We tested this motherboard with Intel, AMD, Cyrix and IDT chips. All of these were supported without problems, and every Intel and AMD K6 processor we tested ran flawlessly at 100MHz. The biggest news, though, is that unlike other Super 7 boards, the AOpen was able to run the Cyrix 6x86MX PR233 at 100MHz as well! Unfortnately, the IDT WinChip still couldn’t handle 90MHz, much less 100.
AOpen has come through with a great board. For anyone who has been eagerly awaiting an ATX Super 7 board, it’s here, and it looks like it was worth the wait.
We tested several Intel processors, including a Pentium Classic 150MHz, and all of them worked at 100MHz with no problems. The same can be said for all of the AMD K6 processors we tried. The Cyrix PR200 booted at 100MHz, but gave us a blue screen instead of a Start Menu. The PR233, however, handled the 100MHz bus with ease. The only disappointing news was that the IDT (225MHz) would not work with either the 90 or 100MHz bus settings.
AOpen decided to implement the clock multiplier and voltage settings via DIP switches, while setting the bus speed with jumpers. With available speeds of 60, 66, 68, 75, 83, 90, 100MHz and 112MHz, plus multipliers from 1.5x to 5.0x (in .5 increments), users should have plenty of options to play with. The voltages range from 2.0v to 3.52v (in .1v increments).
This board has 2 SIMM slots and 3 DIMM slots. While this is not excessive it should provide room for all the memory the average user needs. With 512k of cache, the cacheable memory is 128MB. AOpen is developing a 1MB version of this board which will be able to cache up to 256MB, but it looks like that won’t be available for some time. The BIOS provides for plenty of memory tweaking options including AOpen’s traditional ‘turbo defaults’ setting. This is an additional set of default settings that uses faster memory timings than the ‘setup defaults’.
Probably the biggest limitation of the board is the inclusion of only 2 ISA slots, one of which is shared. For many users this means a soundcard and modem in the ISA slots, and everything else had better be PCI. Using an AGP card in the single AGP slot will also help keep those PCI slots open for other add-ons. Of course, the usual array of IDE, floppy, serial, parallel, USB and IrDA connectors are included.
Cool and/or Unique Features
The AX59 Pro, like all of AOpen’s new boards, has the resetable keyboard fuse. This is a cool feature that most users will never need, but it’s nice to know that you don’t have to send the board back for repair if for some reason the keyboard fuse blows. At this point the board’s ATX form factor seems to qualify as a unique feature, at least in the Super 7 market.
The most important feature of this board has to be its ATX form factor. This makes the layout of this board very nice. It avoids the inherent AT problems of port cable clutter and processors getting in the way of full-length cards. In fact, AOpen has put the hard drive connectors on the front of the board, putting them closer to hard drives mounted in the front of a case. Not only does this avoid some cable clutter, it also avoids having to run the hard drive ribbon cable across the processor. If you’re running an especially hot chip this is a good air-flow feature.
A final consideration, though minor, is that the BIOS chip is directly in front of the card slots so replacing it will require removal of most add-on cards, even if you have a slide out motherboard rack.
Compatibility & Stability
All processors we tested worked well on this motherboard at their rated speed. The IDT C6-225 chip was recognized without problem, as was the K6-300. We experienced no crashes while running Winstone98 tests at both 66MHz and 100MHz bus speeds for the processors that finished booting (an issue at 100MHz).
We tested several SDRAM combinations, including Micron PC100 SDRAM, without any problems at all. Our standard 66MHz chips from Advantage and Crucial were able to run at up to 83MHz bus, but PC100 chips were required to handle the 100MHz tests.
The stability of this motherboard was very good. We never experienced a timeout, or any other error in dozens of Winstone tests with various processors at various bus speeds (even using the ‘turbo defaults’ provided in the bios). While we did not try to push things too far, it appears that this board can handle quite a lot of ‘tweaking’ without any problems, which is especially good for those who may want to try various settings as a learning experience.
AOpen’s manuals have consistently been among the best in the industry, and this one is no exception. All settings are well detailed, both in diagrams for the visually inclined, and in tables for quick concise reference. Each of the bios settings is explained in detail, allowing even the less technical user to understand each function.
As long as you don’t need more than 2 ISA slots this board is probably the best entry into the Super 7 market yet. For everyone who is already using the ATX format this is the Super 7 board you’ve been waiting for. Even for AT users looking to upgrade to Super 7 this board is worth some careful consideration. It means getting a new ATX case, but it looks like ATX will become the standard, so the investment will be worth it in the long run. With proven stability at 100MHz, flawless Winstone runs with every processor, and great layout and documentation AOpen has combined all the right features in one package.
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