Click here to print this article.

Re-Printed From SLCentral

Abit VP6
Author: Tom Solinap
Date Posted: October 16th, 2001
URL: http://www.slcentral.com/reviews/hardware/motherboards/abit/vp6

Introduction

Two years ago Abit brought dual processing to the computer enthusiast crowd with their BP6 motherboard. Affordable and unique, it was the first dual processor motherboard to sport overclocking capabilities as well as be targeted towards the low-end server market. Abit has always been known for having features that target the overclocking enthusiast, while other mainboard manufacturers only consider overclocking an afterthought if at all. It didn't take people long to figure out you can pop 2 cheap Celeron 366 CPUs into the BP6 and overclock them both to 550. It was that year that overclocking really took off and became popular with many people. Intel's Celeron processor really facilitated it by being cheap, overclockable, and by performing as well as the PII. Overclocking freaks from all over were using the BP6 to go dual and satisfy the overclocking cravings at the same time. The BP6 had an almost cult following. I remember when I bought mine. It was my first SMP system, and I even wrote an article about it here on SystemLogic.

Fast forward 2 years to today. Dual processing has been increasingly growing in popularity ever since the BP6. However, the crowd that embraced the BP6 was soon longing for another motherboard to take them to the next level, dual Pentium IIIs. The eventual SMP lock on the new Celerons made those unsuitable for dual goodness. Many BP6 users were trying to find a way to put those new socket PIIIs on their motherobards. More and more dual motherboards were being released but none really had the intrigue or overclocking features that the BP6 had. MSI released the 694D, which sported dual processors and overclocking capability, but it was plagued with problems so people longed for a better solution. About a year after the BP6 was released, Abit was poised to release it's successor the VP6 using VIA's 694X chipset. Many dual processor enthusiasts and BP6 owners were very excited to see whether Abit could make history yet again and finally satisfy their cravings for dual PIII goodness. After numerous delays, the VP6 was finally released early this year. The long wait was over and Abit made sure it was well worth it, but was it too little too late? Other mainboard manufacturers already had affordable dual motherboards with similar features out months before the VP6. While the VP6 release didn't make as much of a splash as the BP6, the VP6 is still a great accomplishment. Reviews started pouring of how stable this motherboard is and how easy it is to tweak.

I had long since planned to build a dual Pentium III system, and the VP6 looks to be a solid motherboard, at least from some of the other reviews out there. With the announcement of the Athlon MP, I had considered going that route, but when the motherboards started popping up along with the prices. I decided that dual PIII was the one that fit my budget. The VP6's feature set was impressive enough and it's price is in line with my budget. By the time I was ready to upgrade to a VP6, there were numerous dual motherboards available. The DDR based DVD266-R from Iwill caught my eye, but it would mean I would have to buy new memory. It was more expensive than the VP6, so I opted on the less expensive route. It's clear that SDRAM is not the future and that DDR will probably take its place. The fact that the VP6 still uses SDRAM is probably why it hasn't gotten as much attention as Abit would have hoped. So let's see how well the VP6 lives up to the hype.

Specifications And Features

Abit VP6 - Dual FCPGA Socket Based Mainboard
Supported Processors
  • Supports PentiumIII Coppermine FC-PGA 370 processor (Based on 100/133MHz clock) in single or dual configurations
  • Reserves support for future Intel Pentium III processors
Chipset
  • VIA chipset (VT82C694X and VT82C686B)
  • Supports Ultra DMA/33, Ultra DMA/66 and Ultra DMA/100 IDE protocol
  • Supports Advanced Configuration and Power Management Interface (ACPI)
  • Accelerated Graphics Port connector supports AGP 1X/2X/4X mode (Sideband) 3.3V device
Board Size
  • 305 x 245 mm
BIOS
  • CPU SOFT MENU III, can easily set the processor parameters
  • Award Plug and Play BIOS supports APM and DMI
  • Write-Protect Anti-Virus function by AWARD BIOS
System Memory
  • Four 168-pin DIMM sockets support SDRAM modules
  • Supports up to 2 GB MAX, (8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256 and 512MB SDRAM)
  • Supports ECC
On-Board I/O
  • One PS/2 keyboard and one PS/2 mouse connector
  • One floppy port connector (up to 2.88MB)
  • One parallel port connector (EPP/ECP)
  • Two serial port connectors
  • Two USB connectors
  • One board USB header for two extra USB channels (adapter included)
  • Built-in IrDA TX-RX header
On-Board IDE
  • Four Channels of bus master IDE ports support Ultra DMA 33/66/100 (up to 8 HDD devices, 2 Channels for RAID)
  • HighPoint Technologies, Inc. HPT 370 chipset
    • Supports RAID 0, 1, 0+1 (stripping, mirroring, stripping and mirroring)
    • Two independent ATA channels
    • 256 Byte FIFO per ATA channel
    • Compliant with Plug & Play
    • Friendly UI for RAID functions and settings
    • Auto detects and supports Ultra Mode transfers
    • Recognizes drives up to 128 GB
Miscellaneous
  • ATX form factor
  • One AGP slot, five PCI slots
  • Built-in Wake on LAN header
  • Built-in Wake On Modem header
  • Built-in SM bus header
  • Hardware monitoring including fan speed, voltages, CPU and system temperatures
In the box
  • VP6 Motherboard
  • Two 80-wire/40-pin ribbon cable for master and slave Ultra DMA 33/66/100 IDE devices
  • One ribbon cable for 5.25" and 3.5" floppy disk devices
  • One compact disc for support drivers and utilities
  • One user's manual for the motherboard
  • One USB expansion adapter for use with the header

As you can see Abit packs a lot into this motherboard. Not only is it dual PIII capable but it also has support for up to 2 GB of memory, AGP 4X, 5 PCI slots, 2 extra USB ports and on-board ATA/100 RAID 0/1. Abit is really gearing this motherboard towards the low cost server market. A year ago these features would have been almost unheard of in a dual motherboard of this price. Nowadays these features are pretty much the norm. What makes the VP6 stand out is the extensive features Abit has added to the BIOS. SoftMenu III support gives users the ability to set the FSB in increments of 1MHz and really tweak the performance, as well as various voltage settings. Unlike the BP6, the CPU voltages can't be changed independently of each other. That would have been a nice option since not all processors are created equal. Note that this motherboard is Pentium III only, meaning no dual celerons anymore. It would have been cool to at least be able to use the older Celerons in dual configuration or the newer ones in single processor configuration. I'm not sure how hard it would have been to add Celeron support, but that would have probably been just a novelty feature. The VIA chipsets have been notorious for their low memory performance. Most users have to use external programs to manually tweak settings not usually available in the BIOS. Abit has included these settings in the VP6 BIOS so you can get the most out of your setup. It's the use of this chipset that makes this board more affordable. For serious applications, you'll probably want something that can handle memory intensive tasks better. The support for 2 GB is good news if you intend to use the mobo in a low cost server. Since dual processor systems are mostly used in servers or top-end workstations, stability is often a necessity. The BP6 was great and fairly stable but not really up to par with what was required in terms of production performance and stability. Since overclocking effectively runs the system past it's normal specifications, you always run the risk of failure and lose a certain degree of stability. I mean some motherboards have a hard time enough running stable at stock speeds let alone when overclocked. Later on we'll see just how stable the VP6 is, as well as how well it performs.

First Impressions And Installation

Ok my experience with the VP6 didn't go as smoothly as I would have hoped. I ordered 2 1 Ghz Pentium III chips and the VP6 from GoogleGear.com, a vendor I found at pricewatch. I decided to go with the dual Ghz setup instead of trying my luck on getting 2 700s and overclocking those. I figure that the prices were low enough, and I didn't want to go through the hassle again. I went through enough trouble with my old dual Celeron system. Don't get me wrong, overclocking is a great hobby and I do plan to overclock the system regardless but I wanted the highest performance I could get. Anyway, in anticipation of overclocking beyond 133 Mhz FSB, I decided to pick myself up some PC-166 memory from The Overclockerz Store, which btw was really cheap at the time. So once I had everything in my possession it was time to put it all together. The VP6 manual is about just as extensive as the BP6 manual. Since I was fairly familiar with installing motherboards the only real thing I needed to know was the switches/LED connections to the case. After tearing out my BP6 from my Antec 1030B case, I carefully cleaned the inside to make sure the VP6 had a comfy new home. The VP6 fit perfectly in the case. After securing the motherboard I connected the case LEDs and switches to the motherboard. Since these aren't labeled on the motherboard itself I had to consult the manual. That's the only time I really read the manual. After that it was time to install the processors and rest of the system. The layout of the VP6 is really well done which made it easy to install everything. I didn't run into any problems installing anything and getting the system up and running initially. Everything ran fine and after installing a fresh copy of Windows 2000 Pro, I was ready to begin testing. After I finished my testing I had a very bad mishap...

While I was reviewing the Iwill DVD266 board in my system, my power supply started dying. To make sure it was the power supply and not just the motherboard, since the power supply is fairly new, I swapped the VP6 back in. Well it worked but only for a day. After I got home that day from work, the system was off and could not be revived. After ordering another power supply, I was dumbfounded to discover that the motherboards themselves had not survived either. I was definitely not amused. So I immediately emailed Abit tech support and they got back to me relatively fast with an RMA number. Well I couldn't really wait for them to replace the unit since I wanted a running system and that process is going take some time. So, I just went out and bought another one. I plan to still get a replacement for the old one and probably just sell it on eBay or something. I was suspicious as to what caused the failure of all these components but I really had no clue. One guess would be the high output Delta fans I'm using for the CPUs, which were plugged into the motherboard fan headers. Those draw a lot of power from the motherboard, but on the Abit site it says the VP6 fan headers can handle up to 6w each, which should be more than enough for the Deltas. What I think might have happened is the Iwill DVD266 board couldn't handle it, blew out the power supply somehow and the power supply managed to do something to the VP6. It sounds far-fetched but hey I'd believe anything right about now. So now I'm running both fans directly from the power supply. So to all avid VP6 or dual motherboard enthusiasts out there, the high output fans can draw power like crazy so it's better to have them connected directly to the PS. I know everyone probably knows this and I'm just an idiot but hey there are probably still people out there that don't :). Since the Delta's are popular with overclockers and this motherboard is screaming to be overclocked, I would guess I'm probably not alone out there. The truth is Abit boards have issues with their fan headers all the time. The old BP6 that I have also had a problem with it's headers. They just died one day and I managed to get the motherboard replaced. The VP6 is no exception so people who use those power hungry fans, be careful.

So, after I bought my new VP6, everything was in order again. To be fair, I decided to test this board also instead of just going with the scores I already had. Who knows, the other board might have had problems that I was unaware of that could have affected the results. Either way I had to retest. I'm more interested in increasing the memory performance more than anything simply because it's the weakness of this VIA chipset. With the growing number of DDR based motherboards being released, regular SDRAM is slowly being replaced. So being competitive in the memory department means keeping up with the newer dual motherboards out there. Servers especially need high memory bandwidth and performance for processing and transferring large amounts of data. A web/database server for instance will be doing lots of memory intensive tasks which means the faster the memory, the better the performance. Depending on the application, the memory performance might be the most critical part of the system. Obviously the VP6 is meant for the low-end server market, so you probably won't see any mission critical or important production servers using this motherboard. It's ideal for personal or workstation use, and of course every enthusiast will love it. For me it's great because I love the freedom of opening an absurd number of applications and windows at one time minus the lag. So I guess my first impressions of this board are really mixed with excitement and frustration. Now that I finally had a nice working motherboard, it was time to move on to the real stuff.

The Layout

The layout of the VP6 is very well thought out. Abit really took the time to design a layout that not only fits the needs of its users but also adds comfort and convenience. The power supply is in a great position away from anything major so it doesn't conflict with any air flow or anything. The processors are spaced out nicely away from capacitors that could potentially interfere with an oversized heatsink. That was my major gripe about the BP6, the space around the CPUs was very small and if you had a large heatsink, which I did, you run the risk of damaging the mobo, which I did... Everything else is pretty much where it's usually located. You'll notice the 4 DIMM slots there right next to a CPU socket. Although I didn't have trouble installing my Alphas in there, you might have to leave the bank closest to the socket empty when installing a HSF. It's close and if you have big fingers, you might accidentally put pressure on the memory chip. The placement of the IDE channels is normal but might pose a problem if you have a really tall case. The floppy connector is to the bottom a bit, so you may need a longer cable, but I doubt it'll be a problem for the majority of us. However, since this motherboard is meant to be used in server cases, it might have been better to move the IDE channels and floppy connector a bit higher up. At least just to ensure that problems won't occur with the taller server cases out there. The board also boasts a power LED located at the bottom of the board near the switch and case LED headers. With the VP6 being a dual system and all, the northbridge is bound to get hot, so Abit decided to mount a heatsink on there. Of course you can pop that sucker out and add your own with a fan in there if you feel compelled to. So the layout is pretty trouble free. I don't see anything that really strikes me as out of place.

2 Processors Are Better Than One

As most people probably guessed, having 2 processors in a system is better than having just 1. However, it's not just a straightforward doubling of processor speed here. Meaning, 2 1 Ghz processors does not equal 2 Ghz performance. If you're already familiar with the SMP concept then move along, but those that are new to this whole scene, let me give you a quick overview. SMP or Symmetric Multi-Processing, is when you use two or more processors to process information in parallel. The performance increase over a single processor is analogous to that of a cash register line at a super market. If you have only one register open, you begin to build up a line of customers. The line moves only as fast as the one register can process each customer. Let's assume that each register processes a customer at the exact same speed. If we add another register, we can process 2 customers at once now. So if the cash registers represented CPUs and customers represented operations that needed to be processed, adding additional CPUs will allow you to handle more applications at any given time. This will increase the throughput of the system but not necessarily the response time since the execution of each individual application is only as fast as one CPU can process. You must be using an OS that is SMP capable and can recognize more than one processor. Windows 98/SE and ME don't support multiple processors so you're best bet is Windows NT or 2000. You can also use other SMP capable OSes out there like Linux and BeOS. It's up to you but remember that to get that performance edge, the OS must be SMP capable.

The OS is basically in charge of distributing processes to the individual CPUs. In Windows NT and 2000, the HAL (Hardware Abstraction Layer) takes care of this. If one processor is already doing work then send the process to the other one if it's free. This load balancing is what translates into a virtual performance boost. You might think your applications are running faster, but that's because normally they would have to fight for just one CPU. However, you're not utilizing the full potential of a dual processor system just yet. Each application is still running basically on a single process which is just going back and forth between the 2 CPUs. To really harness the power of the system, the application must be tuned to utilize the 2 processors. The application must break up it's workload into multiple processes so that both CPUs can process work for the application at the same time. By making the instructions more parallel, the application could theoretically run twice as fast, which actually follows what you would initially believe. Mostly only high-end apps really support SMP, like graphics applications, Photoshop, 3DStudio MAX, and server applications as well. Since your everyday Joe isn't going to own a dual processor system, regular software developers aren't going to put SMP capability into their code. The only game I know of that can "use" SMP is Quake 3, and their implementation is pitiful at best. The frame rates are actually lower than a single processor system. If you only use Microsoft Office, then a dual system might not be for you. Although that really depends whether you run lots of things all at once too. The reason I prefer SMP systems is because I love opening up dozens of browser windows plus other applications all at once. You can pretty much handle twice as many things running at the same time.

Tweaking Memory

As I said earlier, the VIA chipsets are known for having lower memory performance. To get the most out of it, everyone has been tweaking their memory settings either using built in BIOS settings or through external programs. Abit has taken the liberty of including memory tweak settings in the BIOS as opposed to leaving it up to us users to use external programs. The Advanced Chipset Features Setup Menu has all the memory settings. These included DRAM Timing for Bank 0/1, 2/3, 4/5, 6/7, DRAM Bank Interleave, Delay DRAM Read Latch, SDRAM Cycle Length, Memory Hole, P2C/C2P Concurrency, and Fast R-W Turn Around. Actually nowadays, many motherboards include some type of memory tweaks. Don't be afraid to play around with these settings. If it's too much for the system, you can always just restart and set it back to the default values. You'll want to focus on the DRAM Timing for the different banks, the Interleave, and Cycle Length. Setting the DRAM timing for the different banks is useful if you have different quality memory modules there. It will probably take you a few tries to get the optimal settings for your system.

After testing on different memory settings, I began noticing some instability problems. I tested each of the DIMMs separately to narrow down the faulty memory. It turns out that 2 of the 4 128 MB memory modules from The Overclockerz Store were defective. They wouldn't run stable at CAS2 in 133 Mhz FSB when they were rated at 166 Mhz FSB 2/2/2. So I swapped out the 2 defective pieces for my Mushkin Basic PC133 which actually performed better. Even mixing the Micro BGA memory from OCZ with the Mushkin memory still saw great results. I managed to run the system stable at 143 Mhz FSB with that combo. Now many motherboards out there are picky when it comes to using different memory modules. Especially the Micro BGA PC166 modules which might need some special settings according to OCZ. Fortunately the VP6 is very tolerant when it comes to that. Eventually, I did get replacement memory from The Overclockerz Store. Their customer service department actually gave me a call to let me know they were sending it out etc. With the 2 new 128MB sticks I managed to get the system running stable at 150 MHz FSB, which translates to 1.13 Ghz. So now that memory wasn't a problem, let's go see how well the system performs.

Performance

Test System

  • 2 Pentium III 1Ghz w/ 2 Alpha Heatsinks and 2 Delta 38 CFM fans - HSFs from 2CoolTek
  • Abit VP6 Motherboard
  • 512 MB RAM
  • 2 128 MB Muskin Basic PC-133 - From Mushkin
  • 2 128 MB OCZ PC-166 - From The Overclockerz Store
  • Antec SX1030B
  • 2 30GB IBM 75GXP Drives in RAID 0
  • Plextor PlexWriter 16/10/40A
  • Mitsumi 48X CDROM
  • Creative Labs Sound Blaster Live! Value
  • VisionTek GeForce2 GTS 32 MB
  • Diamond SupraMax Modem
  • Windows 2000 SP2

SiSoft Sandra Standard 2001

Stock Speed - Pentium III Dual 1GHz (CAS 2/2/2)


CPU Benchmark


CPU Multimedia Benchmark


Memory Benchmarks

As you can see above, the test system I used pretty much makes full use of this motherboard's capabilities. The 2 PIII 1 GHz CPUs are the fastest regular PIIIs this motherboard supports. I'm no where near maxing out the memory but I did manage to fill all the banks. The 2 IBM drives are using RAID 0 for increased HD performance, and I've got your usual GeForce2 GTS and SB Live! combo for the multimedia side. Windows 2000 is the OS of choice since it can handle the 2 CPUs, and is fairly stable compared to the other OSes from MS. I could have used Linux or some other SMP capable OS, but for everyday work, I hate to admit it but I get the most use out of Windows. I'm using SP2 for Windows 2000, which has support for the VIA chipset so I don't need the 4in1s. Actually, I'm not sure which has better performance at the moment, but I've heard the SP2 drivers have proper support. Since this is a VP6 review I would rather not get into that. My next article should have that information, as well as some other interesting things. I'm using SiSoft Sandra to benchmark the system. I haven't gotten the CD of standard benchmarks Dave has created, so this is it for now. Sandra does have a tendency to have weird scores sometimes so please do take that into account when passing judgment. I ran the tests a few times to weed out any potential flukes in the scores. Let's see how everything runs at stock speeds first. I set the memory to the fastest possible settings, turbo everything and CAS Latency 2. Here's what I got from SiSoft Sandra:

The scores I received here are similar to those taken from the first VP6 I had. So it appears no noticeable problems existed with that board. The CPU benchmarks are normal for the system, but the memory benchmark tells another tale. From the reference results that Sandra has, you'll notice that the scores are above the normal Pro133A in the charts. The DDR Pro266 chipset still beats it though, as well as the ServerWorks and i840, which should be the case anyway. Although the memory scores are decent, for applications that require a large amount of memory bandwidth, the VIA chipset isn't suited for that. Abit did a real good job of getting the most out of it despite what they had to work with. After a few minutes of testing at stock speeds, I tried the old overclock to 150 MHz FSB with CAS 2/2/2 settings. Low and behold it works. I didn't bother starting out small and leading to 150 MHz because I figure that's what I want to run it at all the time anyway. I ran a torture test of 4 instances (2 per CPU) of prime95 for a few hours to make sure it was stable. Below is a shot of the system running at CAS 2/2/2 at 150 MHz FSB. I would show you some Sandra scores of the overclocked system but I'll save that for another article :)... rest assured I got the highest memory score in Sandra that I've seen with the VP6. I also have an Iwill DVD266 here in the labs that I'll be reviewing so comparative scores will definitely be posted.


CAS 2 150 MHz FSB

Quake III Arena 1.29h

Quake 3 Arena is also a good benchmark, so I've got scores up for that too. I'm using the latest Detonator3 drivers, v12.41, and the display settings are all at default. The FSAA is set to automatically use game settings. This is the version 1.29h of Quake III Arena and all the settings are at default. I'm using the demo that comes with the 1.29h patch which is four.dm_66. Although I don't really have a reference to compare to for that, you can compare it to your own scores with the same settings. That will give you an idea of how your system compares and how this system performs in reference to that. If you're thinking about upgrading to a dual GHz PIII machine with a GeForce2 GTS, it'll show you if your Q3 Arena FPS will get a boost or not. However, to maximize your performance increase you'll probably want to just get a better video card, as that is the bottleneck at higher resolutions. More processors will just lessen the lag when you have programs running in the background. I know the GeForce2 GTS is not the top of the line now, but hey it's all I have at the moment, and most normal people will have a card equivalent to that anyway. Also, this isn't a video card review so as long as the card runs Quake III Arena at a decent speed, it's acceptable. Remember, these scores are done with the CPUs at stock speeds. My next article will contain all the scores at overclocked speeds so you can see how much of an improvement it gives.

As you can see my GeForce2 GTS quickly gets bogged down after 1024x768. The lower resolutions are where the CPU and system really come into play. The performance is good and definitely more than enough for me, but after seeing GeForce2 Ultra and GeForce3 scores, I find myself longing for those cards. Even though Quake III has support for SMP, when I turn it on the game always crashes on me, so I don't have scores up for that. The scores here are definitely nothing to laugh at, and I personally play at 1024x768 on high quality. Keep in mind these scores were taken with Prime95 in the background, but the performance is still pretty much the same even without anything running. That's the beauty of the multiprocessor system. You can run pretty much anything else in the background and still be able to play a game like Quake III Arena without much slowdown in gameplay. Having a dual system doesn't necessarily give you better performance in terms of maximum framerate, but it'll help your average framerate out buy distributing the load. So you don't have to worry about any lag when you have 20 explorer windows up, which I know a lot of us do. I often take for granted the fact that I have a dual system and when I try to do the same on a regular system, it slows to a crawl. Once you go dual, you never go back baby! :)

RAID

When the BP6 was released, having on-board RAID meant SCSI, which meant much higher motherboard costs, which leads to an unhappy me. Fortunately since then, IDE RAID has made its presence felt with many mainboard manufacturers integrating less expensive IDE RAID controllers in their products. Abit chose to jump on that bandwagon with the VP6, which uses HighPoint Technologies, Inc. HPT 370 chipset. Not only do you get on-board RAID but also ATA-100 support in all four IDE channels. If you still want the performance boost of RAID and not willing to go SCSI just yet, IDE RAID is a great alternative. It's definitely more affordable than SCSI, but of course the performance isn't as high. Software RAID is good too but with the controller already integrated into the VP6, who needs that. Frankly, I think that all motherboards should come with IDE RAID standard these days. I mean it's really not that expensive to just get two identical hard drives and put them in RAID 0. Even if you don't have a second hard drive, you can upgrade to RAID in the future. Of course, the average Joe probably won't know a lick about RAID at all... Anyway I slapped two 30 GB IBM 75 GXP drives in there to see just how fast it would be. Here's what Sandra told me:


2 30GB IBM 75 GXP Drives ATA/100, 7200rpm

Again Sandra is known for giving not so honest hard drive performance results. I ran this test a few times just to be sure. Well the results point to the current setup being pretty superior to the reference model they have there. That's good but I'm still not sure if that's totally accurate. HDTach would tell more but I'll have to add the scores once I get the benchmark CD. For a file server or database server that accesses the hard drive a lot, RAID is definitely a must. The RAID controller here on the VP6 is great, and very easy to use as well. With its own BIOS setup screen, you can create and delete striped or mirrored sets of drives. Since the first VP6 I had died, I didn't want to reinstall everything after all the work I did. So I decided just to put the two drives in the same connections on the new VP6. At first I was scared that this new motherboard wouldn't recognize the old RAID striped set, but it did and everything worked as if the first motherboard hadn't died. The on-board RAID support is nice so that I don't have to use an extra RAID card. It's great for low-cost servers since it delivers an affordable RAID solution compared to a more expensive SCSI solution. The performance isn't as high but it's still better than a single drive. Serious servers will probably look to RAID 5, which would mean SCSI, although there are IDE RAID cards that support RAID 5.

Stability

Most everyone is always looking for a stable system. Some people want more stability, others can sacrifice a little for performance. However, in the server market, stability is really a key issue. The BP6, although very popular, was not really the most stable of motherboards. That's especially true if you overclocked it like most people did. Most serious servers need a more stable platform to ensure smooth operation. Thankfully, it seems the VP6 has not followed in the BP6's footsteps in terms of stability. The board definitely shows that Abit has paid more attention to stability than before. After running the system for a few weeks with the torture test on 24/7 with nary a hiccup or BSoD, it's safe to say that the board is stable at stock speeds. Even using memory modules from different manufacturers is ok. Other motherboards are picky when it comes to that. At overclocked speeds, the stability is amazing. I have been overclocking my FSB to 150 Mhz, and the box has been rock solid. I didn't even need to tweak any voltage settings to keep the system stable. The main test I do to see if a system is stable is to run 4 instances of Prime95, 2 designated to CPU0, and 2 designated to CPU1. That would test for memory errors and what not. I'd also run a Seti@Home client, as well as just do my regular daily activities on the computer. The system has ran almost near perfect except for the occasional crashing of AOL, which I blame on AOL and not the system. So far so good on the 150 MHz FSB, but since it's gotten hotter lately (90-100+ degrees in NYC) and no air conditioning for my system, I'm concerned about heat issues. So running at that high of a bus speed might affect stability more in the days to come. If that does happen then probably running at a slightly slower speed would be best. I'd rather have my system be reliable. The speed increase isn't that big to warrant sacrificing that much stability. Anyway, the system has been running fine with the torture tests in the background and me doing my usual web surfing, music listening, and what not. If you're thinking "If it's so stable then why did your first one die?", well the answer to that is it probably wasn't the VP6. The power supply and Iwill board died as well, so I don't think the VP6 really had much to do with it. My theory still stands with the Delta fans and Iwill board/power supply. Either way, the one I have now is very stable, and the old one was stable before it died.

Value

With the motherboard being priced at around $130, it's a good value for the low cost server. You get a slew of nice features, good performance for the chipset, and stability. The large memory support cater to the server audience. However, the scores still show it to be slower than other chipsets out there. With it's numerous overclocking features, you can quickly see how cost efficient this motherboard can be. Of course, overclocked servers usually aren't used for anything more than hobby work, but hey there are a lot of enthusiasts out there that just can't afford those dual 1GHz PIIIs. You can just pop in two fairly fast chips and overclock them a bit to get more for your money. You can even just pop one processor in and add another later when you feel the need to upgrade. At the moment, if you want dual processor goodness at an affordable price the VP6 won't disappoint. Don't let the lower memory benchmarks get you down. That's the only flaw I see in the board because SDR is definitely not on the cutting edge of technology. However, the dual DDR motherboards or ones with better chipsets out there are more expensive. DDR memory is as cheap as regular SDR, so that isn't really a problem. The bottom line here is that the VP6 delivers everything in the spec, so I definitely think it's worth the $130 or so you spend on it. It's also good for people that have lots of SDRAM and don't want to move to DDR just yet. I would recommend this board for servers at home, or even small businesses for development. Production machines or servers with more demanding requirements might want to check out motherboards with better chipsets and possibly ob-board SCSI/LAN. Integrated LAN would have been a nice addition but it would have raised the price.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Dual Processor Support up to 1 GHz PIIIs
  • 2GB of non-ECC memory supported
  • On-board ATA/100 and IDE RAID 0/1
  • SoftMenu III for easy CPU overclocking
  • Memory settings included in the BIOS
  • Good layout
  • Stable and has high tolerance for mixing/matching different types of DIMM modules
  • USB adapter for onboard header included
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Still uses SDRAM
  • Lower memory scores compared to other chipsets
  • Sensitive fan headers (Abit claims they can handle up to 0.5A currents (6watts) but might not be the case all the time)
  • No integrated LAN
  • No Celeron Support

Conclusion

When I first heard that Abit was working on the VP6, I was very anxious to get my hands on one. I dreamt of a motherboard that would replace my BP6 and satisfy my craving for speed and stability. The VP6 definitely delivers most of what I was looking for. Despite a few bumps along the way, I am definitely happy I chose the VP6. Although I could have went the DDR route with other motherboards, I chose to stick to SDR because I already had lots of it. I would rather not invest in new memory just yet. Also since DDR PIII boards still use VIA chipsets, I'm certain the memory scores probably won't be as high as I want them to be anyway. The price is just right for the VP6 at around $130 (from Pricewatch). You get lots of features, good board design, and stability all for that price. For those of you looking for a nice dual motherboard with great overclocking ability, the VP6 is it. You won't have to buy new memory, and still get some decent memory scores. Eventually I will invest in a DDR board, but probably not until I see some significant price and performance improvements. For the avid dual processor enthusiast, the VP6 is a good upgrade choice. The more serious server folk will look to boards with better memory bandwidth, but I think the VP6 can handle most modest server applications. As a workstation, it's more than adequate. Despite the numerous delays this motherboard has gone through, Abit has a solid product here. DDR could have made this board so much better, but hey you can't have everything. I hope you enjoyed this review. Now, go and create your own dual systems! Stay tuned to SystemLogic for more dual overclocking content from me in the near future, especially those Sandra and Q3 scores I didn't include here. I guarantee you won't be disappointed. Anyway, feel free to share your thoughts on the review, bad or good...

Rating: 8.5/10 SystemLogistics

Re-Printed From SLCentral