Lately here at TweakTown we have been focusing on a lot of Intel Core 2 based hardware, simply because this is what the community has been all a buzz about, but we can't forget about the other side of the coin, AMD.
AMD has finally had to take a back seat to Intel since Core 2 made its presence felt, but that doesn't mean AMD is out of the game, far from it. Boards for this CPU are plentiful with chipsets from both nVidia and ATI / AMD flooding the market.
Its also been some time since we have seen a motherboard in our labs from EPoX. This company really made a name for itself when Socket A was the big thing with boards that packed features and overclocking into a affordable package, proving you don't have to spend the earth in order to get a good board.
Today from EPoX we have our first board in quite some time. Designated the MF570 SLI, it makes use of nVidia's nForce 570 SLI chipset, how does it stack up? Come find out.
Specifications of the MF570 SLI
Supports AMD Athlon 64 AM2 Series
Supports AMD Athlon 64 X2 AM2 Series
Supports AMD Athlon 64 FX AM2 Series
Supports AMD Sempron 64 AM2 Series
nVidia nForce 570 SLI
Single Chip 570SLI MCP
Hyper Transport link to CPU @ 2000MT/s
4 DDR2 SDRAM 240pin DIMM Sockets
128Bit Dual Channel
Supports up to 4GB Total Memory (4x 1GB)
Hyper Transport Interconnect
2 PCI Express x16
2 PCI Express x1
2 Parallel ATA ports supporting 2 IDE Drives
8 Serial ATA ports
2 Gigabit Ethernet Ports
1 PS2 Keyboard Port
1 PS2 Mouse Port
10 USB 2.0 Ports (4 rear accessible, 6 via expansion bracket)
5 Stereo Audio Ports
1 SPDIF RCA Port
1 Toslink SPDIF Port
Package and Contents
Inside the Box
As always we start off at the packaging and what your dollar gets you in terms of the little extras. Some boards are all flash and no pash. Some are bare as a new borns bum but pack a real punch. EPoX has used its new white box scheme with the logo and name on the front.
The back of the box is a bit of a different story. EPoX has gone all out to give you a bit of an explanation of the features as well as a full colour photo of the board so there is no doubt on what you are getting.
Documentation that comes with the board is exemplary. There are two manuals. The first is a bright coloured System Installation manual that gives you in very basic terms the layout of the board and how to get it into your chassis as well as getting it running with LED and switch headers. The second manual is a full detailed setup of the board explaining its features as well as BIOS settings and software settings.
There is only a single included CD with the board that includes all the drivers and software for installing Windows as well as some applications that some may find helpful after you manage to get Windows running. Unfortunately no floppy is included for the F6 Windows XP drivers. For this you need to boot from the CD and follow the prompts to make your own floppy for this operation, which is quite annoying.
The cable set that comes with this board is pretty basic. You get a total of 4 out of 8 SATA data cables. These aren't even the ones that lock into the board, so there is the chance these can come loose in transit if you move your PC around a lot. For the parallel cables there is 1 out of 2 IDE and 1 of 1 FDD cables. If you want to make use of the rest of the SATA and PATA ports, you will need to purchase an extra IDE cable and 4 SATA cables. This is not the best move considering most of us now run 4 or more drives when running RAID.
EPoX has thermal management in mind with this board. A set of 8 alloy heatsinks with double sided tape are included to go onto the Mosfets to keep them running nice and cool when under load. A red thermistor is included with some backing tape that you can place on another component in the system. Best place is either RAM or the VGA card, allowing you to monitor the temp of any other device you see fit.
Since the nVidia chipset supports a total of 10 USB ports and only 4 are on the rear I/O plane, there are 3 extra headers in the system for USB ports. Most cases now come with front access USB. EPoX gives a 2 port USB header that slips into a spare PCI expansion cover, leaving you with 1 extra header inside the system unused.
On the rear I/O shield there is a small 40mm fan port that you can screw the supplied 40mm fan into, this can be set to exhaust or intake, depending on what you think is best. As for the SLI factor, EPoX includes a PCB based SLI connector for your GeForce graphics cards.
EPoX MF570 SLI in Detail
Now its down to the board. EPoX has gone for a full ATX 24x30 layout that is so popular today for enthusiast boards, however, the layout could have been completed with a little more thought.
EPoX has placed both the 24-pin and the 4-pin power connectors on the left hand side of the board - the 4-pin is behind the PS/2 tower and the 24-pin just above the PCI Express x16 slot and these are not the most ideal locations.
One of the 2 IDE ports are located behind the DDR-2 memory slots, this is the one controlled by the nForce chipset. The second IDE port is placed down at the bottom right of the board with the FDD port. Again the FDD port could have had better placement.
Another sour note is the SATA ports. 99% of boards coming out use SATA 2.5 ports that lock the cable into the port to prevent them falling out during transit, this board uses the older SATA ports that are prone to have the cable come loose or even snap if a little too much stress is placed on them. What were you thinking EPoX?
EPoX has done a good job around the CPU. It is clean and will facilitate large after market heatsinks as well as water cooling setups. The CPU gets a 4 phase Digital Voltage Regulation system to provide stable power when overclocked and under stress.
The rear I/O has a large hole in the middle of the ports. This is where the fan that we spoke of earlier sits. You can have it sucking air into the case or blowing out depending on how you like it. The rest of the ports are pretty standard. There are no Serial or Parallel ports on this board and for your digital audio, you get a RCA and a Toslink SPDIF out port.
EPoX has a good expansion setup for this board. There are 2 PCI Express x16 slots for running SLI graphics. Being based on the nForce 570 chipset means that if you use 2 graphics cards, both slots slow down to x8 (not full speed slots) however this is more then enough to run today's SLI setups. If you want to run a couple GeForce 7950GX2 cards on this board, however, you can't as they need full speed slots.
Between the 2 PCI Express x16 slots are 2 PCI Express x1 slots for additional peripherals. We would have preferred to see a x4 slot or a universal slot to allow larger speed SATA RAID controllers. Lastly are 3 PCI slots for legacy cards like sound and TV tuners.
Lastly we get to the additional features that EPoX add to the board. To give an extra IDE and 2 extra SATA ports, the JMicron PCI Express chip has been added, as we have seen popping up on many Intel ICH8R based boards.
BIOS and Overclocking
The EPoX MF570 SLI uses a standard version 6 Award Modular BIOS that resembles just about every other board out there. This tends to be a good thing as making changes are universal and you don't have to learn a new setup each time.
To overclock your board, you will find the features you need under the Power BIOS Features Menu.
The overclocking features of the board are simple and easy to operate, there aren't that many compared to other boards out there but the ranges you get to change are pretty good:
CPU Frequency: 200MHz to 450MHz in 1MHz increments
PCIE Clock: 100MHz to 145MHz in 1MHz increments
CPU Voltage: -0.2 to +0.35v in 0.025v increments
Chipset Voltage: 1.5v to 1.8v in 0.1v increments
HT Voltage: 1.2v to 1.5v in 0.1v increments
Under the advanced chipset features are the DRAM controls and voltages. DRAM voltage can be set from 1.8v to 2.2v in 0.1v increments.
We managed a FSB of 350MHz with this board, not the greatest but certainly not the worst. We used our CPU at default voltage, DRAM was at 2.2v, chipset voltage at 1.7v, HT voltage at 1.5v. We used a 6x Multiplier in our overclocking tests.
Important Editor Note: Our maximum overclocking result is the best result we managed in our limited time testing the motherboard. Due to time constraints we don't have enough time to tweak the motherboard to the maximum and find the highest possible FSB as this could take days to properly find. We do however spend at least a few hours overclocking every motherboard to try and find the highest possible overclock in that time frame. You may or may not be able to overclock higher if you spend more time tweaking or as new BIOS updates are released or "burn in" time might come into play if you believe in that.
Benchmarks - Test System and Sandra
Test System Setup
Processor: AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ AM2
Memory: 2x 1GB DDR2-1066 Corsair (Supplied by Corsair)
Hard Disk: 500GB Seagate 7200.9 SATA (Supplied by Seagate)
Graphics Card: MSI Radeon X1950 Pro
Cooling: Gigabyte K8 Neon (Supplied by Gigabyte)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows XP SP2
Drivers: nForce Platform Driver 9.16, ATI Catalyst 6.11 and DX 9c
We put the EPoX MF570 SLI against our MSI K9N SLI Platinum based on the same chipset just to see what is available from this board.
The EPoX board was running at default clock speeds and overclocked speeds. The OC speed was 2100MHz (350MHz FSB x 6) and the MSI board OC was 2112MHz (352MHz FSB x 6).
Let's conitnue on and see how the EPoX board is able to perform against the MSI board that we have already established as a solid product.
Version and / or Patch Used: 2007
Developer Homepage: http://www.sisoftware.co.uk
Product Homepage: http://sisoftware.jaggedonline.com/index.php?location=home&a=TTA&lang=en
Buy It Here
SiSoft Sandra (System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is a synthetic Windows benchmark that features different tests used to evaluate different PC subsystems.
EPoX at stock speed is able to just outscore the MSI board, quite possibly due to a few extra tweaks to its BIOS and memory settings. At overclocked speeds the MSI is just in front but only just.
Benchmarks - PCMark
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.2.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/pcmark04/
Buy It Here
PCMark is a multipurpose benchmark, suited for benchmarking all kinds of PCs, from laptops to workstations, as well as across multiple Windows operating systems. This easy-to-use benchmark makes professional strength benchmarking software available even to novice users. PCMark consists of a series of tests that represent common tasks in home and office programs. PCMark also covers many additional areas outside the scope of other MadOnion.com benchmarks.
Memory performance resembles that of Sandra with the EPoX just the tiniest bit in front at stock but falling behind at overclocked.
Benchmarks - 3DMark06
Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/
Buy It Here
3DMark06 is the very latest version of the "Gamers Benchmark" from FutureMark. The newest version of 3DMark expands on the tests in 3DMark05 by adding graphical effects using Shader Model 3.0 and HDR (High Dynamic Range lighting) which will push even the best DX9 graphics cards to the extremes.
3DMark06 also focuses on not just the GPU but the CPU using the AGEIA PhysX software physics library to effectively test single and Dual Core processors.
With the latest patch installed we see both boards perform equally in overclocked and stock.
Benchmarks - PREY
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.2
Timedemo or Level Used: Hardware OC Timedemo
Developer Homepage: http://www.humanhead.com
Product Homepage: http://www.prey.com
Buy It Here
PREY is one of the newest games to be added to our benchmark line-up. It is based off the Doom 3 engine and offers stunning graphics passing what we've seen in Quake 4 and does put quite a lot of strain on our test systems.
PREY just puts the EPoX in front at stock but equals both out at overclocked speeds.
Benchmarks - F.E.A.R.
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.08
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.vugames.com
Product Homepage: http://www.whatisfear.com/us/
Buy It Here
F.E.A.R. (First Encounter Assault Recon) is an intense combat experience with rich atmosphere and a deeply intense paranormal storyline presented entirely in first person. Be the hero in your own spine-tingling epic of action, tension, and terror...and discover the true meaning of F.E.A.R.
F.E.A.R. relies on the 3D system more than the CPU and memory. This puts the 2 boards neck and neck again.
Benchmarks - Far Cry
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.3
Timedemo or Level Used: Benchemall Default
Developer Homepage: http://www.crytek.com
Product Homepage: http://www.farcrygame.com
Buy It Here
While Far Cry is now one of our older benchmarking games, it is still able to put pressure on most computers systems as it is able to utilize all parts of the system. Utilizing PS2.0 technology with the latest versions supporting Shader Model 3.0 with DX9c and offering an exceptional visual experience, there is no denying that even some of the faster graphics cards get a bit of a workout.
Far Cry also puts boths boards on level ground.
While EPoX has been out of our labs for a bit, its clear that they haven't moved much beyond the boards they have been producing in the past. While good, they aren't what we would call super enthusiast.
First off the layout was not what we hoped for with cable connectors being placed in ridiculous places on the board, requiring extensive routing of bulky cables past heat critical components like the CPU. The use of the older SATA data ports also put a sour taste in our mouth. While they work, they do cause more problems than the latest version ports.
That said the performance was good, in fact it managed to just keep ahead of the MSI board when running stock speeds using our Radeon X1950 Pro, however, looking at some of the retail prices of the board, its more expensive than the MSI board and doesn't come with the Firewire features that the MSI board comes with.
Overall this board would be good if the price was cheaper than the MSI, since it comes in almost $20 higher, its hard to go past the MSI K9N SLI Platinum over this board. The EPoX MF570 SLI is not so much a bad product but it misses the mark in a few areas.
Fast stock speeds
Extra cooling features
Use of old Gen 1 SATA data ports
Placement of FDD and power connectors
Higher price tag then the MSI K9N SLI
- Latest Pricing
Rating - 7 out of 10
PRICING: You can find products similar to this one for sale below.
United States: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com
United Kingdom: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.co.uk
Australia: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com.au
Canada: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.ca
Deutschland: Finde andere Technik- und Computerprodukte wie dieses auf Amazon.de