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Soyo P4S 645DX Dragon Ultra Motherboard Review

By: Cameron Johnson | Editorials in Motherboards | Posted: May 28, 2002 4:00 am
TweakTown Rating: 8.5%Manufacturer: SOYO






Soyo have laid the board out in the traditional overclockers and hardcore users style of 1/6/0 (AGP/PCI/Riser) configuration. Soyo are known for making their boards as pleasing to the eye as possible. This board is no exception. The PCB is a dark brown and the PCI slots are purple in color, pretty catchy.


SiS 645DX, 533FSB for Pentium 4 Continues





Intel aren't the only company to have chipsets out for 533FSB P4's. While SiS 645 could do 533FSB without any problems, it wasn't officially sanctioned by SiS or Intel for 533FSB operations. SiS released its new version of the 645 chipset and gave it a new name, the 645DX. This new northbridge supports official 533FSB and a newer, much improved SDRAM controller than the original SiS 645 chipset.


While SiS stated that the 645DX is normally accompanied by the 961B or 962 southbridge, Soyo have only coupled it with the old 961 southbridge. While this Southbridge is very good, it lacks the ATA-133 support of the 961B or the USB 2.0 host controller built in like the 962 features. Soyo have cooled the chip with an active cooling solution, this helps when pushing this chip up to insane speeds.


Highpoint Raid



A hardcore motherboard wouldn't be the same without a RAID controller. Soyo have added my personal favorite, the Highpoint HPT372 controller chip. This chip in my opinion seriously out powers AMI or Promise RAID controllers in compatibility, since you can run it in RAID and ATA mode at the same time without having to load different BIOS for the controller.


Hardware 6 Channel Audio




While adding an AC'97 audio controller might be the cheaper way of going about sound, it certainly is the most loathed way. Soyo avoids this dilemma by adding C-Media's CMI8738 audio controller chip. This baby has proven to be one of the best value end audio solutions that is hardware driven. Not only hardware driven, it has 6 channel support - That's right, you can run your 5.2 speakers off this baby and still get exceptional audio quality.


Soyo also includes and expansion bracket for the sound. This riser allows you to have Optical in and out as well as Coaxial in and out on the Digital band. Also included are 2 x 3.5mm stereo jacks for the rear speakers and the center and sub, no need to give up the mic and line in port on the back of the motherboard.


Options and Extras



Soyo includes as standard a special EZ Box for the P4S Dragon series boards. This bay has four USB ports rated for 2.0 operations, a USB LED and a LAN led. These USB ports can be hooked up to the two extra headers on the boards for the SiS 7001 USB controllers which are built into the southbridge or connected up to an Option USB 2.0 PCI card that is supplied with the Ultra only versions of this board. The USB LED lets you know when the USB ports have power, and when it goes off, you know your USB devices have gone over the 500mA supplied to the USB ports.


The LAN LED is for detecting network connection. The board is equipped with a SiS 900 series LAN controller that is built into the Southbridge and has a 2 pin header behind the audio ports for the LAN LED cable. When the Network cable is plugged in and a connection is established with the hub, the LED lights up to let you know there is a connection. Much better than having to look all the way around the back of the case.




As mentioned, with the Ultra version you get USB 2.0 controller provided by an external PCI card. This card is powered by the VIA USB 2.0 controller chip and has two headers for connection to the EZ box.




The overclocking of this board is not all that we hoped for. While all the options are there, you just can't get it out of the board.


Soyo, like many others, have added their own sub menu to the Award BIOS called "Soyo Combo". It is in here you will find all the overclocking options for your board.


First off you get your System Bus settings. You can change the Front Side Bus from 100Mhz up to 200Mhz in 1MHz increments - A very handy overclocking option indeed.


Next you get your AGP speed. Depending on what speed your FSB is doing you can set your AGP speed to either 1/2, 2/3 or 1/1. This allows you to adjust your AGP speed slower to when overclocking.


Next is PCI speeds. Same as AGP, you get your PCI dividers to play with to try and keep the PCI bus in specs.


After playing with the bus speeds you get your voltages, first on the list is the Vcore. You can set your Vcore from 1.1v up to 1.85v. We noticed that when using Northwood CPU's, if we set the Vcore above 1.8v the system would no post and simply shut down. This is supposed to be fixed with new BIOS.


Next on the voltage list you get your AGP voltage control. Here you can set your AGP voltage from 1.5v up to 1.78v in 0.002v increments, very weird settings indeed.


Last of the voltage settings is the VDIMM, here you can set the voltage supplied to the DRAM from 2.5v up to 2.78v in 0.002v increments.


This is the last of the real overclocking settings, after this you have your memory tweaks and control for enabling/disabling the onboard devices.


During our testing we used both a Northwood 2.4Ghz on 533FSB and 400FSB to do overclocking tests, as they are unlocked and allow for up to 3Ghz before they begin to phase out


We could only manage to run the FSB at 125Mhz when using 400Mhz FSB chips and 152Mhz FSB when running 533FSB chips. While this achievement is ok, we have seen boards doing a lot better. When going higher than the bus speeds we indicated, the board would freeze and fail to post.


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