Totem P2BX Motherboard Evaluation

UPDATE – 6/2/99

There have been several inquiries about where to get this motherboard. Currently, Totem enjoys some popularity in Europe but is relatively unknown in the U.S. In addition, we have heard from both the U.S. distributors that all problems have been handled extremely quickly and professionally. It appears that Totem is working hard to become known as a quality manufacturer of motherboards in the U.S. Because Totem does not list distributors on their site), we are providing the vendors/distributors that we are aware of here:
ESC TECHNOLOGIES (West Coast US Distributor) -Carries Totem slot 1Motherboards.
AWE*SUM COMPUTERS – (East Coast US Distributor) – Carries Totem Super Socket 7 Motherboards
TT Hardware (Europe) – Carries Totem Slot 1 Motherboards.

General Impressions

We tested this Slot 1 motherboard with Windows 95, Windows NT and Linux. All of these were supported without problems. We used our P.H.D. Plus card from Ultra-X to perform the hardware level diagnostics, and found that all circuits passed with the exception of one particular DMA Channel 7 RAM to I/O transfer. While we experienced no problems in our hardware tests, we are still working to verify that no problems will exist if a sound card or NIC card uses this DMA channel.

There are a few very interesting features on this board, one of which should be of great interest to vendors and their support staff. This is the exclusive Debug On Board feature, which essentially is a built-in POST card…More on this later. Overall, we found this motherboard to be very stable and compatible with all of the hardware we tested on it. Though Totem has been manufacturing since 1989, they have only recently been introduced into the U.S. market, so expect to hear more about them in the near future.


The motherboard is based upon the Intel i440BX chipset in the ATX form factor with 5 PCI, 2 ISA (one shared) and one AGP slot (there is also a P2BXAT, which has 4 PCI slots in the AT form factor). It also has the standard array of 2 IDC connectors, 1 Floppy connector, built-in parallel and serial ports as well as 2 USB ports, and of course a PS/2 style mouse and keyboard connector. Totem also decided to include the SBLink connector as well.

As are many of the recent boards, the P2BX is essentially jumperless. While both the system clock speed and the CPU multiplier are selectable in the BIOS, the voltage is automatically detected with no manual selection possible. There is a jumper on the motherboard to select either 66MHz or 100MHz operation, however its function is to determine which system clock frequencies are available in the BIOS. When the jumper is set to 66MHz, your options are 66, 68, 75 and 83MHz. When it is set to 100MHz your options are 100, 103, 112 and 133MHz. CPU multipliers from 3.5x to 7.5x are available with the 66MHz setting, while 2.5x through 6.0x are available with the 100MHz setting.

The P2BX has 3 DIMM slots, which will each accept up to a 256MB SDRAM (unbuffered) or EDO module. The BIOS will allow for the selection of either 60ns or 50ns EDO. With SDRAM, you can choose the CAS Latency, tRCD (RAS-to-CAS Delay) and tRP (Precharge time) values in the BIOS, based upon what your SDRAM will allow for (the acceptable values are either 2 or 3). The motherboard also supports ECC, with a BIOS option to enable/disable.

Cool and/or Unique Features

The most interesting feature is the built-in 80 Port Debug Card. During POST, the LED displays the BIOS codes so that any problems can be quickly diagnosed. A complete POST code reference is included on the accompanying CD, as well as being printed in the hardcopy manual. This feature could prove to be invaluable to support technicians who have to try and debug problems over the phone, especially with end users who have no diagnostic equipment of their own. Some of the other features include keyboard power-on, PS/2 mouse power on, Modem Ring on and LAN wake up.


On the negative side, just as is the case with many motherboards these days, the BIOS chip is placed right behind the 3rd and 4th PCI slots, so if a new BIOS chip is necessary, you will need to remove any cards in those slots. In addition, the Power LED, speaker, reset and power on connectors are placed where they may end up underneath your drive bays, making them difficult to reach without moving the motherboard. This shouldn’t be a problem with a good quality case that has a slide out rack, but something to be aware of.

On the plus side, the ATX layout allows for the use of full-length cards as well as easy access to the memory slots. The IDE and floppy connectors are positioned to be close to the drive bays so as to eliminate any interference with airflow, and the power connector is positioned right under the power supply. For those who would need the Debug feature, the LED is placed right behind the AGP slot, making it relatively easy to see with the case cover removed.

Compatibility & Stability

We tested both Pentium II and Celeron processors on the motherboard without problems. We also tested several brands of PC66 SDRAM (Crucial Technology, Advantage Memory Corporation, Corsair and Macrotron) as well as PC100 SDRAM (Crucial Technology and Macrotron) with no problem running at spec.

We also tested with several different adapter cards without problems, including both an Adaptec 2940UW and Domex 3192U SCSI card (singly and together). The Domex card is a ‘non-bootable’ SCSI card, meaning it does not have it’s own BIOS, however the P2BX was able to boot with it by setting the BIOS boot option to SCSI. We tested also with a generic NE2000 compatible and a MaxTech NXP-16 NIC (both ISA) with no problems.

The stability of this motherboard was very good. There were no timeouts in Winstone either under Windows 95 or Windows NT, and Linux booted and ran without any complaints. Overall, this appears to be a well-built motherboard.


The manual is very impressive, with detailed appendices that include complete descriptions of all BIOS settings, a boot flow chart for debugging and a complete POST code reference. They also include diagrams of the pinouts for the various connectors (IDE, floppy, serial, parallel, etc.) and some additional technical information. For those who like stickers, Totem has even included a set in the manual that contains Pentium and Pentium II, 6×86, K6 and Novell as well as labels for COM1/2/3, LPT1/2/3, Video, Game, Power, Keyboard, etc.

The installation and setup instructions are short and to the point, with plenty of diagrams. Since there are essentially no jumpers, there is little to discuss other than cable connections and memory installation. One area that is not very well described is the use of the external frequency jumper (JP1). Upon the initial installation of the motherboard, we had the impression that the board would not support any frequency above 83MHz until we did some additional nosing around.


Without knowing much about the manufacturer and their support, it is hard to give this motherboard an exhuberant thumbs-up (though we would like to). With only one sample to test, it is impossible to guess at a possible failure rate, and there is no manufacturer history readily available to extrapolate from. Despite these cautions, the sample we tested appears to be very well put together. Only time in the field will determine whether the quality and reliability are up to the standards set by some of the more prominent manufacturers, but all indications from our tests seem to point to a solid and reliable product

For more information, go to Totem’s website at:
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