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|Originally Published: Tuesday, 18 January 2000||Author: Kristopher Kersey|
|Published to: enhance_articles_hardware/Hardware Reviews||Page: 1/1 - [Std View]|
BP6: Good Value, Small Hassle
So you've been wanting to take your Linux box to the next level by getting that dual CPU motherboard and popping in that second chip. The first question you probably have is, how can I afford a quality solution? Well, Abit has your answer with the only duel Celeron board on the market. The BP6 board has all the latest and greatest features. But how well does it hold up under everyone's favorite OS? Let the tests begin.
The Board: Abit BP6 - Dual Socket 370 Processors Based Ultra DMA66 Ready Mainboard
Before I go into details, let me assure you that SMP does work and that it works beautifully. With a simple 'menuconfig' to change my kernel configuration and a recompile I was on my way. I rebooted the box and sure enough, I had twice the computing power of a single Celeron 366. I know now that you are probably wondering about the overclocked 550 ability of this board. Unfortunately, I didn't have great luck. Instead of buying specially tested Celerons, I bought two matched chips off the shelf. I was able to boot with the chips clocked to 550 but it was unstable even at higher voltages. Note that this is in no way a reflection on the motherboard itself. The instability issues centered on the chips I purchased. However, I have heard more than a few reports of successful overclocking.
The next feature I was concerned with was the on-board HPT366 DMA66 controller. In order to even begin to get this going, you either need to download a 2.3.* developemental kernel or patch your existing 2.2.* kernel. I have tried it both ways and under both instances, I had the same results. The ability to boot off of this controller under Linux with LILO seems shaky at best. It worked for me on a 10GB IBM drive. Unfortunately, it failed on a 9.1GB Quantum drive using exactly the same procedures. Two possibilities exist that would explain this problem. First, the BP6 itself may have trouble with the controller with the Quantum drives. Secondly, it could be a problem with Linux compatibility, since it worked fine under Windows.
A nice feature you want on any new motherboard is hardware monitoring. The Abit board definitely covers that with a nice Winbond chip that monitors BOTH CPU temperatures, voltages, fan speeds, and the case temperature. You can monitor all of these readings with a wonderful package called lm_sensors. This package allows you to grab the readings from the motherboard and view them under Linux. It may be a bit tough to handle for beginning users, but it does provide two methods of installation via modules or kernel patch. Once installed, lm_sensors can be used by programs such as BP6mon or wmbp6 for quick and easy monitoring of your system.
As an important note, when it comes to installation, be aware that the PCI resources on this board are difficult to manage. Abit has provided the on-board HPT366 controller without sacrificing a cherished fifth PCI slot. While this may seem nice, it creates a major problem if you have PCI cards that require to be the master card on an IRQ. When installing devices keep in mind the following layout of your PCI sharing:
Installation Score: 5/10 This rating did not suffer as much as you would think since the solutions to my problems were remedied rather easily.
If you can get this board to work with your hard drive, it also provides the joy of UltraDMA/66. The performance difference between DMA/33 and DMA/66 has been debatable, but every little bit is nice. There is no way that I can tell you for sure that your hard drive will behave but just remember that you can fall back to the default Intel IDE controller of you have to.
Performance Score: 8/10
Value Score: 9/10
In the end, I can say that this board delivers where it counts. I did have many problems in the beginning from the HPT366 problems to a variety of PCI conflicts but it did end up stablizing and the system is running great. However, I must caution new users of the Linux OS. This cannot be considered an easy transition if you want to take advantage of all the features.
Overall Score: 7.5
|Test System: Processors: Dual Celeron 366 Motherboard: Abit BP6 RAM: 128 MB PC100 SDRAM OS: SuSE Linux 6.3||Manufacturer: Abit Product: BP6 Duel Celeron Motherboard Manufacturer's URL: http://www.abit-usa.com Price Range at Time of Writing: $118-$189|