We reviewed the original PA-2013 (rev 1.2 w/1MB) almost a year ago, and gave it a very high rating. Since that time, the PA-2013 has proven to be everything we expected it to be. While it’s sister board (VA-503+) has been somewhat problematic, with an RMA rate on the high end of acceptable, the PA-2013 has fared much better. In our personal experience the RMA rate was very low, and that has been verified by vendors who continue to sell the product.
As with all motherboards, the product has gone through several modifications during the past 11 months that it has been on the market. Of course, the first change was the chipset revision (from CD to CE), and later the additional 1MB of cache was added. Most recently, the motherboard was upgraded to handle the K6-III 450MHz (and up) processors, as was the VA-503+. In fact, as of the time of this writing, FIC is the only motherboard manufacturer with both an AT and ATX form factor motherboard on the AMD approved list which will handle virtually every one of the currently offered K6 line of processors.
As indicated in the review of the rev 1.2 board, bus speeds of 66, 68, 75, 83, and 100MHz were offered, along with multipliers from 2.0x to 5.5x. Since that time, FIC has added three additional speeds of 95, 112 and 124MHz (no additional clock multipliers, however). The documented voltages have also been updated, with options from 1.8v to 3.5v in .5v increments. As with all MVP3 based Super 7 boards, the SDRAM can be set to match the CPU frequency or the AGP bus speed.
4 PCI, 2 ISA and 1 AGP slots are available, as are 3 DIMM memory slots (no SIMM slots). As with all ATX form factor motherboards, the keyboard and mouse ports are included (PS/2 connectors) as well as two DB9 serial ports, two USB ports and a parallel port.
Cool and/or Unique Features
Official support for the K6-III 450 is something that is not easy to find at this time, and this board has it. The board is actually designed to handle a 20A current, which means AMD approval for any possible future K6-III processors almost a shoe-in. The other feature that few other manufacturers have implemented is the 2MB L2 cache.
The reason for getting the 2MB vs. 1MB is not the performance, as many people seem to believe. We ran Winstone 98, Winstone 99, Winbench 99 (ver 1.1) and 3DMark99 Max, with very little differences. The only areas where there was any measurable improvement were in Winbench 99 (CPUMark99 scores of 45 vs. 43 and Business Disk scores of 3430 vs. 2970) and in 3DMark99 Max with 3D Marks of 1025 vs 1003. No, the actual reason for purchasing the 2MB version is the improved cacheable range. With 1MB of L2 cache, the MVP3 chipset can cache a maximum of 255MB, while 2MB will allow twice that. With todays memory prices, 256MB and up is not so unusual!
Now for the ‘legal’ stuff – the Winstone 99 and Winbench 99 benchmark configuration we tested with was 128MB of Crucial Technology PC133 SDRAM, Western Digital 8.4GB UDMA hard drive, K6-III 400MHz processor, and a Diamond Fire GL1000 Pro (8MB) video card. The video card had been updated with the latest BIOS (1.84), as had both motherboards (JI-1532). The software configuration was Windows 98 with default VIA busmaster driver, DirectX 6.1 and the Diamond v4.10.01.2359 video driver.
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
While the motherboard has a 124MHz setting, don’t expect it to work. Even with 133MHz SDRAM, we could not get the board to boot into Windows regardless of whether we ran the processor slower than its rated speed or not. It is possible that either the hard drive we used or the video cards we tried were unable to operate with the 41.5MHz bus speed, which is always a possible problem.
Using our P.H.D. card from Ultra-X, we ran through over 150 iterations of all tests, plus several Winstone 99 runs. With the exception of just a small percentage of failures on the P.H.D. card with one specific test (RTC alarm), the board passed with flying colors. This conforms with our ‘field experience’ of a low RMA rate.
Documentation & Accessories
The manual contains complete descriptions of all jumper settings and BIOS options, as well as a description of the utilities provided on the accompanying CD. Of course, the ‘obligatory’ IDE cables are also included in the package.
The CD has a nice set of utilities and software, including Adobe Acrobat Reader, FirstAid Hardware Monitor, SVB Virus software and an array of IDE, Video and LAN drivers. Also included are the various FIC update utilities.
For those who wish to stay with the Socket 7 platform, and who prefer the ATX form factor, this is a very good choice. The 2MB cache allows for a greater cacheable range than most Socket 7 motherboards and the reliability has been proven over the past year in the field.
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