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ep-51mvp3e-m.jpg (14894 bytes)The Epox EP-51MVP3E-M  motherboard is my choice for the best overall Super7 ATX motherboard on the market.   Not only is the quality first-rate,  Epox has made available a bus-master UDMA hard disk driver from Highpoint which significantly boosts system performance.   Add a 300 Mhz K6-2, PC100 memory, UDMA hard disk, and an AGP 3D graphics board, and you will have a Super7 which means business.

The EP-51MVP3E-M uses the VIA Apollo MVP3 chipset to provide a 100 MHz front bus frequency.  According to Epox, it will support AMD K6-2 and Cyrix M2 Socket 7 CPUs operating at 120-500 MHz as well as Intel Pentium and Pentium MMX CPUs .  It meets my expandability requirements with three ISA, four PCI, one AGP expansion board sockets.  There are two 72-pin SIMM and three 168-pin DIMM memory slots which will accommodate up to 384 MBytes of memory.   They are coupled to the CPU with 1 MB of  5 ns cache'  for high performance.


ltblball.gif (377 bytes)  Superb silk-screening and labeling.  Everything from the jumpers to I/O connectors are clearly labeled.   If  you loose the motherboard book you can still set-up the jumpers.  All of the setting are printed on the motherboard.

ltblball.gif (377 bytes)  CPU Jumpers a' la simplified.   I was kind of spoiled by motherboards with CPU "plug 'n play" until I saw this one.  A single jumper on a header on the left side of the board sets the core voltage.  Another header along the front of the board uses two jumpers which respectively set the bus clock speed and the multiplier.

The board has only two more jumpers.  The first one sets the SDRAM at 66 Mhz (which is also the AGP frequency) or the CPU Bus Clock.  If you have a 300 Mhz K6-2 and PC100 memory, simply set this jumper for CPU Bus Clock and the CPU bus frequency for 100 Mhz (and the multiplier to 3X).

The second jumper works in conjunction with an ATX power supply and remote power on/off connector which can be connected to a momentary switch on the front panel of the computer case.  The computer can be turned on or off using the momentary switch.  If the jumper (JP4) is enabled, the system can also be turned-on by pressing one or two keyboard keys (depending on the keyboard) for two seconds.  So, with an ATX power supply you turn off the  system power by shutting-down Windows 95/98 and you can turn it back on with the keyboard.  The CPU speed and multiplier jumpers and the SDRAM jumpers may be concealed by drive bays in some computer cases.

ltblball.gif (377 bytes)  Front panel connectors.  The front panel connectors are along the front of the board where they are easy to see and get at.  They are clearly labeled.

ltblball.gif (377 bytes)  I/O connectors.  There are PS/2 keyboard, PS/2 mouse, 1 printer, two serial, and to USB along the back of the motherboard (the configuration matches all of the Aopen ATX cases I have reviewed).  The hard disk and floppy drive connectors are along the front per the ATX spec.  Since the board is so large, it is somewhat difficult to plug in these cables in some computer cases (e.g., Aopen) if the floppy/hard disk drive bay is already installed.   It's easier to plug the cables into the motherboard before installing the bay.

ltblball.gif (377 bytes)  CPU Position.  Epox, if you ever redesign this board, please move the CPU further to the rear of the board.   It's current position, towards the front of the board, requires meticulous use of cable ties to keep hard disk, CD-ROM, audio, and power supply cables out of the CPU fan.   On the other hand the memory slots are easy to get at.

ltblball.gif (377 bytes)  Donuts and mounting holes.  There are oversized donuts surrounding each of the mounting holes.  One doesn't have to worry about the head of the screw, used to fasten the motherboard to the case, overlapping a trace on the motherboard and capacitively grounding it. 

ltblball.gif (377 bytes)  There are plenty of apparently high-quality 105C electrolytic capacitors and an ample number of bypass, etc. capacitors in the middle of the CPU socket.  A tantalum here and there... 

ltblball.gif (377 bytes)  The board has Winbond W83781D hardware monitoring chip and temperature sensors for both the CPU and the system.   You can see these temperatures changing in the CMOS setup.  There are connectors for a CPU fan (3-pin) and a second case fan on the motherboard.  You can see real-time RPM values for these fans in the CMOS setup.  The user can set  a temperature ceiling in CMOS which will cause an alarm.  If the CPU fan quits, causing a hot CPU, you will hear a siren-like warning.
Epox has recently released a beta version of their Unified System Diagnostic Manager (USDMTM) for the W83781D which allows you see these parameters and set alarm thresholds from Windows 95/98.  Click here for details..

ltblball.gif (377 bytes)  Windows 98.   VIA's IRQ Routing Mini-port Driver is required to reliably run Win 98 on this motherboard.   You down-load it and the BusMaster IDE driver from Epox's Web site and put them on a floppies before installing the motherboard.   When Installing Windows 98, I recommend that you omit/remove all expansion boards from the system except the monitor adapter, install 98, install the Mini-port driver, install the Bus-master IDE driver and then install any additional boards one-at-time.

ltblball.gif (377 bytes)  The user manual is simple, short, well organized, and easy to read.  A very good diagram of the motherboard is immediately followed by a single page showing the CPU multiplier, bus clock, core voltage settings in clear and understandable terms.  The next page shows all of the front panel connectors.   There is no hunting back and forth through the book between the motherboard diagram and the jumper settings, etc.

Well, how does it run?   I have installed this board in enough machines and have used it enough myself to know that it is rock-solid performer.  The Bus-master IDE driver gets rid of a lot of disk drive "clunking" and produces clean, smooth Super7 speed.

Check Epox's WEB site for specs, a PDF copy of the user's manual, and a larger picture.


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