SOYO 6VBA 133 Review

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UPDATE 12/19/99: User Comments

I asked users of this board if they had any problems – I got answers ranging from “What problems?” to “One of the worst experiences I ever had.” I thought it would be helpful to summarize the responses I received and offer some suggestions for problem resolution.

Problem Area Responses Probable Fix
Video/AGP 27 % Noted esp. with TNT2 cards; Use the latest drivers. AGP Aperture problems not fixed.
Few/No Problems 27 % Minor problems fixed with updated drivers.
Sound 15% Use updated drivers; Buy better board.
Bus Master 15 % Do not load VIA Busmaster Drivers – MS Drivers better.
Various 12% Includes Dead Board, incompatible Slotket, RAM and Win Amp Plugins.
Speed 9 % VIA chipset performance about 10% less than BX – no fix.

NOTE: Percentages include multiple responses.

The VIA Busmaster Drivers seem to be a potential problem, so it may be best not to install these, although some use them without any problems. There is a new version available from VIA, but it is unclear how much better they are. Using a CD ROM without enabling DMA seems to be one answer. It is absolutely necessary to use the latest drivers for any peripheral you have, recognizing that some older ones may simply not be compatible (this may be the case with any board). As with any new system, there will be odd-ball problems and the SOYO is no exception.

Initial Review

SUMMARY: What happens when you mix a great motherboard with a problem chipset? You get great problems. The SOYO 6VBA 133 can be as good as the 6BA+III upgraded to support 133 MHz processors if you do not encounter or can work around incompatibilities with various peripherals.

I picked up the SOYO 133 at a computer show for $79 – I had to build a PC in a rush and looked forward to using this board to see how it performed. I have the SOYO 6BA+IV, use it everyday with the Coppermine 500E and can run it as high as 150 MHz without problems. The attraction of the SOYO 133 is its support for 133 MHz processors and the 2x AGP divider – this gets around the extreme overclocking of the AGP port at high FSBs with the BX chipset.

This is accomplished by using the VIA chipset, which is designed for 133 MHz processors, as well as supporting 66 and 100 MHz CPUs. VIA is a Taiwanese company that has been around for a while and “competes” with Intel for PC chipsets; I have “competes” in quotes because Intel is dominant and players like VIA and SIS live on the crumbs. As relatively small companies, they do not have the resources of an Intel nor do product manufacturers design around their chipsets. This can lead to problems, and in the case of the SOYO 133, very frustrating problems.

The system I built was very plain Jane – C300A @ 450, WD 6.4 G HD, Matrox G200 8 MB Video Card, USR 56K Modem, 96 MB Micron PC100, floppy, Goldstar 24x CD ROM, W98SE fresh install. I followed the SOYO directions to the letter, installing the VIA drivers after the W98 install. This is about as leading edge as a Buick Skylark – nothing here to suggest it’s pushing the envelope, nothing to suggest problems.

But problems I had from the start. After loading the VIA Busmaster Drivers, Windows Explorer gave me fits; every time I tried to access the CD ROM, Explorer would either take at least 2 minutes to open it or hang up. Finally it would no longer access the CD ROM at all. Everything else worked fine. I pulled the drive and tried a NEC 8x – same thing. I pulled that and tried a Creative 48x – this one seemed to work but Explorer still took its time opening the drive.

Finally, Explorer refused to deal with the Creative. I pulled it and installed a Mitsumi 24x. This one so far is OK.

Now while all this is going on, I am using the CD ROM as a slave on the primary IDE port, a slave or master on the secondary IDE port – every conceivable combination was tried, with the same non-functioning result until the Mitsumi. I tried uninstalling the VIA drivers and things were worse – I couldn’t even get the Mitsumi to work using the MS IDE drivers, so the VIA drivers were reinstalled.

I went to the VIA website and found the following in FAQs:

    Q: Why am I unable to use my CD Writer or Tape Drive when I install the VIA Busmaster Driver?
    A: VIA is presently working very closely with manufacturers of CD Writers and Tape Drives to add support into our upcoming drivers. VIA suggests uninstalling the VIA IDE Busmaster Driver and using the Windows standard default driver. An upgrade to Win95 OSR2 or Win98 is advised to take advantage of IDE and transfers.

I suspect the problem may not be limited to CD Writers.

Because I had to deliver this system in 2 days, I did not have time to test the board as thoroughly as I would have liked. I am including links to other SOYO 133 Reviews so that you might draw some conclusions about the board overall. In addition to my experience, I received a number of emails from other SOYO 133 owners and I am including them for your information:

Email from Kevin: “What kind of problems are you having? My setup is a TNT2 Ultra Creative Labs, a Celeron 300A@533, 128mb PC133++ HSDRAM, Xitel Storm Platinum, Diamond Phoneline Ethernet, a bunch of other stuff.

If you are having problems w/ the TNT2, try completely taking everything out of the system (by the way… this is what I did). Reinstall windows and format HD; don’t load ANY drivers in the beginning except for some kind of internet device. Get the newest drivers 4-in-1 drivers from via.com.tw. Then get the latest ref. drivers.

I’ve had my share of problems w/ the board, but once it gets all fixed, there’s nothing better than this board 🙂 Although it’s caused me many reinstalls of windows and stuff, I couldn’t recommend a better motherboard now.”

Email from Matt: “I have been using this board for approximately a month and a half, the only compatibility problem I encountered was the SoundBlaster AWE64 Value. I couldn’t seem to fix it. I ended up buying a new soundcard. Needed one anyway, but that’s beside the point.”

Email from Daniel: “I have the following difficulties. (1) I have never been able to get this board to boot in the 133 range. I have PC 100 7NS RAM, a P-3 500 and a GeForce (Leadtech ). I can’t even boot beyond the 118 FSB range. With my SOYO 6BA+3 I have no problem booting to 133/33 and run completely stable but at 50C under load.

I cannot reduce the AGP Aperture to 4 or 8 MB without crashing as soon as I start a game. I can not disable AGP in DX 7 tool without crashing when interning a game. Most people seem to think this is a VIA bug. I bought this board to run my GeForce. It will not run it except at the standard speed – the slightest overclock and the GeForce won’t run games. After over a month of looking every where I’ve given up and bought a Matrox G400 single head 32 MB board which I will run on my BX board.

The folks at Entech (powerstrip) say it is a VIA problem (the not being able to reduce aperture on disable AGP in DX7 tool) Lately I’ve had terrible luck with every piece of hard ware I touch. I certainly hope your doing better.”

Email from Paul: “I have built two different systems with this board; on one I have viper 770 ultra, 128megs IBM PC133, P3 450 running at 648 stable @ 2.2 volts. I had a lot of trouble with the video I started with a Creative Labs TNT2; also I tried a V3 3000. Both of these cards ran fine on an ABIT BE6 but would freeze on this board.

The second machine has a P3 450 at 600 and 128 MB PC100 Micron. I had problems with the AGP on it also – it wouldn’t run with the Banshee card at all. Every time on the installation it would freeze installing the video driver! All of this was with Win 98 first edition!

I reformatted the first machine and installed Win 98 2nd edition and it went without any problems and has been running fine. On the 2nd machine we also installed Win 98 2nd edition but it still will not run with the Banshee card! We put an ASUS V3400 in it and it was fine.

The problems I had seem to be related to the video drivers that came on the SOYO DISK. I was installing them in turbo mode instead of standard. Also I had some problems with the sound card on one of them but now they are both running fine. I also installed some extra vxd files from cab48 on the Win98 CD to the systems dir and systemsvm32 dir.
HERE IS A LINK THAT MIGHT HELP: Speedguide.

Email from Nolan: “If the problem you are talking about includes AGP and an aperture size problem, you got it. I have a V770 Ultra. With a fresh install of Windows and everything, WITHOUT installing the drivers from the SOYO CD, AGP aperture isn’t a problem. (Make note in Quake 2, the game reports my video card to be “RIVATNT2/PCI”)

After installing the drivers from the SOYO CD, Quake 3, Half-Life, you name it, it won’t run. Quake 2 runs for about 30 seconds at the console and now says my video card is “RIVATNT2/AGP”. The only way I can get the games to work is to change the AGP aperture size to 4 or 8 megs.”

Email from Arthur: “Been using mine now for about 2 months. Used with both vba-2aa4 and 5 BIOS. I did a clean install of Win 98SE and the all VIA drivers/patches except the Busmaster drivers. I Started off with a P3-500 at 675, and a G400 (single head, 32M) which gave me no problems whatsoever. Two weeks ago I moved to a Coppermine 500E with a Soltek SL-02A+ slotket running completely stable (Prime95) at 750 MHz, 1.6V or 775, 1.7V with the retail hs/fan (you guys posted my e-mail re this success).

I now have an ASUS GeForce and the SOYO doesn’t have enough power supply to seriously overclock it. Prior to this board I was using an MSI 6163 pro (ver2) with a P3-450 running at 150 FSB. The G400 took it, but I was really uneasy with such high AGP clocks, so I went to the SOYO. I have to tell you, however, the SOYO is at least 10% slower than the MSI in such benches as Q2, Q3, Incoming, etc. Waiting for a good 133 board!”

Email from Jimmy: “I also have the same board. I was running a p3 @500 MHz on it, but after I reformatted and installed Win 98SE, Device Manager said my VIA IDE bus master controller was conflicting with my Adaptec 2940 UW PCI card due to having the same IRQ. Then when I tried to install the VIA 4-in-1 package, the install shield (I’m sorry I can’t remember the name of this process, it’s when you double click to install the 4-in-1 package) thing would load up fine, but right after that, there would be a little window popping up saying I had some kind of registry problem (I don’t remember what it said exactly) and I had to restart.

Email from Tony: “System setup:

    SOYO 6BVA133
    Retail PIII 450 clocked at 558 using Intel’s heatsink/fan
    Generic 64 PC100
    Voodoo3 2000 clocked at 159
    Toshiba 6x DVD
    IBM 15.2GB DJNA351520 UATA66 5400RPM/512K (DMA66 enabled)
    Creative Labs Ensoniq128
    Superpower Landmark KS-299XP w/250 power supply
    Super Slot Cooler under the V3 and 2 80mm case fans
    Win98 First Edition
    VIA 4 in 1 Drivers

I purchased this motherboard with hopes of overclocking my Celeron 366 to 550 using an IWILL sloket. This chip had been running 100% stable on the IWILL LE370 at FSB of 83. The 6BVA seems to be incompatible with the slocket as it would not even post at the default speed. The same cely/slocket combo is running at 550 on a friend’s ABIT BH6 so I’m assuming that the problem is with the sloket.

Since upgrading to the PIII, the motherboard has proven itself to be an outstanding overclocker. I was able to post and load windows at 558+ but was uneasy about running the cely at 50+C idle (this was after removing the stock thermal interface pad and using a silicone free heatsink compound). Using RAIN brought the temperature back down to 32C at idle but would get random lockups during loops of the 3DMark99 demo.”

Email from Kwang: “I picked up one of these mobo’s at Fry’s in Wilsonville (S. of Portland, OR). I used it with a C400 on an AOpen Slotket and 64MB Siemens RAM and a Stealth540 32MB graphics card. It was great to have intermediate bus speeds between 83 and 100, but after a day of using it on Win98, it wouldn’t boot. I kept getting a 3-beep error – manual was pretty sparse.

I tested all the parts on my other boxes and they checked out fine. I tried the mobo on another box — same deal. I brought it back to Fry’s and they booted it up no problem. While I was browsing in the mobo section, I talked to another guy who had the exact same problem…after talking with him for awhile, we both determined that the only common denominator was the Enlight 7237 case. I don’t know if that’s what caused the issue, but judging on how many of the SOYO 6VBA-133’s at Fry’s had “return” stickers
I imagine it’s one of several issues this mobo presents to customers.

I ended up getting an IWILL VD-133 (unfortunate name, eh?) and it worked fine…no bus settings between 83 and 100 MHz however. :-(”

Email from Barry: “I have an SVBA-133 with PIII 450 (SL37C) overclocked to 600 with Intel H/S and fan, Crucial 128M PC133 SDRAM, IBM GXP 14 HD, 3dfx Voodoo3000 oc’d to 175MHz, Diamond MX300 sound, ZIP100 internal, TEAC 32X CD-ROM, Yahama 4416E CD-RW and USR/3COM 56K Internal WinModem.

No compatibility issues except for the VIA PCI Bus-Master Drivers from VIA. System will not boot with the new (Nov 99) drivers from VIA but works fine with MS drivers. All hardware is OK. Heat is no problem when using RAIN or CPUIdle (28-30C idle and 41C full load.)

I have benchmarked system with several tools and have the following results: Norton System Benchmark 286 (had to 320 once?), SANDRA
CPU Benchmark 1650 FPU 1180, SANDRA HD Benchmark 11500 (smoking), SANDRA Memory Benchmark only 1065 but have heard memory system is slower than BX with VIA Chipset. Oh yea, using 2.1 volts to CPU and system gets a high 6 mark using Stability test. Most of my problems have been with Windows 98 VXD faults but most have disappeared since using VXD_FIX.”

Email from Brian: “I’ve had some problems with the board that have yet to be resolved. First off is the poor performance compared to a BX board, sometimes as much as 10% difference; however I think this is somewhat well known.

Winamp plugins continue to be a terrible performer, a PIII@650 with the SOYO gets beat by a Celeron@333 on a BX board. I also have compatibility issues with my ATI TV
Wonder card. The video is very grainy and the sound no longer works. This card works like a charm in my ABIT BX6 R2. Neither SOYO nor ATI has come up with a decent solution to the problem.

It’s a shame that this board suffers some of the problems it does, it is extremely stable (runs up to 150 FSB without any problems). Some of the features it includes are life and wallet savers – running the memory at FSB-PCI and 1/2 AGP divider.”

SUMMARY

The VIA chipset looks like a booby trap waiting to spring on unsuspecting users. If you get problems and can work around them, this is a good board to run with 133 MHz CPUs. However, whether you can get around the problems is uncertain. If you’re not in a hurry, I would hang loose until the air clears.

PS: Just as a side note, I could not get SOFT FSB to work on this board. At first Motherboard Monitor did not work, but after reinstalling it is OK.

SOYO 6VBA 133 Reviews

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