The Soyo SY-6BA is a very real competitor to the AOpen and Abit offerings. The motherboard provides all of the usability features of the other boards, including jumperless CPU selection and ability to choose various bus speeds up to 112MHz with all Pentium II processors. Soyo also made the intelligent decision to include 5 PCI slots instead of the usual 4 that the other manufacturers have provided. While this limits the ability to use ISA cards (only 2 slots), many users only have two ISA cards anyway (sound card and modem) and even those are being replaced by PCI versions as time progresses. Our benchmark tests showed the board to be every bit as fast and stable as the Abit and AOpen offerings. For those who want a fast, stable, well supported BX board with 5 PCI slots and the ability to play with bus speeds – this is your board!
The SY-6BA is an ATX form factor board with 2 ISA, 5 PCI and 1 AGP slot. This design should satisfy those who are migrating towards all PCI cards, yet still support most users who still have ISA cards. Soyo also wisely included the SB-Link connector to support the Creative Labs PCI sound card, which makes this one of the most desireable BX motherboards, in our opinion.
The motherboard supports a full 1GB of SDRAM in 4 DIMM slots. The maximum cacheable memory was unknown at the time of this writing, but should included in a future update. Of course, the standard 2 EIDE and 1 floppy connector are included, along with 1 Parallel, 2 Serial and 2 USB connectors, as well as an IrDA header. The keyboard and mouse connectors are the PS/2 style.
Just like ASUS, AOpen and Abit did Soyo decided to incorporate the full range of system bus speeds and CPU clock multipliers, all of which can be set via the BIOS. The user can choo bus speeds of 66, 68.5, 75, 83.3, 100, 103 and 112MHz as well as multipliers from 1.5x through 5x in .5x increments. This allows for a wide range of processor speeds for those who like to experiment. The core voltage is automatically detected and set, which should not be an issue at all, considering the narrow range of voltages supported by the Pentium II processors.
The SY-6BA includes a number of hardware monitoring options, including CPU Thermal Protection, Voltage Monitoring and Fan Monitoring for better protection of your CPU and components. Also incorporated is the Modem Wake-up on Ring and LAN Wake-up. It does lack some of the exclusive monitoring features that the AOpen boards provide, however this should not be a big issue for most users.
Cool and/or Unique Features
One feature that we found to be useful is that the BIOS will display a ‘recommended’ CAS latency setting upon boot. The BIOS will detect the speed of your SDRAM, then check the CAS Latency setting of the BIOS. If the setting does not match the calculated ‘optional’ setting, a message will be displayed which indicates this calculated setting. This is a nice feature for either getting a little better performance, or in determining why the board hangs at the faster bus speeds.
The board is a standard ATX Slot I board. The DIMM slots are situated so that at least two of them should be accessible, even in a small mini-tower case. The ISA slots should have no problem with full length ISA cards. The only possible issue is that the panel wires are situated right on the front edge of the board where a secondary case fan may be interfered with.
Compatibility & Stability
Processor support is not much of an issue, considering the limited options available at this time. Full support for Pentium II processors from 233MHz through 450MHz is included.
The Soyo SY-6BA does include the 6-chip data buffer that has been discussed elsewhere. Whether this truly provides for better stability with 4 DIMM modules installed is still not proven to us, but we can say that we had no problems with our 4 PC100 test modules when we tried them.
We were able to run complete Winstone tests using bus speeds as high as 112MHZ, depending upon which processors were used. One thing to note if you will be experimenting, is that the faster bus speeds (i.e. 112MHz) may require setting the CAS latency to a value of ‘3’ if you don’t have PC100 modules that will run with the setting at ‘2’ (yes, there are PC100 modules that are faster or slower than others).
This is the one area that we found to be greatly lacking with this board. There is only a single sheet of paper included for initial setup. While the complete manual is included on a CD, you will only be able to read it once your system is up and running. The single sheet does cover the major settings and cable connections, however it is extremely easy to lose such a sheet. We would have preferred that a hardcopy manual be included, whether the CD was provided or not.
The SY-6BA is a very serious contender for the ‘Best BX motherboard’ title. We found that the performance of the board is equal to both the Abit and AOpen BX boards we tested, and lacked none of the important features. The main difference between this and the other boards is the 5 PCI slot design. If you are considering a BX board, do not overlook this one. The product is being marketed by M Tech, whose reputation for support is almost legendary. Only AOpen can rival them in this area.
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