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Epox MVP3G2 Super7 Motherboard Review
Last updated: 5/31/2000

CHIPS.  Both G and G2 motherboards use the the VIA Technologies' Apollo MVP3 chipset.  It consists of two chips:  the VT82C598MVP System Controller, or "North Bridge" in super7 lingo, and VT82C596X the Mobile PCI Integrated Peripheral Controller, or "South Bridge".  The VT82C598MVP is located just below the system memory sockets and the VT82C596X is under the PCI expansion bus sockets.

Both chips are very complex and do many things; but, (very) simply put, the North Bridge controls the system, is the CPU to PCI bus bridge, and interfaces the CPU to the system memory, cache', and AGP graphics.  The South Bridge hangs off the PCI bus, controls the UDMA hard disk drives and Plug 'n Play, provides a bridge to the ISA bus, interfaces the CMOS BIOS, and takes care of the I/O functions such as the USB and keyboard interfaces.

The G board has a VT82C596 South Bridge and the G2 board has the VT82C596B version of the chip.  The basic difference between the chips and the motherboards is the 596B has an ATA/66 hard disk interface and the 596 does not.

There is another South Bridge chip which Epox could have used for the G2 (and some discussion on the Internet as to whether or not EpoX should have used it): the VT82C686A PCI Super-I/O Integrated Peripheral Controller, or Super South Bridge.  A side-by side comparison of the datasheets for the 596B and 686A shows that the UltraDMA-33/66 Master Mode PCI EIDE Controllers on both chips are almost identical.  Both have thirty-two levels (doublewords) of prefetch and write buffers.  The only difference is the 596B has a PIO mode 4 transfer rate of 22 MB/sec while the 686A's PIO mode 4 transfer rate is 33 MB/sec.  This does not make a difference in the performance ATA/66 hard disks.

Also, the 596B does not have the following 686A features:

  • Soundblaster Pro Hardware and Direct sound AC97 Digital Audio Controller

  • System Monitor controller.

The first feature provides most of the ingredients to integrate soundboard functions on a motherboard.

Epox's choice for implementing the second feature on the G2 board is the Winbond W83781F hardware monitoring chip.  It is located above the first PCI slot to left of the AGP slot and is connected to temperature sensors for both the system and CPU.  The CPU monitoring thermister is located in the middle of the CPU socket and the system monitoring thermister is located just to the left of the Winbond chip.  The W8378F also monitors the three fan connectors (3-pin) on the motherboard labeled CPU, Power, and Chassis.  You can see real-time temperature and fan speeds in the CMOS setup in the Epox USDM display.  The user can set  a temperature ceiling in CMOS which will cause an alarm.  There is also a settable CPU temperature ceiling in the CMOS which is higher than the alarm temperature and which will shut-down the computer if reached.  If the CPU fan quits, you will hear a siren-like warning.  If you do hear one of these alarms, you must act quickly to save your work and before the computer is automatically shut-down.  I wouldn't wait for the automatic shut-down.

There is also another variant of the North Bridge chip (and some Internet discussion about it as well): the VT82C598AT.  I can find no information on VIA's site on the difference between it and the VT82C598MVP used by Epox.  It could be that the "AT" appears on chips sold separately and the MVP appears on chips sold with the Southbridge as a complete MVP3 chipset, or one chip is a newer version than the other, but these are guesses on my part.

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