EPoX EP-MVP3G2 Review
Introduction
Ever since the release of the VIA MVP3 chipset in mid-1998, EPoX has had a resounding success on the super7 platform. The best received of their line - the EP-MVP3G-M ATX mainboard - has long enjoyed State-of-the-Art status for super7 mainboards based on the MVP3 chipset. Now, to take advantage of enhancements to EIDE performance by the new Ultra ATA/66 interface, EPoX has updated the EP-MVP3G-M with a pair of new mainboards - the EP-MVP3G2 (with 1MB L2 cache) and the EP-MVP3G5 (with 2MB L2 cache) by taking advantage of the new VIA 82C596 Apollo Pro South Bridge.

Packaging
The EPoX EP-MVP3G2 ships with a standard floppy ribbon cable and an ATA/66 40-pin 80-wire ribbon cable, a decent, but basically reprinted version of the EP-MVP3G-M manual and a drivers/utilities CD which includes VIA service pack with AGP drivers, IRQ routing, VIA Bus master drivers, VXD drivers, UDMA drivers, Norton anti-virus, hard disk drive tool Norton Ghost, document viewer Adobe Acrobat, an online .pdf version of the users manual, and the system monitoring program "Unified System Diagnostic Manager".

Upon receiving the EP-MVP3G2, you'll  need to make sure that your BIOS is ver. vp3c9916, which added significantly better ATA-66 performance with the 596B South Bridge than the BIOS .bin file the sample I received shipped with. This new BIOS also added  the ability to select IRQ for PCI slots in the CMOS Setup.

Features
As I stated earlier the "G2" is an upgrade of the earlier EP-MVP3G-M by virtue of a new South Bridge which, in addition to standard PIO and DMA mode operation, also supports the UltraDMA-33 standard to allow reliable data transfer rates up to 33MB/sec throughput and the UltraDMA-66 standard for 66MB/sec data transfer.  Apart from that, for all practical purposes, the "G2" is virtually identical to the MVP3G-M. As though it were merely cloned.

   3 x DIMM slots provide support for a maximum 384MB of system memory that like the MVP3G can be run asynchronously to the front side bus if required.  The 1MB onboard cache provides a cacheable area of 256MB of system memory for processors that carry no second level cache of their own. For processors with onboard L2 cache - the K6-III for instance - this onboard cache translates to a L3 cache that, in conjunction with the L2 cache could technically translate the maximum allowable system memory into a cacheable area.
   Expansion, similar to that found on the latest and greatest BX boards, can be found in the form of 1 x AGP port, 5 x 32-bit PCI slots and a pair if 16-bit ISA slots.  EPoX release of the new BIOS for the "G2" allows you to set the interrupt request for each of the PCI slots manually through software and this is a big plus if you run across those pesky expansion card conflicts.
   Present as it is with all of EPoX super7 mainboards is the ESDJ (Easy Setting Dual Jumper) to configure the external CPU frequency and clock multiplier.  This jumper allows you to configure the external CPU frequency to 66/75/83/90/95/100 or 112MHz and clock multipliers range from 2.0 through 5.5x in 0.5x increments. The CPU frequency can also be adjusted through the "Chipset Features - CPU Host Clock  " in the BIOS.  This allows the external clock to be modified depending upon what FSB jumper has been selected. ( 66MHz FSB options: Default, 66.8, 68.5, 75, and 83MHz - 100MHz FSB options: Default, 100, 103, 112, and 133MHz ). CPU core voltages of 1.6/2.0/2.1/2.2/2.3/2.4/2.8/2.9 and 3.2 volts are configured by a dipswitch block that replaces the jumper configuration found on the ep_MVP3G-M.
   Other features are the standard fare including 2 x  16550 Fast UART serial ports, 1 x SPP, EPP and ECP parallel port, 1 x floppy connector,  PS/2 keyboard (supporting KBPO power on feature), and PS/2 mouse connector.  The EP-MVP3G2 also supports ring-in feature (remote power-on through external modem, allows system to be turned on remotely). Resume by Alarm which allows your system to turn on at a pre-selected time, CPU Hardware sleep and SMM (System Management Mode),   USDM software to offer hardware monitoring status,  CPU, PWR and Chassis fan Auto stop in sleep mode, and has a built-in WOL (Wake On LAN) connector and SB-LINK Header for Creative Labs' Sound Blaster compatible AWE64D PCI Sound Card.

Setup
The layout of the"G2" is well thought out so that setup is a fairly simple task.  There is a fair amount of room around the CPU socket which allows for an oversized heatsink/fan unit if you're of a mind to use one.  And, save for PCI slots 3 and 4, the mainboard can handle full-length expansion cards.

Performance
The sample I received from EPoX shipped with an early BIOS that was, in all honesty, a hinderance to the performance capabilities of the "G2". In a head to head test against the EP-MVP3G-M, the "G2", with an Ultra ATA/66 hard drive was severely thrashed in Winstone 99  performance. After installing the updated BIOS however, the "G2" really showed it's stuff.

Test Configuration for EPoX EP-MVP3G2

Mainboard EPoX EP-MVP3G2
Chipset VIA MVP3 with
VT82C596 South
Processor(s) AMD K6-III 400/450MHz
AMD K6-2 450MHz
Memory 1x64MB PC100
Corsair CM 654S64-BX2
Hard Drive Western Digital Expert 9.1G
Ultra ATA/66 7200RPM
Graphics Adapter Diamond Viper 550 16MB AGP
Detonator v3.53 drivers
Operating System Windows 98

Scores below reflect an average across three runs of each of the benchmarks listed...

As you can see from the sores above, the EP-MVP3G2 when powered by AMD's K6-III processor, post a performance level of exceptional proportion - outdistancing even most Pentium III based systems.  While I benchmarked the system with the Viper 550 TNT card, I did try it with both the Voodoo3 3000 and Matrox Millennium G400 AGP cards as well and am happy to report that all loaded and ran without any conflicts in evidence.  The newest Detonator drivers do post some handsome performance marks even on TNT-based cards such as the Viper 550.




Overclocking
I had no problems whatsoever at any of the jumper settings and even 124MHz was fairly stable once I changed the CAS latency setting for the memory from it's SPD default 2CLK to 3CLK.  The "G2", although it would POST at the 133MHz FSB setting, would not load the operating system. I did not, however, increase the core voltage or use any special cooling techniques.

Conclusion

The EP-MVP3G2 is hands down the super7 board to buy if you're looking to take advantage of the new Ultra ATA/66 standard. With prices on the web below $100.00 USD, this offering from EPoX is not only a good value for money, it is also a feature-packed toy that overclockers will love tinkering with.  Well designed and engineered with quality components the "G2" appears to have what it takes to take the super7 platform to its fullest advantage.  You may want to opt for the "G5" version with 2MB of onboard cache RAM especially if you're a hardcore gamer...

To find out more about and where to buy the EP-MVP3G2, check out EPoX web site at - http://www.epox.com  

And check out what it's users have to say on the EPoX EP-MVP3G2 Specification Page

 
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