Setting It Up
   Although the EP-6VBA2 does require the use of jumpers, EPoX seems to have gone out of its way to ease the process significantly.  External CPU frequency is handled by means of a single jumper, located at the bottom right on the board, which is clearly marked with the wide range of available frequencies.  It seems unusual that the clock multiplier also needs to be configured since all of the currently available processors that the board supports are clock-locked but, since it does, what better way than a simple dipswitch block?  The EP-VBA2's PCB is silk-screened with all of the correct configurations so if you happen to lose your manual you won't be in the dark when it comes time to upgrade the processor.  The board layout is quite spacious and easily houses even the largest of cooling units.  Speaking of cooling, there are only two fan plugins on the board as opposed to the usual three you'd normally find on a high-performance mainboard.  However, I had no problems whatsoever with either the CPU or system board itself as far as heat was concerned. 

   Had I been an EPoX designer, I would have most-likely foregone the AMR slot as I am thoroughly convinced that these don't belong on performance-based mainboards, since the onboard audio and modem properties, although functional and entirely passable for a business workstation, hardly reflect the level of performance one would be willing to sacrifice to gain access to a few extra  expansion slots.  My only other complaint is the location of the front-panel I/O connectors.  In this day of DVD and CDRW drives, the upper-right corner of the mainboard clutters quickly in all but the stoutest of mid-tower cases and I, for one, invariably, hook up the front-panel connectors + to - the first time out.  This often leads to assorted unwholesome expletives when I am unable to get my fat fingers into the area to switch them around without resorting to pulling all of the other cables off.   Wake-on-LAN, Wake-on-Modem, CD audio,  voice-modem and KBPO (Keyboard Power-On) connectors and jumpers are all clearly marked and covered in the manual, so it's basically a matter of fitting your processor, installing your memory, plugging in the connectors and installing your expansion cards and you're set and ready to boot
   The user's manual walks you easily through each screen in the BIOS' CMOS setup and you'll find yourself up and running in no time.

Performance
   The EP-6VBA is stable and fast and the asynchronous memory bus offers the user the ability to squeeze as much memory bandwidth as possible out of whichever type of DRAM is used even though access to DRAM Timing settings is rather simple in the BIOS, with choices of Fast & Normal...

 

Test Configuration for EPoX EP-6VBA2

Mainboard EPoX EP-6VBA2
Chipset VIA Apollo Pro133A 
Processor(s) Intel® Pentium III 500E 100MHz FSB
Intel®  PIII 667EB 133MHz FSB
Memory 1x64MB PC100
or
1x64MB PC133
Hard Drive Maxtor 91366U 13G.
7200 RPM ATA-66 HDD
Graphics Adapter Matrox G400 32MB AGP SH
Operating System Windows 98 SE

   The EP-6VBA2 was rock solid under the most stringent circumstances and never failed to perform any of the benchmarks we thrust upon it.  Using Ziff-Davis' Content Creation Winstone 2000, the EP-6VBA2 posted the following scores averaged over five iterations of the test

   

and posted equally responsive marks under Business Winstone 99...  (Remember, this is with 64MB of system memory!)

As you can see, the use of PC133 SDRAM provides a reasonably significant performance increase especially when using the 133MHz CPU Host Frequency.

Conclusion
Even considering its few faults (lack of adjustable Vcore settings and poorly placed front-panel I/O), it's hard not to be impressed with EPoX EP-6VBA2!  Easily set up with an excellent manual, exceptionally stable and fast, fast, fast with an outstanding feature set, this has to be my favorite Slot-1 mainboard to date.  

We'll be using the EP-6VBA2 in our upcoming look at AGPX4 performance so stop back for that soon.  With prices on the web ranging from under $100 to about $120, the EP-6VBA2 offers exceptional value for money and the kind of upgrade- ability that is sure to keep this  board on the cutting edge longer than most of the currently available Slot-1 mainboards.   

For more information or to find out where to purchase the EP-6VBA2 or it's socket 370 counterpart - the EP-3VBA2, stop by EPoX web site at - http://www.epox.com 

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