THE EPOX EP-51MVP3E-M MOTHERBOARD
Epox EP-51MVP3E-M motherboard is my choice for the best overall Super7
ATX motherboard on the market. Not only is the quality first-rate, Epox
has made available a bus-master UDMA hard disk driver
from Highpoint which significantly boosts system performance. Add
a 300 Mhz K6-2, PC100 memory, UDMA hard disk, and an AGP 3D graphics board,
and you will have a Super7 which means business.
The EP-51MVP3E-M uses the VIA Apollo
MVP3 chipset to provide a 100 MHz front bus frequency. According
to Epox, it will support AMD K6-2 and Cyrix M2 Socket 7 CPUs operating
at 120-500 MHz as well as Intel Pentium and Pentium MMX CPUs . It
meets my expandability requirements with three ISA, four PCI, one AGP expansion
board sockets. There are two 72-pin SIMM and three 168-pin DIMM memory
slots which will accommodate up to 384 MBytes of memory. They
are coupled to the CPU with 1 MB of 5 ns cache' for high performance.
silk-screening and labeling. Everything from the jumpers
to I/O connectors are clearly labeled. If you loose the
motherboard book you can still set-up the jumpers. All of the setting
are printed on the motherboard.
Jumpers a' la simplified. I was kind of spoiled by
motherboards with CPU "plug 'n play" until I saw this one. A
single jumper on a header on the left side of the board sets the core voltage. Another
header along the front of the board uses two jumpers which respectively
set the bus clock speed and the multiplier.
The board has only two more jumpers. The
first one sets the SDRAM at 66 Mhz (which is also the AGP frequency) or the
CPU Bus Clock. If you have a 300 Mhz K6-2 and PC100 memory, simply
set this jumper for CPU Bus Clock and the CPU bus frequency for 100 Mhz (and
the multiplier to 3X).
The second jumper works in conjunction with
an ATX power supply and remote power on/off connector which can be connected
to a momentary switch on the front panel of the computer case. The
computer can be turned on or off using the momentary switch. If the
jumper (JP4) is enabled, the system can also be turned-on by pressing one
or two keyboard keys (depending on the keyboard) for two seconds. So,
with an ATX power supply you turn off the system power by shutting-down
Windows 95/98 and you can turn it back on with the keyboard. The CPU
speed and multiplier jumpers and the SDRAM jumpers may be concealed by drive
bays in some computer cases.
panel connectors. The front panel connectors are along the
front of the board where they are easy to see and get at. They are
connectors. There are PS/2 keyboard, PS/2 mouse, 1 printer,
two serial, and to USB along the back of the motherboard (the configuration
matches all of the Aopen
ATX cases I have reviewed). The hard disk and floppy
drive connectors are along the front per the ATX spec. Since the
board is so large, it is somewhat difficult to plug in these cables in
some computer cases (e.g., Aopen) if the floppy/hard disk drive bay is
already installed. It's easier to plug the cables into the
motherboard before installing the bay.
Position. Epox, if you ever redesign this board, please
move the CPU further to the rear of the board. It's current
position, towards the front of the board, requires meticulous use of cable
ties to keep hard disk, CD-ROM, audio, and power supply cables out of the
CPU fan. On the other hand the memory slots are easy to get
and mounting holes. There are oversized donuts surrounding
each of the mounting holes. One doesn't have to worry about the head
of the screw, used to fasten the motherboard to the case, overlapping a
trace on the motherboard and capacitively grounding it.
are plenty of apparently high-quality 105°C electrolytic capacitors and
an ample number of bypass, etc. capacitors in the middle of the CPU socket. A
tantalum here and there...
board has Winbond W83781D hardware monitoring chip and temperature
sensors for both the CPU and the system. You can see these
temperatures changing in the CMOS setup. There are connectors for
a CPU fan (3-pin) and a second case fan on the motherboard. You can
see real-time RPM values for these fans in the CMOS setup. The user
can set a temperature ceiling in CMOS which will cause an alarm. If
the CPU fan quits, causing a hot CPU, you will hear a siren-like warning.
Epox has recently released a beta version of their Unified System Diagnostic
Manager (USDMTM) for the W83781D
which allows you see these parameters and set alarm thresholds from Windows
95/98. Click here for details..
98. VIA's IRQ Routing Mini-port Driver is required
to reliably run Win 98 on this motherboard. You down-load it
and the BusMaster IDE driver from Epox's
Web site and put them on a floppies before installing the
motherboard. When Installing Windows 98, I recommend that you
omit/remove all expansion boards from the system except the monitor adapter,
install 98, install the Mini-port driver, install the Bus-master IDE driver
and then install any additional boards one-at-time.
user manual is simple, short, well organized, and easy to read. A
very good diagram of the motherboard is immediately followed by a single
page showing the CPU multiplier, bus clock, core voltage settings in clear
and understandable terms. The next page shows all of the front panel
connectors. There is no hunting back and forth through the
book between the motherboard diagram and the jumper settings, etc.
Well, how does it run? I
have installed this board in enough machines and have used it enough myself
to know that it is rock-solid performer. The Bus-master IDE driver
gets rid of a lot of disk drive "clunking" and produces clean,
smooth Super7 speed.
WEB site for specs, a PDF copy of the user's manual, and a larger