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Soltek SL75MRNL Motherboard
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Date: Apr 21, 2003
Section:Motherboards
Author: HH Editor
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Soltek SL75MRNL Motherboard - Page 1

 

Soltek SL-75MRN-L Motherboard
Soltek takes a crack at Nforce2

By, Tom Laverriere
April 20, 2003


Motherboard - check, graphics card - check, sound card - check, ethernet card - check...  Oh sorry, you caught me making a list of hardware one would need for a new system and that doesn't even cover the half of it.  If you're building a new system from scratch, the list can get pretty long and expensive.  Wouldn't it be nice if there was a way to shorten that list and take some of the crunch off your wallet?  What could possibly shorten that list?  You need everything in there and then some, don't you?  Absolutely, but an all-in-one motherboard solution possibly could be the answer you're searching for.  There no shortages of new motherboards on the market today, that offer very high levels of integration.  Today, at HotHardware, we have one such solution, in the form of the Soltek SL75MRN-L motherboard, featuring Nvidia's highly integrated nForce2 chipset.

The Soltek SL-75MRN-L motherboard features the version of the Nvidia nForce2 chipset, that has the Integrated Graphics Processor ( IGP ) Northbridge chip and the Media and Communications Processor ( MCP2 ) Southbridge chip.  This chipset is feature-rich and offers many goodies from Dual Channel DDR400 support to 6 channel audio support.  It's certainly a bonus to have all those nice features, but how does this stack up to others in its field?  We put this Soltek motherboard through the ringer to show you whether this board not only offers an all-in-one solution, but how it performs and if it is a stable platform.  Let's have a closer look, shall we?

Golden nForce2 - The Soltek SL-75MRN-L
An All-in-One Solution

Soltek SL-75MRN-L

 

Main Features
nForce2 IGP + nForce2 MCP2 Chipset

FSB 333/266/200 MHz

Supports Dual Channel DDR SDRAM @ 400/333/266 MHz

64-bit or 128-bit memory bus

Integrated GeForce4 MX GPU

Supports AGP 8X/4X

Supports 2 x Ultra ATA 133/100/66

Supports LAN ( NV LAN + ICS PHY ) function

BIOS vcore, FSB, AGP, DIMM Voltage Setting

6 x USB 2.0/1.1 Ports

On-board 6-channel AC'97 Audio Function
 

Processor
AMD Athlon XP / Athlon / Duron processor

Chipset

Nvidia nForce2 ( IGP + MCP2 )

nForce IGP: Integrated Graphics Processor

Features 333/266/200MHz Front Side Bus support

Dual Channel DDR 400/333/266MHz, 64-bit or 128-bit Memory Bus

DDR200, DDR266, DDR333, DDR400 Compliant

Asynchronous memory mode

Supports AGP 8X/4X

nForce2 MCP2 ( Media and Communications processor )

Supports Ultra ATA-133/100/66 transfer protocol

Provides 6-channel AC'97 Audio

Support for six USB 2.0/1.1 Ports max


Memory

3 x 184 pin DDR DIMM

Supports 6 banks up to 3GB DRAM's for unbuffered DDR SDRAM Module

 

On-board EIDE
2 x PCI Bus Master UATA 133/100/66 IDE ports ( up to 4 ATAPI devices )

Supports for PIO Mode 3, 4, UATA 133/100/66 IDE & ATAPI CD-ROM

 

Integrated Super I/O

1 x Floppy Port ( supports 360K, 720K, 1.2M, 1.44M, and 2.88MB )

2 x Serial Ports ( high-speed 16550A FIFO UART Ports )

1 x Parallel Port with EEP/ECP/SPP Capabilities

1 x PS/2 Mouse, 1 X PS/2 Keyboard connectors

6 x USB 2.0/1.1 Ports ( 2 integrated, 4 via additional cables )

1 x VGA Port

1 x Audio/Game port

RJ45 Lan Connector


Expansion Slots
1 x AGP 8X/4X Slot

5 x 32-bit PCI Bus Master Slots

Form Factor

ATX Form Factor ( 305mm x 245mm )

 

IEEE 1394

Supports IEEE 1394a at 100/200/400 Mb/s transfer rate

 

BIOS

AWARD Bios

Flash Memory for easy upgrade

 

Other Features

SL-02KIT ( Optional)

BIOS Multiplier setting

RedStorm Overclocking ( Optional)

BIOS FSB Setting

Ultra ATA 133/100/66

BIOS Vcore setting

6-ch AC'97 Audio Function

BIOS AGP Voltage Setting

SmartDoc. Anti-burning shield

BIOS DIMM Voltage setting

H/W Monitor

 


 


NVIDIA nForce2 Architecture

   

That's quite a bit to take in all at once.  As you have read in the feature list and can see in the above diagram, this board has everything an end user needs, for a solid foundation to a new system.  Don't be fooled though, this isn't the kind of product that flashes its exterior, but has nothing under the hood.  With support for both the latest Athlon 333MHz FSB processors and Dual Channel DDR400, this board should be able to post some serious benchmark numbers.  Alright, so this board has all the integrated peripherals one needs and claims to be as stable as a rock but does it overclock too?  We'll cover that for sure but before we get to the numbers, let's get a closer view of everything this board has to offer. 

A Closer Look: Soltek SL-75MRN-L

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Soltek SL75MRNL Motherboard - Page 2

 

Soltek SL-75MRN-L Motherboard
Soltek takes a crack at Nforce2

By, Tom Laverriere
April 20, 2003

 
Soltek SL-75MRN-L - Up Close and Personal
Under the Hood

The Bundle

There's a lot to consider when choosing a motherboard for your system.  Although this may seem a little foolish, the packaging a product arrives in, can certainly make or break first impression about it.  The packaging that the Soltek motherboard arrived in is as about as professional looking as you can expect.  To us, it's just like making a presentation in your career; if you presentation is junk, then no one will buy into your ideas.  Whereas, if the presentation is well though out and put together, then people are more likely to jump on your bandwagon.  Well, upon first sight of this Soltek product, we were very impressed.

There's not a whole lot to find inside the packaging.  Two ribbon cables, one for a floppy drive and one for a harddrive, an I/O panel cover, and an extra serial port.  There is a case badge in there as well.  Also in the box, are the user manuals and two CD's.  One CD is the driver CD for the motherboard, while the other CD contains a handful of popular utilities, that many users will find extremely useful.  The software contained on the CD is Trend Mark's PC-cillin 2002 & PC-cillin 2000 anti-virus software.  Another title is Far Stone's VirtualDrive 7, which can be used to emulate a physical CD-ROM drive, on your hard drive.  This allows you to create several virtual CD-ROM's which are all playable at once.  Still another title is Far Stone's RestoreIT! 3 Lite, which allows you to recover files, system configurations, and even the operating system you are running.  But wait there's more!  PowerQuest's Partition Magic 6.0 SE makes an appearance and which most of you already know is used to manage drive partitions from Windows.  Finally, there is  PowerQuest's Drive Image 4.0, which is cloning software enabling the user to backup and recover hard disk data.  Wow, what a great selection of software bundled with this motherboard.  Soltek claims this software to be valued at $325 USD, which they throw in for free.  In any event, it's easy to see that most of these software titles will come in handy and really are added bonus.  One of the most significant parts of the bundle, in our opinion, was Soltek's claim that the CPU "is free from overheating under any circumstance".  How can they guarantee that?  They provide this little extra which they like to call ABS II CPU Protection.  The ABS stands for Anti-Burn Shield and works by shutting down the CPU if it ever gets over 85° C.

ABS II CPU Protection

In the screen shot above we see Soltek's Hardware monitor software.  This software monitors temperature of the CPU die as well as fan speeds and voltages.  The software allows you to set alarms, in the event temperatures or fan speeds get out of whack.  WIth know with the high popularity of overclocking today, one can never be too careful and having software that monitors the health of your system is a must in any system.  Another nice touch added to the bundle by Soltek.

 

Under The Scope: Layout and Features

The Soltek SL-75MRN-L motherboard sports impressive features any end user would like to see on today's motherboards.

   

Pictured above we have the motherboard fresh out of its packaging. Something we've rarely seen before are the stickers on the major parts of the motherboard explaining what each slot is for.  This is a nice touch, especially if the end user is venturing down the build-it-yourself path for the first time.  The PCB is a gold color while the PCI slots are done in yellow.  All in all I would say that this board looks very good and it's nice to see a motherboard manufacturer stray from the crowd now again when it comes to styling the motherboard.

 

 

The layout of the board is fairly straight forward and did not pose any problems.  Of course there was one gripe that we see on almost every motherboard today, and that is the fact that memory modules cannot be moved around while a video card is in the AGP slot.  The Northbridge IGP chipset is cooled by a gold heatsink and fan.  Definitely a nice touch, as we've seen today's chipsets running at higher temperatures all the time.  A thermal paste is used as the compound between the heatsink and IGP.  As you can see there are only two UATA IDE connectors, a primary and secondary.  This board does not offer SATA support or RAID support of any kind.  There are two USB 2.0 headers on the board which will give you an additional 4 USB 2.0 ports for a total of 6.  There are 2 USB 2.0 ports on the back I/O panel.  Also on the back I/O panel we see the game port and 6-channel sound connectors as well as an RJ-45 LAN jack and the USB 2.0 ports.  Also you'll find the VGA connector, parallel port, serial connector and the PS/2 connectors for the keyboard and mouse.  One other feature to point out is the fact that there is not much space for a larger after-market HSF around the CPU socket.  The board layout and quality all rate top-notch in our book.  Let's fire up this motherboard and see what the BIOS has to offer.

 

The BIOS

The Soltek SL-75MRN-L motherboard uses the AWARD Bios and the screenshots below give a glimpse into what it offers.

The upper right screen is the Advanced Chipset Settings, where the FSB frequency and memory frequency are adjusted.  There are four settings to set both the memory and system performance at: Optimal, Aggressive, Turbo, and Expert.  Depending on which selection is made, will allow for more settings to be adjustable.  Selecting the Expert setting allows the user to adjust every configurable setting.  The FSB is adjustable all the way up to 200MHz in 1MHz increments and then has three more settings of 204MHz, 207MHz, and 211MHz FSB.  All memory settings are adjustable such as CAS Latency, T(RAS), T(RCD), T(RP), and also the frequency, which has settings such as By SPD, 100%, 125%, 133% and even as high as 200% to get the most out of your memory. 

 

As you probably are aware, boosting your FSB frequency and memory frequency, usually requires a little extra juice.  The BIOS allows for quite a few voltage tweaks.  The CPU vcore is adjustable up to 1.85v in 0.25v increments.  The AGP voltage is also adjustable and has four settings: 1.5v - 1.8V in 0.1v increments.  Also in the menu is the DIMM voltage.  A range of 2.5v all the way up to 2.8v is allowed to be sent to the DIMM's.  Another voltage adjustment is to the VDD and that has three settings: 1.6v, 1.7v, and 1.8v.  Lastly, we have the CPU Ratio menu for all those out there with an unlocked CPU.  The CPU ratio has a range of a 5.0 multiplier all the way to an 18 multiplier.  Having a CPU ratio menu is key for finding the sweet spot for both the CPU and memory when overclocking and overall system performance.  One other choice from the main menu is "SmartDoc Anti-Burn Shield" which allows the user to pick the temperature at which the system will shutdown.  There are six different selections in here starting at 75°C  and ending at 100°C in 5°C increments.  A nice feature to say the least, just in case that heatsink fan decides to take a vacation someday.  To sum it up, this is a feature filled BIOS and has all the means necessary to achieve some good overclocking results.  Speaking of which, let's take a look to see how this board performs.

 

Setup and Benchmarking

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Soltek SL75MRNL Motherboard - Page 3

 

Soltek SL-75MRN-L Motherboard
Soltek takes a crack at Nforce2

By, Tom Laverriere
April 20, 2003

 

To test the Soltek motherboard in its 3D gaming performance, we used the latest versions of Comanche and Quake 3 Arena.  Quake 3 may be a little outdated, but still gives a good idea of memory bandwidth performance in a system.  We also ran these tests using the on-board IGP ( Integrated Graphics Processor ) just to show what it can do, versus our stock GF4 Ti4200 card.  All tests were run at default and overclocked settings.

 

Quake 3 and Comanche 4
OpenGL and Direct 3D Gaming Performance


Stock GeForce 4 Ti 4200 graphics used on all non-IGP test scores
"Fastests" game settings used

The Soltek mainboard manages to score the highest in the bunch at default settings.    What is also interesting to see is how well the IGP performs.  Although we run these tests at "Fastest" settings to take as much strain off the video card as possible ( keep in mind we are testing the motherboard here, not the video card ), the IGP puts up decent numbers.  For any of you who are interested, we ran these games at the higher settings, what is more likely the case for most end-users today, and found that the IGP provided for smooth, lag-free game play, at least in Quake 3.  We found that the cutoff was at 1024x768 which is very respectable. The game looked sharp and crisp.  Some end-users may have found the game play at 1280x1024 very satisfactory, but for any hardcore online gamers, we feel it would've been at a disadvantage to play at such high settings, since there was a noticeable drop in frame rate.

 


Stock GeForce 4 Ti 4200 graphics used on all non-IGP test scores
"Fastests" game settings used

Here we find the Soltek at about the middle once again.  What we also see is how much of a strain Comanche 4 puts on a video card.  The IGP falls well behind the Ti4200 card and showed noticeable lag at even the low settings.  Obviously, an older generation GeForce4 card is going to struggle with newer titles, but to have everything you need packed on a mainboard for a little over $100 greenbacks, still makes this Soltek package an excellent value.

Unreal Tournament 2003 and The Ratings

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Soltek SL75MRNL Motherboard - Page 4

 

Soltek SL-75MRN-L Motherboard
Soltek takes a crack at Nforce2

By, Tom Laverriere
April 20, 2003

 

We'll wrap it up with a benchmark round from Unreal Tournament 2003.  We utilized a simple benchmark script that does "Fly By" demos on the Antalus, the Asbestos and the Citadel levels.  We set the resolution to 640X480, so as to take as much of the workload off the GeForce4 Ti4200 and IGP GeForce4 as possible and place it on the CPU and System Bandwidth.

Unreal Tournament 2003
DirectX 8 Gaming Performance

 


640X480 - 32 Bit Color

 


640X480 - 32 Bit Color

 


640X480 - 32 Bit Color

In these tests, the Soltek manages to jump ahead of all the other nForce2 boards we have tested up to this point.  The margin is fairly small, but the Soltek nForce2 solution shows that it can keep up with its competitors.  Here we see the IGP struggling a bit, with even the lowest settings.  We'd also like to point out that the IGP comes in right around 60 FPS, which by most standards is still considered playable.  Although most gamers enjoy playing at higher settings, having a motherboard that gives you everything and still lets you play some of the latest titles, without even having an AGP card in the slot, is money well spent.

 

The nForce2 chipset makes a great pairing for an AMD CPU.  With the many varieties it comes available in and its abundant feature set, this chipset is hard to beat.  Soltek wanted us to point out that they strive to deliver extremely stable motherboards with some overclocking potential, but most of their efforts go to system reliability.  We have to say that we enjoyed working with this board, as it has proven Soltek's claim to reliability.

Soltek SL-75MRN-L Analysis:
The Soltek SL-75MRN-L motherboard was a great board to test.  System reliability was as good as it gets and this board even showed some room for overclocking.  While this board comes as a very good all-in-one solution, it is lacking other amenities that a good portion of end users like to see in today's motherboards.  This board does not offer ATA RAID or SATA RAID, Firewire support, and serious overclocking potential.  Although Soltek makes no claim that this board is specifically aiming for that crowd however.  If you're in the market for an all-in-one solution that will keep you from having to open the case from time to time to figure out what's wrong, then the Soltek SL-75MRN-L is for you. The great thing about this board is that it appeals to serious gamers as well since it offers an AGP 4X/8X compatible slot to upgrade to a more capable video card.  And we must look at what this board does offer: support for the latest Athlon CPU's, Dual Channel DDR400, 6 USB 2.0 ports, an on-board IGP, 6-channel sound, and 5 32-bit PCI expansion slots.  While the Soltek SL-75MRN-L motherboard may not appeal to everyone, it certainly happens to be a great pick for the "all-in-one" niche.

 

  • Fast and stable

  • Good value

  • AGP 8X

  • Supports 333MHz Athlon chips

  • Onboard audio is excellent

  • Dual DDR400 support

  • USB 2.0

  • Great software bundle

  • No SATA support
  • IGP not great for gaming
  • Second RJ-45 jack missing
  • No Firewire support

We're giving the Soltek SL-75MRN-L motherboard a HotHardware Heat Meter rating of...

 

Discuss this or any other Hot Hardware Review in the PC Hardware Forum!
 

 

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Soltek SL75MRNL Motherboard Page 5


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