FIC KW-15 Motherboard Evaluation

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Having my first assignment for RWT be an Intel 810e mainboard might not seem like a real exciting assignment, but the FIC KW-15 needed testing and it seemed as good a place as any to start. I’ve been able to test about a half dozen i810 based boards in the past year and have found them to be improving in stability, as fixes are employed in both the actual chipset and software drivers. Considering RWT typically targets business-oriented users, I set out to see how an integrated chipset design would align with the requirements of the typical business/home office PC.

FIC is a company known by many as makers of some of the most low cost and fairly reliable solutions on the market. I personally know more FIC owners than probably any other motherboard, especially on the Super 7 front, so I can’t fault their popularity. My experience is that they make a decent product that sells for a very reasonable price and usually works once you’ve figured out the proper setups. I’ve typically found the need to massage FIC boards into the right settings and this has not always been an obvious task. But once made to work, they usually perform well.

The i810e chipset, generally acknowledged as Intel’s low cost offering, has taken a lot of critical thrashing in the past many months. This chipset is Intel’s attempt to integrate video and audio functionality on the motherboard in order to help OEMs cut system integration costs. The i810e was never meant to be the ultimate performance champ, but some seemed to be hoping for more. Intel’s goal was to help integrators and customers save money by integration at the expense of performance. How reasonable these tradeoffs turned out, depends on your application and what sort of work you want to get done on your computer.

I believe most of the criticisms of the i810e have typically been in misdirected frustration over Intel’s uncharacteristic stumbles of the past year. First off, the i820 chipset bugs and delays left the i810 as the only "new" platform for Intel’s newest Coppermine PIII processor and typically slower than the previous performance chipsets like the i440BX. On top of that, the shift to the FCPGA package and the new VRM 8.4, left previous Socket 370 boards incapable of running the new flip chip processors and the i810 chipset boards were once again the only ones around capable of supporting these chips (previous to the creation of VRM8.4 enabled slockets). Imagine the disappointment in the performance crowd when this integrated solution was tested alongside other hi-end performance chipsets once the FCPGA packages were released.

It’s clear that this chipset might not be the best platform to show off the power of a PIII/Cumine processor. Power users looking for the basis for a blazing fast ProE workstation should look elsewhere. That being said, the i810 still has to rank as the best integrated solution on the market and that means it does have value to a certain segment in the business sector.

The test system included the following components:

  • Intel PIII 550MHz FCPGA
  • Intel Celeron 433MHz Slot 1
  • Intel Celeron 466MHz S370
  • 2 x 64MB Crucial Technology/Micron PC133 SDRAM (128MB total)
  • 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

Firmware used during evaluation:

  • KW15 BIOS revision: VD410 (dated: 11-27-00)
  • I801e chipset driver version PV3.3

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