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Soyo SY-6VBA 133

by johnd - Jan. 10, 2000

Features:

The Soyo SY-6VBA 133 is a slot one motheboard that supports Intel Pentium III processors at 450-600Mhz, Pentium II processors at 233-450Mhz, and Celeron processors at 266-466Mhz. As you can see in the picture above, the board has an AGP slot, 5 PCI slots, and 2 ISA slots (one shared with an PCI slot). The ATX power supply connector is located just between the CPU and the serial and printer ports. It has PS/2 type mouse and keyboard connectors and 2 USB ports. There are primary and secondary ATA 33/66 IDE intrerfaces on the motherboard supporting up to 4 IDE devices. There are four DIMM slots on the board where a lot of motherboards only have three. The picture above shows a Pentium III 500E mounted on a Slocket II from Iwill with a stock heatsink and fan attached. Aftermarket heatsinks and fans may take up the first and second DIMM slots, so the extra DIMM slot can come in handy. The SY-6VBA 133 supports PC133 memory with up to 1.5GB of main memory. (So, if you're reading this and got two extra 512MB and two extra 256MB DIMMS laying around gathering dust that you'll just never use again, have a heart and send them to me.) You can click the photo above for a little larger view of the motherboard.

Oh yeah, and something that I know is still on everybody's mind, it's Y2K compliant! At least the one in my system is still running correctly. Year 2000....hmmm....what's this BC stand for?


Included Software:

Besides including a copy of Hardware Doctor software with their board, Soyo also includes a copy of Norton AntiVirus, Norton Ghost, and Norton Virtual Drive.


Installation:

When I first started working with the Soyo-6VBA 133 motherboard, I thought, "no problem, just another motherboard install." Getting the 6VBA 133 into an En-Light mid-tower case was easy with the boards size at 12"x7.5". The jumpers and connectors on the board for the most part are clearly labled and identifiable. The "Quick Start Guide" booklet was clearly written and should be sufficient for most users to get the board installed. An installation manual was also included on the CD-ROM. After installing the memory, CPU, video card, etc. and hooking up all the cables, I turned the power on. To my surprise, nothing happened. I rechecked that I had the IDE cables hooked correctly, checked that the ATX power connecter was seated properly, pulled the video card out and reseated it, turned it back on and nothing. I removed all the cards except the video card, nothing. So, I pulled the CPU and video card out and reseated them, still nothing. After fooling with it a little longer, I began to wonder if the board was any good.

Quick bring the patient over! We have no heart beat! Charge up the paddles! Clear! Zapp! Straight line.......Increase the voltage! Clear! Zapp! Straight line.....doctor the patient's gone! He's not gone till I say he's gone! Turn the paddles to the max! Clear! ZZAAAPPP! Beeeeeepp. Beep, beep, beep, hummm. Doctor it's alive!

Finally I took a close look at the way the CPU was seating in the motherboard and reseated it one more time, this time correctly! Booted without any problems. Moral of the story, if your new motherboard won't boot, it's probably not bad, just make sure you have everything reseated and connected properly before giving up.


BIOS Setup:

The BIOS allows you to choose front side bus (FSB) speeds according to one of three groups of FSB speeds. The first group (66, 75, 81, 83) uses an AGP divider of 1. The second group (90, 95, 100, 105, 110, 112, 113, 115, 117, 118, 120, 122) uses an AGP clock divider of 1.5. The third group (124, 126, 133, 135, 137, 138, 140, 142, 144, 150, 155) uses an AGP divider of 2.0. The divider settings keep the AGP clock in a range between 60Mhz and 81Mhz. This avoids potential problems with a graphics card when overclocking the FSB. The PCI clock is automatically set between 30Mhz and 41Mhz. CPU voltage can be increased in the BIOS by increments of 2.5%, 5%, 7.5%, and 10%. Some overclockers may find these voltage tweaks a little lacking. For instance, if you wanted to tweak a 2.0 volt Celeron, the max you can set it at is 2.2 volts ((2.0 * 10.0%)+2.0).

There is also a memory setting for the DRAM clock. This setting allows you to set the clock speed for your RAM equal to the speed of your FSB, or your FSB - your PCI clock speed, or your FSB + your PCI clock speed. For example if you had your board set to a FSB speed of 133 Mhz with a PCI clock speed of 33, you could choose to subtract the PCI clock speed from the FSB to let your RAM run at 100Mhz. If you're overclocking a CPU to a 133Mhz FSB or beyound and have PC100 RAM that won't run that fast, this board may allow you to push your CPU to its outer limits while not keeping your RAM in a clock range where it will run.


Testing the SY-6VBA 133:

The Soyo SY-6VBA 133 was tested with a Pentium III 500E CPU, 2 Corsair PC133 DIMMs, a Voodoo3 2000, and an Annihilator Pro. The jumper was set on the motherboard to boot at the 100Mhz mark, which it did without any problems. No need to mess around at this clock speed, so the jumper was changed on the motherboard to allow a BIOS setting of 133Mhz on the FSB. The SY-6VBA 133 again booted fine bring up Windows 98 with no problems. So, the FSB was tweaked a few Mhz at a time to find what the limit of this setup would be. This was done until we ran out of FSB settings. The FSB was set at 155Mhz making the 500E purr along at 775Mhz! Now obviously this is a combination of a good CPU and as it turns out a stable motherboard. After doing some benchmarks with the Voodoo3 2000, the Annihilator Pro was added. I have been using this board in conjuction with the Annihilator Pro for several weeks running at the 155Mhz FSB/775Mhz CPU setting.

The SY-6VBA 133 has been used running Windows 98, several rounds of Quake III (Where only the bots cut me any slack!), and general everyday use. I have not had Windows 95 or Windows 98 run this stable before. Only one misbehaving application has caused me to reboot.

The Annihilator Pro review here on Hardware News Net has some Quake III benchmarks run using this board both with the Annihilator Pro and with a 3dfx Voodoo3 2000. Quake III benchmarks with a Voodoo3 2000 and a PIII 500E running at 667Mhz on the SY-6VBA 133 compared against an Abit BF6 motherboard running the same setup shows the SY-6VBA lags behind in performance at the 640x480 (58.0 vs. 79.9) and the 800x600 (50.3 vs. 56.1) resolutions, but pulls even at the 1024x768 (37.1 vs. 37.1) resolution. This seems to match some benchmarks I saw in a review on the Abit VA6 at Ars Technica which also uses the Apollo Pro 133 chipset. ( Click here for the full article.) Well, if I keep the Annihilator Pro in with the motherbaord, my Quake III gaming performance won't suffer too badly, although it hasn't helped my aim yet.


Conclusions:

I have been very satisfied with the stability of the PC with the Soyo SY-6VBA 133. The price is also very reasonable on these boards at around $80. In my opinion, it's definitely worth the money.


Want a second opinion? Check out this review on the Soyo SY-6VBA at The High Performance PC Guide. How about a third opinion? Here's the Soyo SY-6VBA 133 at Sharky Extreme.


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