Soltek SL-87CW-EL Motherboard - Canterwood on a budget

Soltek are a company who are known for producing many different value-end motherboards. Today we have their SL-87CW-EL motherboard based on the Intel Canterwood chipset for the Pentium 4 on the test bed which offers great value for money.
| Dec 4, 2003 at 11:00 pm CST
Rating: 70%Manufacturer: Soltek

Soltek SL-87CW-EL - Introduction

IntroductionBy now, we all know of what's hot and what's not for the Intel Pentium 4 in terms of chipsets. Intel I865PE Springdale is now the hot choice for the enthusiast and budget conscious user with a great deal of pull behind its push. For most of us, Canterwood I875P is just not an option as the price tag of these motherboards can leave a sour taste is most people's mouths.Soltek is by far one of the most budget orientated motherboard manufacturers available. Competing with companies like ECS and PCChips for the budget market is no real challenge for Soltek, as they are preferred for their budget solutions. Moving into high-end is something that we haven't expected from Soltek, but as of late, Soltek has pushed out many new motherboards with high-end chipsets at value prices.Today we take a look at Soltek's budget I875P Canterwood motherboard for the Pentium 4 processor. Dubbed the 87CW-EL, it is aimed to get Pentium 4 users who want to save some money, but still have the many strong features of the Canterwood chipset.

Soltek SL-87CW-EL - Specifications

Specifications of the SL-87CW-ELCPUSupports Intel Pentium 4 1.4GHz ~ 2GHz mPGA 478 CPU WillametteSupports Intel Pentium 4 2.0GHz ~ 2.8GHz mPGA 478 Northwood (400FSB)Supports Intel Pentium 4 2.2GHz ~ 3.06GHz mPGA 478 Northwood (533FSB)Supports Intel Pentium 4 3.0GHz ~ 3.2Ghz mPGA 478 Northwood (800FSB)Supports Intel Celeron 1.7GHz ~ 2.8Ghz mPGA 478 Willamette-128 (400FSB)ChipsetIntel i875P with HT i82875P Northbridgei82801EB SouthbridgeIntel Hub Architecture @ 266MB/sBus Frequency100/133/200MHz Internal400/533/800MHz ExternalNetburst Micro ArchitectureExpansion Slots1 AGP 4x, 8x5 PCIExpansion Ports1 PS2 Keyboard Port1 PS2 Mouse Port8 USB 2.0 Ports (4 rear accessible, 4 via expansion bracket)2 Firewire Ports (via expansion bracket)2 Serial Ports 1 Parallel Port3 Stereo Audio Ports 1 Game Port (via expansion bracket)Special FeaturesBIOS overclocking control of FSB, voltages.Onboard Gigabit NetworkingFirewirePromise SATA RAID Controller

Soltek SL-87CW-EL - Features

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.- OverclockingSoltek 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.

Soltek SL-87CW-EL - Benchmarks - Test System Setup and SiSoft Sandra 2004

Test System SetupProcessor: Intel Pentium 4 3.2GHz (800MHz FSB with HT enabled) (Supplied by Spectrum Communications)Memory: 2x 256MB Kingmax DDR-433 in Dual Channel mode (Supplied by Kingmax Australia)Hard Disk: Western Digital WD80 7200RPM (Supplied by Techbuy)Graphics Card: ATI Radeon 9700 Pro (Supplied by ATI)Operating System: Microsoft Windows XP Professional SP1Drivers: ATI Catalyst 3.9SiSoft Sandra 2004SiSoft Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) 2004 is a synthetic windows benchmark that features different tests used to evaluate different PC subsystems.
Here we can see the Soltek motherboard compares very well to the speedy ABIT IC7 MAX3 in the synthetic PC tests.

Soltek SL-87CW-EL - Benchmarks - PCMark2002

PCMark2002PCMark2002 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. PCMark2002 consists of a series of tests that represent common tasks in home and office programs. PCMark2002 also covers many additional areas outside the scope of other benchmarks.
Here we see the Soltek motherboard just slightly behind in both CPU and memory optimisations.

Soltek SL-87CW-EL - Benchmarks - 3DMark2001 SE

3DMark2001 SE3DMark 2001 SE is a part of the popular 3DMark series. By combining DirectX 8.1 support with completely new graphics (including the GeForce4), it continues to provide benchmark results that empower you to make informed hardware assessments.
Now we start to see the Soltek motherboards weaker optimisations take effect.

Soltek SL-87CW-EL - Benchmarks - 3DMark03

3DMark033DMark 03 is the latest instalment in the popular 3DMark series. By combining DirectX 9 support with completely new graphics (including the GeForce FX and ATI Radeon 9800), it continues to provide benchmark results that empower you to make informed hardware assessments.
Again the Soltek shows its weaker side.

Soltek SL-87CW-EL - Benchmarks - Code Creatures

Code CreaturesCode Creatures is a Synthetic benchmark based on Direct X 8 which gives users the chance to see another highly involved benchmark program. Focusing on 2 elements Grass and Water video cards are stressed to the limit resulting in quite low scoring benchmarks. Users get to see a more intensive side of DirectX 8 thanks to the engine behind Code Creatures.
Again the Soltek motherboard falls slightly behind.

Soltek SL-87CW-EL - Benchmarks - Comanche 4

Comanche 4Comanche 4 is a helicopter simulation using the DirectX 8.1 graphics interface. It is used to test the memory and 3D sub systems of a motherboard and video processor. Any weaknesses will show up through this intensive benchmark.
Comanche 4 doesn't show the gap as bad as the other tests.

Soltek SL-87CW-EL - Benchmarks - Quake 3 Arena

Quake 3 ArenaQuake III Arena is a real-world OpenGL benchmark that we have been using here at TweakTown for quite a while now because it has proven itself to be one of the best gaming benchmarks around to compare a wide range of different products. Quake III is getting very old, but is still the best way of testing video and PC systems for any instabilities and best performance.
Quake 3 Arena however shows the gap more than Comanche 4.

Soltek SL-87CW-EL - Benchmarks - Jedi Knight II

Jedi Knight IIJedi Knight II, Jedi Outcast is an OpenGL game that many have been waiting for. It has much improved graphics over its predecessor. It fully supports advanced shaders, as well as very high texture resolutions and effects. There is one demo included in the multi-player section that is good for benchmarking use.
The results speak for themselves.

Soltek SL-87CW-EL - Benchmarks - Unreal Tournament 2003

Unreal Tournament 2003Unreal Tournament 2003 continues the success that Unreal Tournament generated as an online game and benchmark. UT2003 pulls all of its weight on to the 3D and Memory subsystems, pushing graphics reality to the maximum is its game, and you need some serious power to gain playable scores with this game.
Finally, we see the Soltek in second place once again.

Soltek SL-87CW-EL - Conclusion

ConclusionOverall, Soltek has done a very good job to bring Canterwood to the value market. However, it does have some performance issues compared to other Canterwood motherboards and even some Springdale motherboards. Looking at getting a Springdale motherboard with the extra features is a much wiser option.While being budget it does give some reasonably good features, but one point that disappointed us was the overclocking. Despite all out efforts, we only got a maximum of 234MHz FSB out of the system. No matter what was changed out, nothing would allow us to pass 234MHz.In all this motherboard is really only for those of you who want a Canterwood name without a Canterwood Price.- ProsStableSerial ATA RAIDParallel ATA RAIDAttractive purple PCB- ConsSlower than most Canterwood and Springdale motherboardsPoor OverclockingRating - 7 out of 10

Last updated: Apr 7, 2020 at 12:26 pm CDT

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