Epox MVP3C-M Review

Epox 58-MVP3C-M   (rev. 0.6)

When I first contacted Epox about getting this board to test for review I was told that I would have to wait just for a bit because they were implementing the new 95MHz fsb speed for use with the AMD K6-2 333. Now I am glad they made me wait. As far as AT form factor boards go this has all the makings of a winner. The first ever working Super7 mainboard Ver 0.6 has been gently revised to include the CE revision of the the VIA MVP3 chipset and with the addition of the 95MHz fsb speed Epox has produced a stable workhorse of a mainboard well worth a second look especially for any of you making your first mainboard upgrade.

Click on the picture below for board specifications and recent user comments


Although this board is very small Epox managed to fit 4 PCI slots, 3 ISA, and 1 AGP slot on it in addition to the 3 DIMM slots for memory expansion. Two of the PCI slots will accept full length cards which could be an important note, especially if you plan on using 2 VoodooČ cards running in SLI mode. Many of the Super7 AT boards only provide 1 full length PCI slot. There is 512KB of 5ns L2 cache on-board making the cacheable memory area of the MVP3C-M 128MB, twice that of Intel's TX chipset, but only half of most other available Super7 mainboards.

The included manual, although as yet unrevised for this new version of the MVP3C-M manages to get you through the setup process without too much difficulty, but you will need to be a bit careful about hooking up the AT power supply and the PS/2 mouse port ( see appendix B ). The upper left hand corner of the board is somewhat cramped and access to it once installed in the case is a bit of a problem unless you have hands the size of a 4 year old's. Aside from that, Epox has included all of their traditional "user friendly" features. Possibly the greatest of these is the Easy Setting Dual Jumper (ESDJ) CPU Setup which easily replaces the need for a Jumperless CPU Setup. Using a single jumper you can select the clock multiplier from a set ranging from 2.0x - 5.0x. Moving up the CPU Configuration Jumper Block on the board you can use another jumper to select the bus speed, ranging from 60 to 100MHz setting (including the new 95MHz setting.


One of the better features of all of the Super7 mainboards incorporating the MVP3 chipset is the ability to run your SDRAM at a Bus Clock of 66MHz "pseudo-synchronously" while your CPU/L2 cache can use the 75MHz-100MHz bus speeds, allowing upgraders to retain their older SDRAM DIMMs that may not be PC100 Compliant. Using a single jumper, the MVP3C-M offers this capability and it worked flawlessly every time I had to make the switch, and the jumper is easily accessible to boot.
Epox packages the board with the latest AGP Gart and VIA Ultra DMA-33/ APMC Drivers as well as a mini manual on the installation of these features.  Because I used Windows 98 I didn't need the Bus Master (UDMA-33) or APMC drivers, preferring instead to let the OS handle these aspects.  I did however download and install the VIA Miniport Router available on both Epox's and VIA's websites.  The board features support for Dual IDE PCI connectors and automatically detects both master and slave channels on each through the BIOS.  This feature also performed flawlessly detecting the hard drive setup as a master on the primary channel and a x2 DVD drive as both a slave on the primary channel and when changed, the master on the secondary channel.  It is important to note that you must set the BIOS to the default settings on the first boot so that the BIOS can detect and initialize the hardware correctly.  You can then go back and adjust the settings to best suit your needs.  The Chipset features in the BIOS include system and CPU temperature monitoring and CPU core and IO voltage monitoring.  I find this a definite plus especially as an overclocking junkie.

The MVP3C-M performed rock-steady at every setting I threw at it.   Even overclocking the AMD K6-2 300 to 350MHz (something heretofore unattainable) although I must confess that because of the voltage restrictions of the board I did not run it for very long.  The K6-2 333 however OC'ed easily to 350 using the 100MHz fsb clocked to 3.5.

Epox MVP3C-M Chipset Features Setup for Testing

 

BIOS Settings

  SDRAM @ AGP bus PC100@ CPU bus
Bank 0/1 DRAM Timing: 60ns Turbo
Bank 2/3 DRAM Timing: 60ns Turbo
Bank 4/5 DRAM Timing: 60ns Turbo
SDRAM Cycle Length: 3 2
SDRAM Bank Interleave: Disabled 4 Bank
DRAM Read Pipeline: Enabled Enabled
Sustained 3T Write: Enabled Enabled
Cache Rd+CPU Wt Pipeline: Enabled Enabled
Read Around write: Enabled Enabled
Cache Timing: Fast Fastest
Video BIOS Cacheable: Enabled Enabled
System BIOS Cacheable: Disabled Enabled
Memory Hole At 15Mb Addr.: Disabled Disabled
Aperture Size: 64M 64M
AGP Transfer Mode: 2x 2x

Testing the board as well as overclocking was a dream because of the Easy Setting Dual Jumper feature and although there isn't support for running the FSB at speeds greater than 100MHz, the speed settings that are available switch without even a flutter and since I have been running the board steadily for five days now I would have to rate it high as to both overclockablility and stability...



Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties I was forced to test the board off of a newly formatted hard drive running a clean install of Windows 98.  Easier for me of course but not the way I usually test as I have always thought the idea of upgrading should be as hassle free as possible.  The Business Winstone 98 marks are the average of five runs and the graphics marks are averaged over three runs of each test.  Remember that you should not go by benchmarks alone as many of these boards all run within a few points of each other.  Choose your new mainboard according to your needs and the products features first.  You will be much happier in the long run.

Epox MVP3C-M Tests
Testing Configuration
Mainboard Epox MVP3C-M AT
512k L2 cache
BIOS Award 4.51PG
Processors AMD K6-2 333MHz, AMD K6-2 300MHz, Cyrix M-II 300, Intel P233MMX
RAM 64MB Corsair PC100, 64MB Generic SDRAM
Hard Drive Western Digital Caviar 33100 UDMA
Graphics Card Viper 330 4MB AGP Ver 1.62 (800x600@16bpp)
3D Accelerator Diamond Monster II 3D 8MB (3Dfx drivers)
Operating System Windows 98

ChartObject Winstone 98

As you can see the quality of the DRAM and BIOS settings has a significant effect on the overall scores so I would definitely encourage you to buy the best you can afford...

 

Business Winstone Scores
  AMD K6-2 300MHz AMD K6-2 333MHz Cyrix M-II 300 Intel P233MMX
  (100MHzfsb x 3) (95MHzx3.5) (66MHzfsb x 3.5) (100MHzfsb x 2.5)
64MB PC100 21.5 21.9 19.9 17.9
64MB SDRAM 20.6 20.7 19.1 17.5
ForsakenMark (Direct 3D)
(640x480 16bpp)
64MB PC100 77.54 77.96 46.83 56.48
64MB SDRAM 72.54 71.78 44.25 52.66
ChartObject ForsakenMark (640x480)

Even with the smaller L2 cache you can see that Direct3D applications scream along nicely.  Although the frame rates were significantly higher with the K6-2 processors it was unnoticeable to the naked eye (mine anyway...

 

Quake II DemoMap 1 (OpenGL)
(640x480 - 3DfxOpenGL)
64MB PC100 39.7 39.9 26.4 28.5
64MB SDRAM 39.2 39.4 25.5 26.3
ChartObject QuakeII (3Dfx OpenGL)

Here the scores don't reflect the unbelieveable frame rates that can be attained using the 3DNow! optimized drivers - which posted speeds exceeding 68 fps.  Still they're not bad for such a floating point intensive application.

Conclusion

MediaTek Ratings

Epox 58-MVP3C-M

Performance 96
Value 96
Ease of Installation 95
Documentation 96
Stability 100
Overclockability 97

Overall Score

96.6
Quite the fan of the FIC VA-503+ it is hard for me to say this but as fat as AT form factor Super7 systems go I like this mainboard a little better.  The absence of the larger 1MB cache is more than made up for by the inclusion of the extra PCI expansion slot and overall stability.  The additional BIOS features are a major plus as well. Since you can purchase this board for as little as $84.00 if you know where to look it is a great value for your hard earned dollar et al.  I still currently use my VA-503+ as my board of choice for day to day business computing cause unfortunately this board is only a loaner and must be returned, otherwise I'd change over in a heartbeat.  

FIC is due to send the newest revision of their AT board for review any day now and while it sports some high front end speed I sure am going to miss that extra slot.  I almost took off points for documentation on this board because quite frankly the manual as it stands now is somewhat lacking.  That was, until I looked at the various appendicies included at the back of the manual.  There is a tremendous amount of technical nfo that while not necessarily for the layman is nevertheless a true goldmine for those of us with a little basic knowledge.  We happily award this mainboard our Golden Super7 Award and encourage all of you looking for an AT form mainboard to give this board a thorough examination.  If there are any questions you have about the board or you have one and are in need of a little technical support please feel free to contact me at boomer@super7.net and I'll do my very best to be of service...



Last Updated on 8/28/98
By Lyle Boomer