NOTE: SOYO makes two versions of this board; the 6VCA is Slot 1 and the 7VCA is Socket 370.
Joe on the 6VCA
SUMMARY: Finally – a VIA board that rivals BX performance!
I’ve been looking at some of the VIA boards and found most of them lacking in one way or another. Of the boards I have evaluated, the SOYO 6VCA stands out so far as one of the best. I plan to do a head-to-head against the ASUS P3V4X soon, so for now we’ll take a closer look at the SOYO.
I have had great success with the SOYO +IV and expected good things from the 6VCA. I found this board very easy to set up with no VIA compatibility issues I had with others. The paper manual is minimalist at best but adequate to get you up and running. It comes with the usual stuff (ATA66 cable, floppy cable, driver disk) as well as a Symantec CD that contains Norton AntiVirus, Ghost and Virtual Drive (a CD Drive emulator). The first two are of real value, especially Ghost – I use this continually to copy drives and it’s a great program.
SOYO loaded the board with a nice selection of FSBs:
The PLL chip is ICS 9248-98; I hope H. Oda’s will develop a plug-in for SOFT FSB, but so far no go (ICS documentation). For CeleMines and CuMine Es, the FSB selection is a good one. For top performance, you MUST update your BIOS to the latest one – 6vca2aa3.bin – available from SOYO Taiwan. The enables 2- and 4-way memory interleaving which leads to substantially increased memory bandwidth performance (Go HERE for detailed comparisons). This tweak increases bandwidth by 22%-23% over the original BIOS.
One of the annoyances with many motherboards is the lack of real estate between the CPU and DIMM sockets. Thankfully, the 6VCA is large enough so that an ALPHA PEP66 on an ABIT Slotket !!! finds enough clearance so all 3 DIMM sockets are free. In addition, the power and drive sockets are well placed, away from the CPU slot and easy to access (pic below); compare this to the absolutely awful Gigabyte GA-6VX-4X. I also like the AMR slot – I don’t feel so bad when I block this useless appendage with an add-on cooling fan for my AGP cards as opposed to a PCI slot.
Minor quibbles: You can not remove SDRAM modules with an AGP card in place. I would have liked more than two fan headers.
To the good stuff:
First off, with the new BIOS and 4-way interleaving enabled with a PIII 600E @ 133 MHz, SiSandra memory bandwidth came in at 388/436 with PC133 7.5 ns; with EHSDRAM at 7.0 ns, this climbed to 396/460. Compared to my SOYO +IV (BX) at 415/462 (7.5 ns), I would say the SOYO does a very nice job. Note that the shipping BIOS came in at 316/361, so SOYO’s tweaks are well done. Finally – VIA performance at BX levels!
Second – Overclocking: I ran the board routinely at 133 MHz (800 MHz CPU), 1.7 volts, absolutely no problems. The PEP66 is a fine heatsink and kept the PIII 600E at ambient + 3-7 C, depending on load. I did a lot of testing with WPCREDIT on this board without a hiccup.
However, as I overclocked to 6 x 138, I did find that Micron SDRAM would not survive Prime95 very long – less than one minute. No crash, just PRIME95 failure. I had no such problem with EHSDRAM – with 128 MB of 7.0 ns, I could run at 828 MHz (1.72 volts) no problems (see pic below). However, I could not get into W98SE over 138 MHz – for this chip, it’s about the best it will do.
You know the issue – BX boards are not AGP friendly beyond 100 MHz, VIA is. With performance comparable to BX, the SOYO 6VCA is worth serious consideration. I will be looking at the ASUS P3V4X also, but Dan Edgar and Skip have used it and like it very much. I think at least now we have two VIA motherboards that can hold their own against the venerable BX chipset; well done VIA, ASUS and SOYO! Chipzilla – get your act together.
Skip on the 7VCA
Had a chance to look at one of these boards thanks to Humphrey at PCNut. I’ve been looking for a good VIA chipset board to build myself a FC-PGA system. I have tried numerous boards and have not been very impressed with any of them. I’ve had a Soyo SY6VBA-133, Abit VA6, Epox 6VBA2 and an Asus P3V4X. The best one of the bunch so far was the Asus.
When Humphrey asked if I wanted to try one out, I said ‘Sure” because I have been very impressed with Soyo Boards lately. The SY7VCA board is a Socket type board so you don’t have the added expense of the Slot 1 converter. The board is laid out pretty good and construction is normal of the other Soyo boards…. Superb!
Installation of the board in my test system was easy. A fresh install of Win 98 SE and all the proper drivers and I was off! Installed my PIII 550E which to this point have only been able to run at 770 (140 x 5.5). The Soyo has bus speeds all the way to 200 so I was hoping for a bit more out of the CuMine. Set the Bus speed at 155 and the Vcore at +10% and to my surprise, booted into Windows at 852! Figured Hmmm, let’s go for a little bit more so set it at 160 and let ‘er rip. 880 into Windows! I was impressed. Fired up Quake III Demo loop for some stability tests and damn, hard lock after about 5 Minutes. So I backed it down to 852 and hard lock after about 7 minutes. Finally was able to achieve stability at 825 which is far more than this chip has ever seen.
Only had this board on the bench for a couple of hours so didn’t have time to do any thorough testing or benchmarks. I have another one on the way and hopefully will have it by the weekend at which time I will update this review with some more specifics. All in all I’m very impressed with the Soyo SY7VCA and I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of another one to really put it through some intense testing. I really think Soyo has a winner on it’s hands and we should see great things from this board as it matures.
PCNut will have a shipment of these boards in tomorrow along with it’s Sister board, the SY 6VCA (Slot 1). Better grab one while you can!
This review and comments are just my personal observations and opinion. As with any products and services, please research thoroughly before making any purchases. The reviewer and overclockers.com shall not and will not be held liable for any damages cause by products reviewed in this article.
Some of you that have come to know a bit about me from the forum or my occasional attempts to record my experiences, realize I’m a bit prone to error. Usually it is my self that goes though an extended period of stress and something akin to the daring and despair of the explorer.
While even at my level of incompetence, this can hardly be considered a dangerous undertaking. I am however mindful of the fanatical repercussions of failure. A guy could go broke doing this “stuff”!
So as we all know it’s never easy choosing a new mother board. So many things can go wrong! Incompatibilities loom before every choice. “It would have been GREAT if only…” I’ve been both lucky and fortunate with my Asus P3V4X. I have had little cause to complain and much to praise with this “Mother of all VIA boards”; Asus was, to my mind, first to get it right.
With ENHANCED or VCRAM we VIA people at last were able to stop apologizing and stumble proudly through the forum where BX’ers often lay in wait, with their 1000 Megahertz of super-cooled and condescending smiles. O}.
But I needed to build a second box, a test bed I could use to swap parts in and experiment (mess around) with so that crashes would not keep me off the net and out of the forum (BTW: I lost about 30 E-mails Saturday night (5/15), So I you haven’t gotten a answer, PLEASE resend to me).
What kind of Overclocker would I be simply to buy a second Asus? Yeah, OK, a happy one, but perversely “Where’s the fun in that?”
I couldn’t, I mean I really could not go back to a BX board. I could never find another forum I’d be half as happy with; I’d miss those “Gigahertz smiles”.
So another VIA board. I clicked on PC Nut banner and went to see my pal Humphrey. There it was! The Soyo 7VCA VIA motherboard – I bought one! I waited; it arrived; I built my new box.
Intel had just come through with a replacement 500 E chip. I salvaged a few parts from….well, from my wife’s computer. And I bought another Eagle case locally.
This new 370 VIA! I had hoped to put it in my “main box” with my 650E. But with limited V-core settings that maxed out at ten percent, I was stuck at 780 MHz whereas my PC Nut supplied Asus cooked at 877 MHz at 1.95 V-core setting. I know what your thinking! he’s gonna’ burn his toes off! But the truth is that even at this setting, my little 650 E never really breaks a sweat! She Idles at 20-23C case and 22-24C CPU, room temp 68F.
But in truth she’s NEVER IDLE! Under 100% Seti load she perks up to 21C case temp and 35C Average CPU. Remember that’s in Asus speak, a measurement that’s reliably 7 to 10 C higher than the temps we normally record. So no way was I going to put my 650E in the same Box with my new Soyo 7VCA.
Well my 500E still needs a place to float its points and search for ET among the stars. Remember the “despair of the explorer”?
My memory scores fell to their knees, where they found me close to sobbing! What good was 775 MHz at default V-core if ram took dive.
Then Joe went and published an article all about how what a great BIOS update he’d just installed on his Soyo 6VCA. Scores that have left BX’ers crying right along side me!
It must have taken me two days before I thought “I wonder if Soyo is going to implement 4 way memory interleave on the 7VCA”? Like I said, I’m a bit prone to error. There it was, sitting there 5 whole days before I found it. Did it help? You betcha!
500E @ 500 MHz V-core 1.67 (default) +33 Host Clock
500E @ 750 MHz V-core 1.67 (default) Host Clock
500E @ 830 MHZ V-core 1.67 (default) -33 Host Clock, SDRAM Cycle Length 3
500E @ 830 MHZ V-core 1.67 (Default -33 Host Clock, SDRAM Cycle Length 2
500E @ 830 MHZ V-core 1.73 (4.5%) -33 Host Clock, SDRAM Cycle Length 2
500E @ 830 MHz V-core 1.79 (10%) -33 Clock Host, SDRAM Cycle Length 2
It’s pretty obvious that HSDRAM performs best when run at 150 FSB speed. I found that a slight increase in V-core gave me great stability and a slight increase in memory speed. As I write this, Seti has run for 6 hours without a hitch. My board does have a problem shutting down Windows 98 SE properly.
My previous 550E chip topped out at 750 MHz with 100% stability on my Asus. Rumor has it that Soyo is thinking about increasing the number of V-core settings. This would be quite beneficial to people with stubborn 650 E chips and of course the ever present and pleasant Celery people.
All of this hasn’t come at a price – neither the 6 or 7VCA will run VCRAM!!! Having just dropped $300.00 on the stuff, I’m quite a bit less than thrilled, especially considering that the 7VCA states right in it’s flimsy and anemic manual that it DOES support VCRAM.
The 6VCA will run if the “Bank Interleave” is turned off or sometimes at the X2 setting, but only about as well as say, a BX board with PC 100 ram. The 7VCA won’t boot at ANY setting I’ve been able to find.
Each of these boards has a few annoying aspects: The silly and inconvenient placing of the “A” drive IDE next to the PCI slots and then turned sideways. The fact that the 6VCA uses jumpers to set its V-core voltage when, as it uses a slotket with presumably its own V-core settings, is stupid.
Whereas the 7VCA which is, of course, a 370 board without external means of V-core manipulation, this limits you to +10% with no negative values to under-volt the V-core. In addition, not shutting down: Both boards often have to be booted twice to gain Windows, something I’ve encountered with my Asus VIA board.
One last stupidity: The RAM slots are located where you have to remove a long AGP card, such as a G400 to access the Rams.
So why have I changed my mind about selling it? There’s this: I installed Unreal Tournament and then turned on Seti. I played for over an hour. A few visual distortions when things got moving fast and loose, but my chip, board and G400 hung in there! No crashes, no lock-ups, no bouncing bask to the desk top. “I’m sorry, did I blow your head apart” “:O}. After all that, Seti still locks up on me! Could it be that I’ve been swapping the 6 and 7 motherboards back and forth without the 3 “R”s; Repartition, Reformat, Reinstall?
When all is said and done, I give this board 4 1/2 out of 5 stars and a full moon; we’re coming to get ya’ ET, we’re gonna’ find ya!
Next week I’ll relate my experience with my “other problem child” the 6VCA. The following week I hope to hazard a “My Best BIOS settings” – got any good ones, let me know.
I bought and paid for this board myself, but I’d like to thank Humphrey at PC Nut for being there, for knowing what’s good, often having it first and not overcharging when he does.
I was running a P3 450 on an Abit BX6-2 overclocked to 580mhz. Unfortunately, that was as fast as I could push that chip; originally I thought it was because my PC100 RAM couldn’t take anymore.
Anyhow, my chip decided to die on me about a week ago so I went to my local computer dealer and bought a P3 550E, but at the time my dealer only had a generic slocket. So I installed it and, of course, pushed it as far as it could go and I ended up getting it stable at 733 MHz. So now I knew my RAM was able to handle 133 MHz with a CAS 3 setting.
Well, I had a feeling it could do more so I headed over to PC Nut and ordered a Soyo SY-7VCA motherboard and a GlobalWin heatsink. They arrived two days ago and I immediately installed them.
I started out by setting the RAM clock to the -33 MHz setting as this board uses the VIA chipset. And I started overclocking the CPU as far as it would go now that the RAM was not a limiting factor. Anyhow I ended up getting it stable at 825 MHz with a 150 MHz FSB. I knew the CPU had more in it. This chip and board are amazing, that is a 50% overclock like my old Celeron 300A – and this speed was obtained at only 1.65 volts from a FC-PGA chip.
Now the thing that really amazed me, I got brave and decided to see what would happen if I were to set the RAM to the normal setting and try running it at 150 MHz. And to my amazement it worked with out a hitch – my generic 128 MB stick of PC100 RAM ran fine at 150 MHz (with a CAS 3 setting of course).
Well this board surprised me to say the least; it is by far the most stable board I have ever had the pleasure of using, plus this is my first Soyo board.
One more thing: When I first heard of this board, I heard a lot of stuff about the VIA chipset being slower than the BX chipset, especially with memory. This is another area where the board surprised me. Running VIA’s 4.22 drivers and tweaking my memory settings got me performance comparable to a BX board, according to SiSoft Sandra (see pic below).
And after I overclocked, I even beat an Athlon system, according to SiSoft Sandra (I know – not the same bus speed).
Well, This is only my personal experience so take it as you will, but I would have no problem recommending this board to anyone who wants to use a FC-PGA processor without having to use a slocket. On a side note I believe some of the reason I was able to get to 825 MHz was because there is not as much interference as I got using the slocket.