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ECS D6VAA DualCPU VIA Powered Motherboard
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Date: Dec 15, 2001
Section:Motherboards
Author: HH Editor
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The ECS D6VAA DualCPU VIA Powered Motherboard - Page 1

The ECS D6VAA Dual-CPU VIA Powered Motherboard
Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Fun...

By, Marco "BigWop" Chiappetta
July 26, 2001

Dual-CPU systems, previously reserved for use as high-end servers, have now become affordable due to the efforts of companies like ECS, Abit, Intel and Via (among others).  With the increased popularity of Windows 2000 and relatively "low" prices of SMP capable CPUs like the Pentium III, running a Dual-CPU rig on you desktop is now a viable option to the true hardware enthusiast or discerning power user.

There is a common misconception when it comes to SMP (Symmetrical Multi-Processing) systems though.  I have been in many situations "talking tech" with associates, and as soon as I mention running dual-CPUs on my main rig someone inevitably says, "That's a waste unless you're running applications that will take advantage of the second CPU."  Well, this simply isn't the case.  Without getting too technical I'd like to explain that while it is true that Multi-threaded applications benefit the most from the second CPU, overall system performance is greatly enhanced because many "background" tasks can be spilt amongst the two processors.  Open up Task Manager and look at all of the programs and processes running in the background on your machine.  Now, think of each of those programs running as a "thread".  If you've got ten programs running, spilt their CPU usage across both processors and you'll see why each program has more CPU horsepower available to it at any given time.  So even without running multi-threaded applications, anyone who multi-tasks will benefit from having the power of a second CPU on tap.  This isn't a 100% technically accurate explanation, but I think you'll get the gist of what I'm saying.

Now that you've got an idea of the benefits an SMP rig brings to the table, let's take a look at a dual Pentium III board from ECS, the D6VAA...

Specifications / Features of the ECS D6VAA
You Gotta Love seeing 2 Sockets!


Click any Image for an Enlarged view...
  

D6VAA
  • VIA® VT82C694X & VT82C686B Chipset
  • Dual PGA-370 Sockets for dual Pentium® III FC-PGA (Coppermine)
  • Single Celeron? FC-PGA/PPGA or Cyrix® III processors
  • Three 168-pin DIMMs with SDRAM support (up to 1.5GB)
  • Avance ALC100P Audio Codec on board
  • HPT370 PCI IDE Array Controller with UDMA 100 support (optional)

PROCESSORS

  • Intel® Celeron? PPGA processors up to 533MHz / FC-PGA processors up to 800MHz (for single processor only)
  • Intel® FC-PGA Pentium® III processors up to 850MHz(100MHz FSB) and 1GBz(133MHz FSB) (for single or dual processor)
  • Cyrix® III processors up to 700MHz(100MHz FSB) and up to 600MHz(133MHz) (for single processor only)

CHIPSET

  • VIA® VT82C694X & VT82C686B
  • Support AGP 2.0 specification (4X)
  • Super I/O - Integrated in VT82C686B
  • System Hardware Monitor: Integrated in VT82C686B
  • HPT370 PCI IDE Array Controller with UDMA 100 support on board (optional)
  • AC97 Audio Codec: Avance ALC100P (RealTek)
  • Compliant with AC97 2.1 specification

MEMORY

  • Three 168-pin DIMM sockets for 3.3V SDRAM (Ready for PC100, PC133)
  • Maximum: 1.5GB
SYSTEM BIOS
  • Award 2MB Flash EEPROM
  • Supports Plug and Play 1.0A, AMP 1.2, Multi Boot, DMI
  • Full Support for ACPI revision 1.0 specification

I/O INTERFACE

  • Supports Plug and Play function
  • PS/2 keyboard and PS/2 mouse connectors
  • Four USB Ports (Two USB Connectors as header on board)
  • One - EPP/ECP mode parallel port
  • Two - 16550 high-speed serial I/O ports
  • Audio Ports (Line-in, out, Mic, CD and game port)
  • Support eight ATA/ATAPI devices (four optional)
  • Standard: Dual PCI IDE interfaces - support four IDE devices (PIO  4, DMA  2, Ultra DMA 66/100)
  • Option: Two independent ATA channels for another four IDE devices (PIO  4, DMA 2, Ultra DMA 66/100)
  • Supports 360K~2.88M Byte, 3 Mode FDDs or LS120
  • ATX Power Supply Connector

PORTS, HEADERS and OTHERS

  • IrDA header
  • Extra USB Header
  • Extra MIC/Line-out header
  • Green, HDD, Power indicator LED headers
  • Power, CPU and Case Fan headers
  • LAN Card Wake Up / Modem Ring Wake-Up headers
  • RTC & BATTERY
  • VT82C686B included 256 bytes of CMOS SRAM
    With CMOS SRAM hardware clear jumper

EXPANSION SLOTS

  • 5 PCI slots
  • 1 AGP slot
  • 1 CNR slot (Modem only)

THE BUNDLE:

The ECS D6VAA comes bundled with the usual accessories...

Inside the box you'll find user's manuals for the motherboard itself and the HighPoint RAID controller, a CD containing chipset drivers and drivers for the on-board sound, a floppy disk containing the RAID controller's drivers, two 80-Wire UDMA/100 IDE cables, a 40-Wire IDE cable and a floppy cable.  The only thing we feel was missing from the bundle was a connector to take advantage of the extra on-board USB header.

INSTALLATION:

Installation of the D6VAA went off without a hitch. Its a standard ATX compliant board, so once it was mounted we were ready to go.  There are some things to consider though.  First, is space...because of the second Socket, the D6VAA is slightly larger than the average single CPU board.  Second, is power...having two CPUs installed requires twice the power.  We'd recommend a good 300 Watt power supply minimum, preferably higher though.  Third, is heat...two CPUs produce double the amount of heat.  Your case should be well ventilated to insure the system does not overheat.  Finally, Operating system...to take advantage of multiple CPUs, you've got to be running an OS capable of SMP, like Windows NT, 2000 or any variation of Linux/Unix.

 

The BIOS, Layout and Quality 

 

 
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The ECS D6VAA DualCPU VIA Powered Motherboard - Page 2

The ECS D6VAA Dual-CPU VIA Powered Motherboard
Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Fun...

By, Marco "BigWop" Chiappetta
July 26, 2001

THE BIOS:

The D6VAA is equipped with an Award BIOS, we're sure you've all seen something that looks like this before...

               

               

              

The BIOS is fairly complete, but we feel it's missing two important settings.  User's who have experience with boards powered by the Apollo Pro 133A chipset know the importance of 4-Way interleaving.  4-Way interleaving is a memory tweak that usually provides significant performance gains.  The D6VAA's BIOS does not allow users to toggle this feature on an off.  There was also no voltage tweaks available.  Earlier revisions of the D6VAA had the ability to adjust core voltage for each CPU individually, but for some reason this feature was not present on our revision 1.1 D6VAA's default BIOS.  A quick check of ECS's site though revealed a service BIOS was available that does in fact allow voltage adjustments for each CPU independantly.

Layout and Quality
Not Too Shabby.

THE LAYOUT:

As usual, we gave the ECS D6VAA a thorough physical inspection before mounting it in our test system...

               

The D6VAA ships with a decent heatsink mounted to the Northbridge.  During heavy load, the Northbridge can generate a good amount of heat, so we would have liked to have seen active cooling on the Northbridge, but in a properly ventilated case a heatsink alone adequate.  The board is outfitted with 1 AGP slot, 5 PCI slots and 1 CNR slot.  We prefer a 6 PCI slot configuration, but considering the D6VAA already has on-board sound and RAID, 5 PCI slots is plenty.

               

All pertinent connectors are well placed and clearly labeled.  The Audio connectors are not in the way of any slots and the headers for the case connectors are at the edge of the board where we like them to be.  The only thing we didn't like was the inverted IDE RAID connectors.  Having these connectors oriented this way could hinder airflow from the intake fan in many tower cases if the cables are not neatly bundled and tied down.

         

The connectors for the on-board IDE channels and floppy controller are placed in a much better location at the front edge of the board.  There is ample room around the CPU sockets to mount most popular coolers (we had two GlobalWin WBK38s installed on our system), and the ATX power connector is in the perfect location at the top edge of the D6VAA.

Time For Some Numbers...

 

 

 
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The ECS D6VAA DualCPU VIA Powered Motherboard - Page 3

The ECS D6VAA Dual-CPU VIA Powered Motherboard
Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Fun...

By, Marco "BigWop" Chiappetta
July 26, 2001

Those of you whose primary concern is running office suites, or those creative souls out there will appreciate the next series of tests.  ZD's Business and Content Creation Winstone will give you an accurate idea of the ECS D6VAA's performance in these areas.

 

More Performance
Let's Get it On!

.BUSINESS WINSTONE:

Business Winstone simulates "real world" performance using "Office Type" applications...

Any regular visitors to our site should easily recognize the quality of these scores.  Numbers approaching 50 Business Winstones are excellent!  These high scores can be attributed not only to the second CPU, but Windows 2000.  A typical 1.0GHz Windows Millennium machine will score in the mid-30s on this test.

CONTENT CREATION WINSTONE:

Content Creation Winstone tests are comprised of applications like Adobe Photoshop and Premiere...

Again, we see the ECS D6VAA's top notch performance. Some of the applications used in this test are multi-threaded, so they benefit greatly from the second CPU.  There should be no doubt about the usefulness of having the power of two CPUs at your disposal.

That concludes the benchmarks.  We feel it is important to mention that throughout all of our testing, the DV6AA did not crash once or exhibit any instability whatsoever...even when overclocked.

Our experience with the VIA Apollo 133A equipped ECS D6VAA was a pleasant one.  This board is very inexpensive ($99 at the time of this review), and performance and stability were excellent.  Someone looking to build a powerful Windows 2000 workstation or mid-range server will be very pleased with the D6VAA.  The "responsiveness" and overall performance of a dual-CPU system is something that has to be experienced first hand to be truly appreciated.  If a dual-CPU rig is in your future, you owe it to yourself to check out the D6VAA. We give the ECS D6VAA a HotHardware Heat Meter rating of...

Think you know about this hardware stuff?  Yeah?  Then get in the Forum and Prove it!

 

 

 
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The ECS D6VAA DualCPU VIA Powered Motherboard - Page 4
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