FIC FA11 Motherboard Evaluation

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The FA-11 is one of FIC’s newest Socket 370 motherboard designs and is based around the VIA Apollo 133A chipset. The Apollo 133A chipset has matured into a reliable and stable solution, giving the end user one of the most attractive feature sets on the market. Some industry insiders, like our own Dean Kent, has suggested that the VIA chipset juggernaut will surpass Intel in chipset sales sometime this year, which would be a remarkable achievement. Probably the biggest factor in VIA’s rise to the top of the charts is the Apollo 133 and Apollo 133A chipsets meant for use with Intel’s Celeron, Celeron II, Pentium II and Pentium III processors.

The FA-11 is one of 5 Socket370 boards currently being offered by FIC. The FIC S370 lineup includes the following products: FA-11 (VIA Apollo 133A), FB-11 (Intel BX), FA-13 (VIA Apollo 133), KW15 (Intel i810E ATX) and the FW37 (Intel i810 micro ATX). With such a diverse group of boards, it’s easy to get dyslexic and begin to confuse all these models. This review will attempt to clarify the FA-11’s position within FIC’s ever-growing lineup.

Unlike their BX based FB-11, FA-11 has AGP4X support, UDMA66 IDE support and 50% greater memory handling capability. Sure the BX chipset gives some of the best benchmark numbers in the business, especially when pushed beyond its specs (i.e. BX133), but the Apollo 133A based FA-11 comes without caveats inherent in a BX design. You don’t have to worry about running FSB speeds of 133MHz resulting in a severe 33% over clock of your AGP bus speed. Although many of the most current AGP cards seem to handle this over clock, it’s always going to be an issue when choosing new system components.

The test system included the following components:

  • FIC FA-11 Main board PWB Rev. 1.3 (provided by FIC)
  • Intel Pentium III 850E
  • Intel Pentium III 733EB
  • Intel Pentium III 550E
  • Intel Celeron II 566MHz
  • 2 x 64MB Crucial Technology/Micron PC133 SDRAM (128MB total)
  • Elsa Erazor X 32MB 4X AGP (Nvidia Geoforce)
  • Seventeam – 300W ATX power supply (model: ST-301HR)
  • Quantum 10.2GB Fireball LCT UDMA66 IDE hard drive
  • ACER 40X IDE CDROM (model: 640A-272)
  • Sony floppy drive (model: MPF920-1)

Software used for evaluation:

  • Winstone99 Business Tests (Win98, WinNT4) – ZDBOp
  • Content Creation 2000 (Win98, WinNT4) – ZDBOp
  • Burn-in Test (Win98, Win2K) – Passmark
  • QuickTech Pro 2000 (Self-booting) – Ultra-X
  • BCM Diagnostics version 1.02

Operating Systems:

  • Microsoft Windows 98 SE
  • Microsoft Windows 2000

Firmware and HW drivers used during evaluation:

  • FA-11 BIOS revision: VBA42 (dated: 7-4-00)
  • VIA 4-in-1 Driver Set Ver. 4.24
  • Elsa Erazor X Win9X driver v4.12.01.0206-0050
  • Elsa Erazor X Win2K driver v5.09.00.306

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