FIC SD11 Motherboard Evaluation

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The introduction of the AMD Athlon has proven to be an exciting, but also frustrating experience for many. There have been at least two dozen reviews of the Athlon, almost all of which have proclaimed it the fastest x86 processor currently available. Unfortunately, without a motherboard to run it on, it is only so much silicon.

Though AMD had hoped that boards would be available on the launch date, several factors prevented that, not the least of which was concern about reliability and stability (see this report). Fortunately the issues appear to have been resolved, including the problems with power supplies. We still believe that a good power supply is critical, and would encourage users to consider using one of those on the approved list anyway.

One reason so few manufacturers took the plunge initially is that designing and producing a new motherboard is costly, and many have feared that Intel would be able to run AMD out of business before they could recoup their investments. The other problem is that no established chipset manufacturer is currently offering product to support the Athlon, forcing AMD to develop their own, giving rise to concerns about compatibility and stability. FIC is one of only a handful of manufacturers who decided to jump on to the Athlon bandwagon early, and should have retail product in the channel soon.

The Athlon is targeted towards a much higher-end user than the traditional AMD offerings, including mid-range servers and 3D workstations. As such, FIC has targeted their motherboard for this market, as well as the avid 3D gamer who demands top performance and is willing to pay a little extra for it. In our review, we attempt to determine if the board has the qualifications to satisfy these markets. FIC has indicated that the retail product will be available sometime in September, most likely mid-month. Actual pricing and quantities were not known as of the date of publication, but should be available shortly.

Our test system included an FIC SD11 (engineering rev. E0000), Athlon 600, 128MB PC133 SDRAM (several manufacturers), W.D 8.4GB UDMA/66 HDD and several video cards listed later. Tests with SCSI equipment included an Adaptec AHA-2940UW and Domex 3192U adapters (both PCI), Quantum 540MB SCSI-1 HDD and Toshiba TA5401B 4x CDROM.

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