-ROM which contains a current version of Symantec's Norton AntiVirus and CrashGuard™, the standard set of drivers, Flash BIOS Utilities, Desktop Managers, and on-line documentation, you will find a multi-language Quick Installation Guide and perhaps the finest User's Guide (manual) available, It's all covered in here. From hardware installation through jumper configuration, system connection and BIOS configuration, this manual is a clear concise and informative roadmap to the correct setup and use of your new mainboard. The appended FAQ is a wealth of information leaving the only thing to be desired is perhaps a more thorough troubleshooting section.


AOpen has provided the AX59Pro with highly configurable voltage settings, ranging from core voltages of 1.30v to 3.5v with the steps between 1.30v and 2.05v made in 0.05v increments and those made between 2.0v and 3.5v in 0.1v increments. While it may at present seem a bit dubious to include voltages as low as the 1.30v setting, future socket 7 chips using the 0.18 micron die may indeed be so power efficient so its nice to know that the AX59Pro offers more than just the standard options here. The AX59Pro also extends the 100MHz FSB setting by offering an 112MHz FSB speed but warns against using it claiming that it has no support in the chipset and may cause damage. In addition to 100/112MHz FSB frequencies, the board features the normal set of 60/66/75/83MHz settings as well as the unusual 90MHz setting. The MVP3 chipset gives users have the option of taking advantage of the 2 SIMM slots on the AX59Pro even when running the CPU FSB as high as 100-112MHz. If a memory upgrade is not yet in the cards, a configurable DRAM clock enables the user to decide whether to run the DRAM bus at the CPU clock speed or AGP clock speed (generally close to the 66MHz recommended bus speed). As well as a 1/2 and 1/3 PCI clock divider to keep the PCI bus running as close to 33MHz as possible.


Although the ability to run the front side bus at 112MHz is available the issue of stability at this speed is definitely a factor. We did get the unit to post and boot successfully into Windows 98 at 336MHz (112x3) but the system quickly degraded over the briefest of periods causing numerous page faults ultimately resulting in a bsod and after numerous re-attempts to boot resulted in Windows Protection Errors we concluded that the 112MHz bus was simply too unreliable to test. The AP59Pro was quite stable running at speeds as high as 315MHz (90 x 3.5) with the AMD K6-2 300MHz but achieved the best performance at 300MHz using the 100MHz FSB. Overclocking the Cyrix M-II 300 to 250MHz (83x3) was easily achieved as well as pushing the Pentium 200MMX to 250MHz (100x2.5). The board performed with admirable stability over the range of 66MHz through 100MHz whether overclocking or running at rated speeds. The board submitted for review came equipped with a full megabyte of cache, a feature that increases in the cacheable memory limit of the motherboard to 256MB as well as offering a slight performance boost when heavily multitasking or using unusually large programs over boards equipped with only 512KB of cache.

The Test
We tested this board in the usual manner. The way a typical system is set up; lots of junk on the hard drive. The drive was not reformatted but introduced into the system by removing and reinstalling the PCI/ISA Bridge, Power management controller, CPU/PCI Bridge, and CPU/AGP controller. The latest AGP drivers and IRQ steering miniport drivers available from VIA were used as well as BIOS Version R1.10 set to the "Turbo default" setting. A Creative Labs PC-DVD drive and MPEG2 decoder card were included, a 24x Matsushita CD drive, AWE64 soundcard and U.S. Robotics 56k modem were all added and tested for compatibility as well as an external Iomega Zip drive and HP 693C printer. All of the tested components performed beautifully without conflict.


The testing configuration can be found in the table below.  All posted benchmarks are the average result of five runs of each test.  I want to note here that since most Super7 mainboards provide scores that are generally only vary by a few points you should take into consideration many factors before deciding on a particular mainboard.   See our guidelines in the Super7 Mainboard Comparison.


ChartObject AX59Pro Winstone 98

Winstone scores were extremely consistent and the scores you see above varied no more than 0.1 in any of the tests run.

Aopen AX59Pro MediaTek Tests

Testing Configuration

Mainboard AOpen AX59Pro rev. 1.32
1024k L2 cache
BIOS Award 4.51PG Rev. 1.10
Processors AMD K6-2 300MHz, Cyrix M-II 300, Intel P200MMX
RAM 64MB Corsair PC100, 64MB Generic EDO SIMMs
Hard Drive Western Digital 33100 UDMA
Graphics Card Viper 330 4MB AGP (800x600@16bpp)
3D Accelerator Diamond Monster II 3D 8MB
Operating System Windows 98

Business Winstone Scores

  AMD K6-2 300MHz Cyrix M-II 300 Intel P200MMX
  (100MHzfsb x 3) (66MHzfsb x 3.5) (100MHzfsb x 2)
64MB PC100 23.2 20.9 17.5
64MB EDO 23 20.7 17.4

ForsakenMark (Direct 3D)

(640x480 16bpp)

64MB PC100 78.63 47.83 54.44
64MB EDO 75.44 45.83 52.98

Quake II DemoMap 1 (OpenGL)

(640x480 - 3DfxOpenGL)

64MB PC100 39.7 26.4 27.6
64MB EDO 39.2 25.5 26.3

While the fps scores in Quake II are extremely adequate it is important to note that running the AMD 3DNow! optimized version of the game with the K6-2 300MHz consistently posted fps scores in the 70-75 fps range.  You'll also notice that the P200MMX outscored the Cyrix M-II 300.  A better FPU and the performance increase due to running the chip at the 100MHz FSB were the main factors for this...

 ChartObject AX59Pro QuakeII (3Dfx OpenGL)

Under DirectX6 Forsaken absolutely screams as you can see by the scores below...

 ChartObject AX59Pro ForsakenMark

Conclusion

aopen1.gif (13885 bytes)  

MediaTek

AOpen AX59Pro

Performance 96
Value 95
Ease of Installation 98
Documentation 98
Stability 100
Overclockability 95

Overall Score

97
awardgold.gif (6926 bytes) Here at MediaTek we feel really good about this mainboard and want to let anyone thinking about making their first attempt at an upgrade of this nature know that this one is practically foolproof.  Aside from its apparent instability at the 112MHz FSB we could find virtually nothing lacking in the AX59Pro although if we could submit a wish list to AOpen we'd ask for an additional PCI slot and the "CE" MVP3 chipset revision which may help eliminate any problems running the 112MHz front side bus.  MediaTek is happy to award this mainboard our "Golden Super7 Award" with our highest recommendation.


Last Updated on 8/22/98
By Lyle Boomer

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