Due to a number of problems with early Super 7 boards, we decided to put this one through some rather grueling tests. We used several different video cards and processors during a weekend of 24-hour burn-ins. Throughout all of these tests, we only encountered a single timeout – which we elected to retry successfully. Overall, our evaluation shows this to be a stable, quality motherboard which should be one of the top choices for those who require the ATX form factor.
One thing we were very happy to see on the PA-2013 is support of single voltage processors, which was lacking on the VA-503+. All Socket 7 processors would boot and be recognized on this motherboard with no problem.
Bus speeds of 66, 75, 83, and 100MHz, plus multipliers from 2.0x to 5.5x in .5v increments are available. The supplied voltages include 2.0v, 2.1v, 2.2v, 2.5v, 2.8v, 2.9v, 3.2v, 3.3v and 3.5v. The limited voltage settings do restrict the amount of ‘tweaking’ that some users like to do when ‘testing’ various processor settings, but all current processor voltages are present. As with all Super 7 boards, the SDRAM can be set to match the CPU frequency or the AGP bus speed. This will allow users of 66MHz SDRAM to continue to use it with processors running at 100MHz.
With 4 PCI and 1 AGP slot, most users will find that they have plenty of room for their PCI cards. Unfortunately, if you do use all 4 PCI slots, you will be restricted to a single ISA card. The serial, parallel and USB connectors are included, as are the PS/2 mouse and keyboard connectors. An IrDA header is also present, however you will need to purchase an optional cable for this feature.
FIC elected to eliminate the SIMM slots on this board, which may be considered good or bad, depending upon your point of view. With so many attempting to run at 100MHz bus speeds, the lack of SIMM slots will prevent users from trying to run their 60ns EDO modules and complaining that the board doesn’t work at 100MHz. Unfortunately, those simply wanting to run their ‘older’ 66MHz processors will need to purchase DIMM modules, if they do not already possess them.
Cool and/or Unique Features
It appears that FIC decided to concentrate more on stability with this board than including any fancy features. With the relatively high RMA rates on current Super 7 boards, this makes the stability of the PA-2013 both a very cool and somewhat unique feature for this class of motherboards.
The PA-2013 is slightly shorter than most ATX boards (by about 1/2″), which makes for slightly easier installation and helps to move some of the components out from under the drive bays. We would have liked to see DIP switches rather than jumpers, since many users get confused with what jumpers to set for various configurations. The position of the FREQ jumpers happens to be right near the drive bays, which can be difficult to reach without completely removing the motherboard from the case. It seems that FIC, as with so many other manufacturers, simply doesn’t take the upgrade market into account when designing their boards. Frequent processor upgrades means frequent jumper adjustments!!
Compatibility & Stability
Unlike the VA-503+, this motherboard fully supports all single and dual voltage processors. While we did not test them for operation at 100MHz, all were recognized by the BIOS and would boot into the operating system without a problem. We also tested with several PCI and AGP video cards (Jaton, Diamond, Matrox) without experiencing any problems at all. We did not test with any i740 chipset cards, unfortunately.
Our tests included several burn-in runs for 24-hours using Winstone 98, all of which completed without any errors. We did experience one timeout, which did not re-occur after a retry of the test. These burn-ins were executed with a K6-2 300 and Crucial Technology PC100 SDRAM.
Documentation & Accessories
The manual which is included is a typical FIC manual, however there do not appear to be any obvious errors ;-). The manual has 4 main sections, including a general overview, installation procedures, BIOS setup and an explanation of available software utilities
Besides the manual and IDE cables, FIC has included a CD that contains a copy of PC-cillin 95 Lite and PC-cillin 97 Lite, as well as Intel PIIX drivers, VIA bus master drivers and AGP VxD drivers. The PIIX and bus master drivers for Windows NT and OS/2 are included as well.
Overall we are impressed with the stability and compatibility of this motherboard. With full support of all Pentium class processors, 4 PCI slots, AGP support and 100MHz bus speeds this is a top notch performer and should be given serious consideration by those looking to upgrade today.
There are some issues which may tip the scales away from this board, such as no SIMM slots, jumpers rather than DIP switches, limited ISA slots and a relatively few voltage settings. Most of these will be of little consequence to the average user, but may be important to some.
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