SiS540 Setup and Performance
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Setting up any prototype system board can be a daunting task and although the physical aspects of setting up the demo board were simplicity in itself, the "Evaluation ROM BIOS" is something else altogether.  Most of these setting are for engineers and it was somewhat of a struggle to get top performance settings that were equally stable.  In most cases I chose to err on the side of caution and so the performance benchmarks are apt to be somewhat low.


Digital Flat Panel/2nd CRT/TV-out
Add-on Card

 

8MB Local Frame Buffer Add-on

 

As you can see from the diagram above, the demo board offered a pair of PCI slots, an AMR slot and that unusual slot/port I mentioned before where you can access the AGP to add local frame buffer memory or plud in a digital flat panel/2nd CRT/TV-out card.  And, while the SiS540 can support a Level 2 cache of 2MB the sample board only featued 1MB in the form of 2- 512KB SRAMs.  There are numerous jumpers on the sample most of which are for engineering purposes and would not be present on a finished product.  Setting the CPU freq., clock multiplier and core voltage were accomplished through the use of three different jumper blocks but if I read the assessment of the chipset correctly, could also be handled through software in the BIOS.

Performance - Ziff-Davis' Winstone -

The SiS540 sample board offered better than average performance in the workstation/business arena for an all in one system and although the graphics engine offers good 3D acceleration and bandwidth the drivers are still so immature as to make benchmarking a somewhat difficult task.  Frequent tweaking was necessary to arrive at a system stable enough to generate a reasonably consistent benchmark score and because of this I am somewhat shy about posting the results.

System Setup for SiS540 Demo Board

Processor(s)

AMD K6-2 500MHz
AMD K6-III 450MHz

Memory

1 X 128MB PC133
Generic SDRAM

Hard Drive

Western Digital UDMA66
(5400 RPM) 10.2GB
WD102AARTL

Operating System

Windows 98SE

Benchmark sores reflect an average of three iterations of the application but bear in mind that the system's stability was always a factor...

The 3d Winbench 2000 Winmarks seem at first glance nothing to write home about but consider they were taken at 1024x768x32 (double-buffered) at 85Hz and they begin to make more sense.  This is better than any all-in-one system board can do with the K6-2/III at these frequencies. Also the Business and Content Creation Winstone scores are slightly faster than we've seen on the SiS530/5595 and VIA MVP4 based system boards currently available. It is also important to take into account that a small portion (8MB) of the system memory has been set aside for graphics allocation.

Performance - DVD

MadOnion.com's Video 2000 Benchmark application set the stage for performance testing the on-chip hardware DVD function of the SiS540 and did surprisingly well.  Using only the AMD K6-III 450MHz processor, the demo board generated a consistent 1710 score and seems to rely little on the CPU...

Performance - OpenGL

Sorry gang, the SiS540 lacks stability under OpenGL.  No scores could be reliably assessed...

Performance - Direct3D

While I could never get MadOnion.com's 3DMark 2000 to run without freezing, I could get the Expendable Timedemo to run without difficulty and it generated the following marks averaged over three runs at each setting...

Performance - Memory Bandwidth

The demo board slipped up here in my estimation and I would expect to see better marks than these generated by Sisoft's Sandra 2000 Utility in fully market-ready boards, the marks were taken using an AMD K6-2 500MHz processor...


Conclusion
It is still uncertain whether the SiS540 will find its way into the budget desktop arena at all.  With the slow death of the socket 7 platform gasping it's last breaths already, the chipset seems better suited to the budget mobile market instead.  It's sort of a shame as the system-on-a-chip functionaly of the SiS540 is on the whole pretty amazing. The sound quality is fair and although the demo sample I received has no access to the on-chip networking features, if they work with reasonable stability, the all-in-one super7 system may become a reality. On the upside, SiS has seen fit to produce the same genre for the Slot 1/Socket 370 platform in it's SiS630 single chip solution that seems destined for a good ride with the PPGA/FC-PGA Celerons and will no doubt hit the budget PC market in force before too long.

Editor's Note:  I just need to mention again that the drivers for the SiS540 are still immature and the sample I received was an early one (Jan. 2000). 

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