One of the most frequently discussed aspects of the Intel BX chipset is its broadening of the overclocking horizons. When Intel released the chipset you had to expect a load of BX motherboards to be made by Supermicro, notorious for meeting release dates with a wide variety of motherboards for just about any this case however, just about any user...except overclockers. Let's take a look at the un-overclockable Supermicro BX boards...this time for the Multi-processing community

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Motherboard Specifications

CPU Interface Slot-1
Chipset Intel 440BX
L2 Cache N/A (on-chip)
Form Factor ATX
Bus Speeds 66/100 MHz
Clock Multipliers 2.0x - 6.0x
Voltages Supported 1.3v - 3.5v (Auto-Detect)
Memory Slots 4 168pin DIMM Slots (EDO/SDRAM)
Expansion Slots 1 AGP Slot
4 PCI Slots
3 ISA Slots (1 Shared / 3 Full Length)
Onboard SCSI Adaptec 3940UW
w/ RAID Port (P6DBS Only)

The Good

We've heard this time and time again in the BX world, 4 PCI, 3 ISA, and 1 AGP slot, nothing more to it. If you have more than 4 PCI cards you may want to shift your attention to the MTech/Soyo BX board, if you need more than 3 ISA slots you may want to search for upgrades to some of your older peripherals as it is highly unlikely that you will see that happening. The P6DBS makes it clear that it is a no-nonsense High End Workstation/Server motherboard with the 4 DIMM slots accepting a maximum of 1GB of SDRAM, all of which is cacheable provided that you use 2 x Pentium II processors with 512KB of L2 cache a piece.

The P6DBS's layout is a bit larger than most Pentium II - BX motherboards, simply because of the inclusion of the 4th DIMM slot and the second processor slot, making multi-processing a reality. The P6DBS' second processor capability cannot be taken advantage of unless you are using an Operating System that specifically supports multiple processors, such as Windows NT, OS/2 Warp 4, Unix, or the BeOS (which has been independently verified to work on the BX chipset by AnandTech)...Windows 95 will NOT use the second processor. Under Windows NT, you must be running a multithreaded application such as Adobe Photoshop, or Lightwave in order to take advantage of the second processor where as under OSes like OS/2 Warp 4 and the BeOS normal tasks are accelerated approximately 15 - 25% by the addition of a second processor, multitasking now becomes much less of a chore. supermicro_p6dbs-sm.jpg (16372 bytes)

Unlike most motherboards, Supermicro chose to go with the AMI WinBIOS instead of the Award PnP BIOS for their CMOS Setup Utility. The AMI WinBIOS mimics the old Windows 3.11 interface and even allows you to navigate through the setup with your mouse provided it is plugged in at the time of startup. While this is a "cute" feature, the WinBIOS does not lack in power when compared to the more conventional Award BIOS. In fact, the AMI WinBIOS can be a very difficult setup to configure, especially when dealing with the Chipset Features and Memory Timings. Luckily, like most other BX motherboards, the P6DBS offers a SDRAM Auto configuration setting which communicates with your PC100 SDRAM using its on-board SPD ROM (those extra bucks spent on SDRAM w/ on-board EEPROM finally pay off) that configures your Memory for the best possible combination of stability/performance, virtually eliminating the need to learn the meanings of all of your BIOS Settings.

If you do feel like manually configuring your SDRAM is necessary, the Supermicro User's Manual also doubles as an AMI WinBIOS manual, and a very good one at that. Not only does the manual provide the best explanation this webmaster has seen of common BIOS settings, but it also recommends what settings should be enabled/disabled (unfortunately quite a few settings are left with the phrase "leave as default setting" next to them).

The stability of the P6DBS isn't something you can complain about, the motherboard is solid as a rock and it is obvious that the board was intended to be run in a do-or-die situation, the server audience the P6DBS is geared towards should gladly accept its presence as the motherboard had no problems completing any of the performance/reliability tests conducted. The on-board Adaptec 2940UW SCSI Controller makes the presence of only 4 PCI slots "ok" since you save one PCI slot by having the SCSI card on-board. The P6DBS was packaged with the latest SCSI Drivers and Win95/NT had no problems detecting/configuring the on-board SCSI Controller, it integrated just as seamlessly as if you had went out and bought an add-on SCSI controller kit.

The performance of the P6DBS is identical to that of the P6SBA and P6DBE when using a single processor, in comparison, the Supermicro board falls in-between the top two performers in the BX World currently, the ABIT BX6 and the Top Tier performing ASUS P2B. Congrats to Supermicro on another job well done, however you overclockers out there may be a little more than disappointed with one of the P6DBS's "features..."

The Bad

Don't plan on overclocking the P6DBS, if you have a Pentium II - 233, 266, 300, or 333 (66MHz bus speed Pentium II's) then the P6DBS will auto-detect the proper bus speed for your CPU and it will clock your system accordingly. You could set your system to 100 x 3.5, and the board would still over-ride your decision by clocking it at 66 x 3.5. Of course, as with other BX motherboards, the Pentium II - 350 and 400 can only be clocked at their rated speeds (350MHz & 400MHz respectively) regardless of the clock multiplier used. If you want the performance of a Pentium II - 400 on this motherboard then you're going to have to buy a Pentium II - 400 to get it.

The Test
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