FIC has followed their phenomenal success with the PA-2007 by producing another leading edge socket 7 motherboard. We tested this motherboard with Intel, AMD, and Cyrix chips. All of these were supported without problems once we figured out the correct jumper settings. This board manages to combine some of the best features of the R581A and the SY-5EH, making it a ‘must have’ if those are the features you need.
The most noteworty feature of this board has to be its ability to support the 100MHz bus when the new 100MHz socket 7 processors hit the market. We were disappointed to find that it would not readily run as many of our current processors at the higher bus speed as the Soyo had, but at standard settings every processor we tried worked flawlessly with no tweaking whatsoever.
FIC provides bus speeds of 66, 75, 83, and 100MHz, plus multipliers from 2.0x to 5.5x in .5v increments. The supplied voltages range from 2.0v to 3.2v in .1v increments, making this a very flexible board ready to handle processors that haven’t been invented yet.
The most important feature missing from this board is support for single-voltage processors. Perhaps this is an indication of FIC’s ability to move forward and dispense with what might be ‘unneeded’ backwards compatibility. This means that anyone upgrading a Pentium Classic based system has to buy a new dual-voltage processor along with this board. Fortunately, the 503+ supports every dual-voltage processor ever invented, starting with the Cyrix PR200L, and extending to the AMD K6-2’s which haven’t even been released yet.
Since the board supports bus speeds above 66MHz FIC has made provisions for SDRAM speed settings accordingly. The SDRAM can be set to match the CPU frequency so that when the 100MHz processors arrive they can be teamed up with PC100 SDRAM for maximum performance. The other option is to set the SDRAM to match the AGP bus, which remains at 66MHz. This will allow users of 66MHz SDRAM to continue to use it with processors running at 100MHz.
Like the Soyo SY-5EH, the 503+ does have some limitations in the number of PCI slots. Both boards are limited to 3 PCI and 3 ISA slots, one of which is shared. This means you had better use an AGP card in the single AGP slot, or you will run out of PCI slots very quickly! The standard AT power connector, 2 EIDE and 1 floppy connector are included, along with 1 Parallel and 2 Serial connectors, and an IrDA header. Also included is a USB Port Connector (requires optional adapter cable).
Memory Slots is one category where the FIC has both Soyo and M-Tech beat. The 503+ boasts 4 SIMM slots along with its two DIMM slots. This means that if you’re looking to upgrade from an existing system based on EDO SIMMs this board has the slots that nobody else gives you.
Cool and/or Unique Features
The board sports 1MB of L2 cache, and supports up to 512MB of memory, giving it a bit of a performance boost, and allowing for plenty of headroom in the memory expansion department.
The 503+ is a rather small AT form factor board, 9.2 inches x 8.6 inches. With only 3 ISA and 3 PCI slots (1 shared) FIC had room to put the EIDE connectors between the AGP slot and the memory slots. This helps avoid the clutter of cables near the keyboard connector and puts the EIDE connectors closer to drives mounted in the front of tower-style cases.
Compatibility & Stability
The 503+ doesn’t support single-voltage processors, so that ruled out Pentium Classics, as well as the IDT WinChips. All processors we tested (Pentium 166MMX, Cyrix PR200/PR233, AMD K6 200/233/300) were detected properly, and worked well on this motherboard at their rated speed. We experienced no crashes while running Winstone98 tests at both 66MHz and 75MHz bus speeds for any processor. Although we have not been able to test this board with a K6-2 processor, FIC has. This board was developed with the new generation of 100MHz processors in mind, and is guaranteed to be completely compatible with them when they arrive.
We tested several brands of SDRAM, including Micron PC100 SDRAM, without any problems at all. We also tested EDO modules, which worked as well. You will see slightly faster performance with SDRAM due to the timings.
FIC has followed their tradition of popular motherboards with a tradition for easy-to-follow manuals, and this one is no exception. All jumpers are easily located and set using the included diagrams. The BIOS features are also well documented, allowing the user to understand the function of each setting. Unfortunately, the manual has a misprint that labels several jumpers improperly. We discovered this in our testing when a K6-233 would not post at its standard settings. Check out our “Tech Reports” section for the correct jumper settings.
The 503+ will support the 100MHz bus that doesn’t seem to work on the R581A, and boasts the extra SIMM slots that aren’t available on either the Soyo or the M-Tech. For those looking to run today’s processors at 100MHz the Soyo is still the better choice. For anyone who needs more than three PCI slots the R581A is still the best choice. For those running single-voltage processors this board won’t do. If the feature configuration of the 503+ matches what you’re looking for, then this board should certainly be on your short list of Super Socket 7 considerations.
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