Although not as well known as some other brands, Soltek where among the first to produce a KT133A based motherboard, this follows on from their previous KT133 based board, and it adds the ability to run at 133MHz FSB and with support for ATA100 hard drives. Soltek follows a reasonable expansion slot idea and includes 5 PCI slot and I ISA slot, they also include an AGP Pro slot which is a pretty rare as of yet. They don't include the rather useless AMR slot which is a good thing as far as I'm concerned. (O: Included in the box are the usual IDE cables and floppy cables, and there should have been a thermal probe which was unfortunately missing on the sample I got, the thermal probe would be handy for monitoring graphics cards temperatures and other key parts of the motherboard, but unfortunately the editor misplaced them )O:. As well as the hardware Soltek also supply some useful software, The CD included called Power Bonus Pack Includes Symantec, Winfax, Antivirus 2001 and Ghost, which is a very useful utility to allow you to clone a backup image of your hard drive, that can be restored in a few minutes, this is definitely a useful piece of software. I'm not sure if this bundle really costs $230 like it says on the box, but still its definitely worth something, and its not often you get something for nothing (O:. Well enough of the words for now and on with some pictures.
Here's few pictures of the board
Notice the lack of a fan on the Northbridge, just a large green heatsink as shown below.
The Test Setup
|Athlon 1000MHz 100Mhz FSB CPU Globalwin FOP38 Heatsink|
|256MB Crucial PC133 CAS 2 RAM|
|Hercules Geforce 2 Ultra|
|IBM GXP22 9.1GB Hard Disc|
|Pioneer 105S DVD Rom|
|OcUK Tornado ATX Case|
Running on Win98 SE Via 4in1 4.28 Nvidia Detonator 12.0
Well that's the pictures of the packaging over with and now onto what's in the box and setting it up. The manual gets most of the salient points across, it reminds you to fit a heatsink on the CPU before you try to use it this is also backed up by a big sticker covering the socket on the motherboard which says the same thing, Tbirds can burn up in under 10 seconds so this is a very useful reminder, just in case your in one of those forgetful moods, when you build your computer, the sticker is shown below.
All the connectors seem to be sensibly placed apart from maybe the IDE connectors which are placed horizontally across the board instead of in the more usual vertical placement, this makes the cable routing slightly more messy, but other than the visual thing it doesn't really effect it in any way. The capacitors and other components above the socket A do get in the way of the heatsink clip,making it hard to push down the clip this was definately an issue with the Globalwin heatsink which has a rather awkward clip. Other heatsinks use better retention clips which are easier to fit .This Board is one of the few boards I've seen recently to include jumpers to set it up, initially it is set up to run at 100MHz FSB, this is fine if you have a B type or 100MHz FSB Athlon to fit in the board but if not then you will need to adjust the jumpers to 133MHz, this proves somewhat tricky as the Diagram in the manual is somewhat difficult to read and is actually kind of upside down, the instructions for setting up are also printed on the motherboard and they are easier to follow, the ones in the manual are basically upside down, the picture below shows the problem
All the switch settings are printed on the motherboard and they are correct so follow those when you set up the board. I decided to forgo overclocking for a while and did a fresh install of Windows, this went smoothly, I left the onboard sound enabled, so no PCI slots where used. Once I had windows up and running it was time for some benchmarks
Well here's a few of the regular benchmarks
Here's Sandra to start with. With the default BIOS settings the memory benchmarks are rather weak to say the least but this is the norm with all Via KT133 chipsets until you start to tweak the settings, luckily Soltek included some features in the BIOS to enable much better performance. These are 4 way Interleave and CAS 2, there are no setting to adjust the memory timings separately like in some other KT133A motherboards, this doesn't seem to effect memory performance noticeably though.
Here are a few shots of what sort of memory performance this board can get, the screenshots below are animated gifs wait for the image to load up and it should rotate to a new image after a second or two
the first image is at default settings of 100MHz FSB and memory, then with the FSB at 100MHz but with the option turned on in the BIOS for CAS 2 and 4 way interleave, the last image shows the memory running at 133MHz clock this is running 33Hz faster than the FSB, these small tweaks in the BIOS improve the score pretty drastically, the Soltek board is a bit limited in that it doesn't allow separate memory timing tweaks, but none the less the simple modifications I made in the BIOS speed up the performance quite a bit (O: .
I ran the usual benchmarks, WCPUID and Sandra as always the Athlon CPU puts up a very good fight against the much higher clocked Pentium 4. The picture below is an animated gif, it looks pretty neat mean less scrolling and uses less bandwidth, so just wait a few seconds whilst it loads up (O: .
I haven't shown any hard disc benchmarks as I only had an old IBM drive installed, the newer IBM GXP 75 and GXP 60 will all run very well on the VIA 686B Southbridge, currently all my better hard drives are in RAID arrays which sadly the Soltek board doesn't have a controller for, if I had installed a GXP 75, I would have got the regular 23,000 score in the Sandra benchmarks as per normal, but as it is with the older IBM drive installed I get around 15,000 score, still not to bad but nothing to write home about.
Gaming is the one of the key things a lot of people do with their system, so I've included some gaming benchmarks, these will give you some idea of gaming performance on this motherboard
Well for starters here's Quake 3 Demo001 run in all the usual resolutions and in fastest and Extra High Quality (EHQ) which is all the settings maxed out for extra quality.
|Quake 3 Demo||640*480||800*600||1024*768||1280*1024||1600*1200|
As you can see from the results above the board runs 3DMark 2001 just fine the default score at 1000MHz is just short of 4000 points, this is a pretty reasonable score, the results dip as the resolution goes up, as the Geforce 2 Ultra becomes a bottleneck, this is just as you would expect. To increase the scores for the game benchmarks overclocking the graphics card would do the trick, but as I'm looking at the motherboard performance here I've left that part alone.
Well that's the board running at default speeds, it performs very well on par with other KT133A boards, now lets see how it performs for some overclocking action (O: