Features of the SL-87CW-EL
- Package and Contents
As always we take our first look at the Package and Contents that Soltek provide with their budget I875P motherboard. To save extra dollars, Soltek uses the same pink box for both its Canterwood and Springdale motherboards which cuts down the costs of needing a new design for each motherboard.
The model name and number is placed on the side with a sticker, this is all that changes. Inside the box you will find that only the basics are included with very little frills. You get your motherboard, two user manuals (one for your motherboard, one for the Promise Serial ATA RAID controller), two IDE and one FDD cables, two Serial ATA cables, Serial ATA HDD power cable, I/O panel and driver CD and disks for installation of Windows.
- Layout - High's and Low's
Now we take a look at the motherboard itself. This is a first for me - a purple PCB. Soltek uses a standard sized PCB which is used for both the Canterwood and Springdale motherboards which eliminates the costs of having to design two separate PCB's. Soltek uses a single AGP slot that supports 4x and 8x transfer rates as well as five PCI slots, all of which are also coloured purple.
Layout wise, you get the good and the bad. The placement of the 20 pin power connector is located behind the DIMM sockets, which keeps the cables out of the way of the CPU and allows for better air flow within the case. The 4 pin power connector is located between the DIMM sockets and the CPU retention mechanism. While this isn't the best place to have the connector, we have seen worse. The floppy disk connector is placed behind the DIMM slots as well with the IDE ports located below the DIMM sockets.
In all we don't have too much to complain about. While most motherboards now come with colour coded DIMM sockets, Soltek has four DIMMs all coloured in purple. This can make finding Channel A and B a bit harder, however, Soltek prints the configurations for matching the channels up right near DIMM 1.
As mentioned this baby is powered by the Intel I875P Canterwood chipset. This chipset is aimed more at high-end desktops and entry level workstations; this hasn't stoped Soltek who have taken on the challenge to bring Canterwood to value customers. The Northbridge is covered by a passive heatsink which is more than sufficient for a value system. This also minimises fan noise within the case. The Southbridge used is the ICH5 Southbridge. While we are accustomed to seeing the I875P paired with the ICH5R, to save on costs Soltek has cut down on the extra feature, however, you still get the ICH5 Serial ATA ports.
Soltek hasn't excluded the users out there who prefer Firewire to USB. The Agree 3 port Firewire PCI chip has been added to give Firewire compatibility.
It isn't a Canterwood based motherboard without the Gigabit Ethernet controller. Soltek haven't skimped on this either. The Intel CSA Pro1000CT Ethernet controller is included for fast Ethernet and future support for Gigabit Networks which is a giant plus.
While the motherboard lacks Native Serial ATA RAID support, Soltek has given an auxiliary option. The Promise SATA PCI controller chip has been added to give two extra Serial ATA and one extra Parallel ATA ports. These ports support RAID 0, 1, 0+1 and JBOD.
Soltek motherboards, while supporting overclocking features, haven't been in the past the world's best at overclocking. Soltek has been working on this as of late to try and push even more power out of even their budget motherboards.
The 87CW-EL uses an Award BIOS setup, with all the overclocking features located under the Frequency/Voltage Control menu. Under here you can adjust FSB speed, AGP/PCI Bus speed, DRAM voltage, CPU voltage and DRAM memory dividers.
First off your FSB selections are from 100MHz up to 300MHz in 1MHz increments. Today we are expecting a greater FSB range then 300MHz as new 2.4C CPU's coming from Intel are able to push extreme bus speeds.
CPU voltage is next: Your options are from 1.5v up to 1.7v in 0.025v increments. We would have liked to see the maximum of 1.75v for the CPU to squeeze the most out of the Northwood CPU's.
DRAM voltage is the last voltage selection you can have with a voltage range of 2.5v up to 2.8v. This is pretty much the maximum you want to run memory without ram sinks or heat spreaders.
Being a Canterwood motherboard, you are able to lock the PCI/AGP ratio to 33/66MHz, respectively. This keeps the AGP and PCI buses at their default speeds and eliminates the AGP and PCI devices being the bottleneck for overclocking like we have seen in the past.
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