EPoX EP-USB66 Interface Card
Introduction
EPoX has pushed the limits of the UltraATA/66 interface card with their new EP-USB66 expansion card by not only providing an UltraATA/66 controller but a fully finctional self-powered 4-port USB hub as well. This makes for the ultimate in non-SCSI interface upgrades for the super7 platform system at the relative cost of a USB hub alone with the only requirement of an available PCI slot.

Packaging
The EP-USB66 ships in a "white box" along with an 80-wire, 40-pin UltraATA/66 ribbon cable, a loop-back connector for the USB hub, a drivers disk and an installation pamphlet.


Features
The UltraATA/66 fuctionality is provided by the advanced HPT-366 PCI Host Adapter chip and is capable of up to 66 MBytes/sec burst data transfer rates on the PCI Local Bus. The HPT-366 controller supports a wide range of devices such as CD-R, CD-RW, DVD, ATAPI CD-ROM, LS-120, DAT and ZIP devices. The controller supports today’s faster UltraATA/66 hard drives but is also backwards compatible with UltraATA/33 and PIO mode transfer rates. The controller provides two IDE channels than can each support up to two EIDE devices plus the card coexists with your onboard IDE controllers.Setting up new IDE devices is virtually automatic as the card will autodetect the best possible transfer mode for each attached ATAPI or EIDE device.

UltraATA/66 Controller


USB is made possible by using the Texas Instruments TUSB2046 4-port USB Hub chip. The chip includes full USB version 1.1 compliance and creates a self powered USB Hub on the EP-USB66 PCI card. The Hub works in conjunction with your motherboard’s (or USB controller card if present) USB port to add a total of 4 useable ports for USB devices. This is in addition to any available USB ports that your original USB controller has left unoccupied.

Universal Serial Bus (USB) Hub

Setup
Installation of the EP-USB66 is simplicity itself.  Pop the card into an available PCI slot, attach your IDE devices, the USB loop-back cable and reboot.  The card will boot the first time with your C:\ drive provided you have no other hard drives attached to your onboard Primary IDE.  The "Add New Hardware" wizard will detect the card and ask for the drivers.  These come included on a floppy disk and if you have the disk in your A:\ drive, you'll still need to let the wizard know which OS you're using Win 9x or NT.  When the drivers finish loading and the OS comes up, if you look in the Device Manager you'll notice that you now have a new SCSI controller...

...as Windows identifies the expansion card as a SCSI interface.  You'll also have a new General Purpose USB Hub...

...under the Universal Serial Bus controllers section.  Two things I should make mention of here.  First, you'll get the best results if you change the boot sequence in the BIOS to " SCSI, A, C ", and secondly, if you're installing into an existing operating system, it might be a good idea to remove and re-install your hard drive controller.

Performance
The performance benefits gained are somewhat nebulous with UltraATA/66 over UltraATA/33 but they are apparent in benchmark applications. We tested the EP-USB66 performance in the following system

Test Configuration for EPoX EP-USB66

Mainboard EPoX EP-MVP3
Chipset VIA MVP3 
Processor AMD K6-III 400MHz
Memory 2x64MB PC133
Generic CAS3
Hard Drive Western Digital Expert 9.1G
Ultra ATA/66 7200RPM
Graphics Adapter Matrox G400 32MB AGP OEM
Operating System Windows 98 SE


Using Ziff-Davis Winbench 99 Business Disk, High-End Disk and Disk Inspection Tests the increase is quite noticeable...





While the difference here is striking your results may vary depending on the drive you use.  The most significant increase in performance comes from higher RPM hard drives.  As to a burst rate of 66MB/sec?  Our tests with HD Tach came very near the mark with a bit under 59MBs/sec Burst rate under UltraATA/66 versus 30MBs/sec under UltraATA/33 both of which were reasonable considering the burst rate maximum can probably only be achieved under optimal circumstances.

Conclusion
While the EP-USB is significantly more expensive (MSRP $45.00USD) than other UltraATA/66 interface cards (typically $29.95) the inclusion of the USB Hub more than makes up the difference provided you have need for it.  We tried a number of different USB devices using the hub including USB mouse, keyboard, webcam, scanner and printer and all were immediately recognized and showed no sign of problem or conflict whatsoever.

Make no mistake, if your current hard drive doesn't support UltraATA/66, you won't see any increase in performance, and, if you don't require the added USB support, the extra money you spend getting the EP-USB66 over another UltraATA/66 interface card will be wasted.  But, if you intend to move to an upgrade hard drive and keep your existing super7 mainboard and processor, the EP-USB66 offers more inter-operable bang for the buck with support for more USB and IDE devices than any other card currently available.  

To find out more about the EP-USB66 including where to find it, check out EPoX web site at http://www.epox.com  

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