Tyan Trinity K7 Motherboard Evaluation

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The Trinity K7 is the first KX133 based board that I have had the opportunity to test. As a former reseller of Tyan motherboards (in fact, the Tyan Tomcat I was the first motherboard Real World Technologies ever carried), I am well aware of the reputation Tyan has for quality construction, stability and high-end features. On the other hand, overclocking is typically not a feature Tyan places much emphasis upon. The Trinity K7 is a perfect example of this.

The KX133 chipset has been highly anticipated for the past 6 months, but unfortunately the rollout was delayed several times by VIA, and the ramp up after introduction has been very slow. At the present time, it is considered the best available Athlon chipset, however it also appears to be destined for a very short lifespan. The KX133 was designed specifically for the Slot A K75 Athlon, which will be available for only a few more months as AMD ramps up production of their next generation Athlons – the Duron and Thunderbird. Both of these new processors will be packaged for Socket A, though there will be a limited quantity of Thunderbirds in the Slot A package.

This limited upgrade path may be a big concern for the active do-it-yourself enthusiast, however most business and professional users do not upgrade their systems so frequently. The pace of technology is so great today that most motherboards become obsolete in 12 to 18 months, requiring a complete replacement to support the newest processors. Therefore, many users will not need to be unduly concerned about the probability of having to replace both motherboard and CPU for the next upgrade, since this has become the standard requirement for most. AMD has indicated that K75 Athlon processors should be available for the next few months, and that there will be several tens of thousands of Thunderbird processors made in the Slot A package as well, so processors will be available for this board for awhile in any case.

One point that I believe needs to be mentioned is that Tyan has come up with a naming standard for their products that clearly distinguish which market segment is being targeted. These product ‘family names’ are Thunder, Tiger, Trinity and Tomcat. The Trinity series is targeted towards the ‘Performance Desktop’ market, which includes 3D gaming and business applications. Most business desktop systems fall into this category.

It is interesting to note that most businesses do not feel comfortable with a ‘non-Intel’ system, however this includes only the processor. Consider that over 40% of all systems shipped today use VIA chipsets rather than Intel, including many business desktop machines. What makes this even more interesting is that any compatibility, stability and reliability issues are going to be chipset based rather than processor based. During the 20 or so years that AMD has been making x86 processors, there have been no cases of processor/software incompatibility that I am aware of (excluding issues such as SSE, where AMD does not have the license to include the instructions). It is for this reason that I consider the Athlon (and even the K6 line) a very viable business option.

The test system included the following components:

  • AMD Athlon 500MHz
  • AMD Athlon 900MHz
  • 3 x 128MB Crucial Technology/Micron PC133 SDRAM (384MB total)
  • 1 x 128MB Corsair PC133 SDRAM
  • 1 x 128MB EMS PC133 HSDRAM
  • Sparkle 300W ATX power supply (model: ST-301HR)
  • IBM Deskstar 22GXP 9.1GB UDMA66 IDE hard drive
  • Western Digital AC8.4GB UDMA66 IDE hard drive
  • Toshiba XM-6602B 32x IDE CDROM
  • Adaptec 2940UW SCSI Controller
  • Toshiba XM-5401B 4x SCSI CDROM
  • Voodoo3 3000 16MB Video Card
  • Diamond Viper V770 Ultra 32MB Video Card

Diagnostics and Benchmark Software:

  • Winstone99 Business Tests (Win98, Win2K) – ZDBOp
  • Content Creation 2000 (Win98, Win2K) – ZDBOp
  • Burn-in Test (Win98, Win2K) – Passmark
  • QuickTech Pro 2000 (Self-booting) – Ultra-X
  • RAM Stress Test – Ultra-X

Diagnostics Hardware

  • PHD Plus card – Ultra-X
  • PHD PCI card – Ultra-X

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