Abit's VP6 VIA Apollo Pro 133A Dual-CPU Motherboard

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Abit's VP6 VIA Apollo Pro 133A Dual-CPU Motherboard
Worth the trouble?

By Marco "BigWop" Chiappetta
February 22, 2001

Time for Business Winstone and some Quake 3!

Business Winstone and Quake 3
Workin' It...

BUSINESS WINSTONE

Here we see the Dual-1GHz.VP6 spank an Asus P4T running a Pentium 4 at 1.5GHz, but we have to say this isn't exactly a "fair" comparison.  The P4 scores were taken under WinME, while our VP6 was running Windows 2000.  We did not have a valid P4 Business Winstone score under Windows 2000 in our database, so I had to make do with what was available.

QUAKE 3 ARENA

Using the "r_smp 1" console command to enable SMP, we're able to use Quake 3 to test raw CPU horsepower.  The VP6 again edges out our 1.5GHz. P4 system.  Quake 3 v1.17 was not very stable with SMP enabled though, so we patched it to v.1.27 and ran the new built in timedemo (the timedemo in v1.27 is completely different than demo001 and demo002...don't compare these numbers with older benchmarks around the 'net).

Instead of comparing the VP6 against another system, here we ran the timedemo at Quake 3's "fastest" setting with SMP both on and off.  Enabling SMP yielded approximately a 20% increase in framerate.

Am I going to benefit from an SMP rig, even if I don't run many multi-threaded apps?

That's a question I know we're going to receive after some of you read this review.  The correct answer is YES.  There is a common misconception that the only time there will be a performance increase with a Dual-CPU system is when multi-threaded (SMP compatible) applications are run.  This simply isn't true.  Without getting too technical, think of every application or program running on your system as being a thread.  Let's say you've got 6 single threaded apps running at any given time (bring up Task Manager...I'll bet you have even more than that).  On a single CPU system all 6 threads have to be "passed through" the one processor, while on the Dual-CPU system 3 threads can be sent to each of the 2 CPUs.  This is a VERY over-simplified explanation, but it should give you an idea of what we mean. This ability to "share" the responsibility of processing threads will in general yield a "snappier" more "responsive" system. 

Is setting up a Dual-CPU system more complicated that a Single-CPU system?

Some would say no, but having spent weeks tweaking this system for maximum performance and compatibly my answer is unquestionably YES.  Because you'll have to use a multi-processor ready OS like Windows 2000 on an SMP system, configuring plug-and-play peripherals isn't nearly as painless as Win98 or ME.  We spent quite a few hours shuffling our PCI cards in order to find a stable combination of shared resources.  Also, you may have to spend a little time tweaking drivers as we had to do with our Sound Blaster Live! in order to eliminate a few annoying bugs. We could write an entire article outlining our experiences tweaking this system! FYI we filled our slots as follows:

AGP - GF2 Ultra
PCI 1 - SCSI
PCI 2 - VoodooTV
PCI 3 - Sound Blaster Live!
PCI 4 - NIC
PCI 5 - Empty

We also had to use Microsoft's Affinity tool to set our Live!'s drivers up to only use a single CPU.  I feel I should also thank 2CPU.COM...their site is fantastic.  I found a ton of useful information that helped me set this system up to my satisfaction.

In conclusion, we have to say our overall impression of the Abit VP6 is a good one.  The initial problems and extra time spent configuring this system was well worth the effort, as the performance is stellar.  The only thing that may somewhat diminish the VP6's appeal is the impending onslaught of similar boards capable of using DDR RAM.  If you go with a VP6 now, you may be kicking yourself in a few months when newer DDR Dual-CPU boards become available.  Even so, the performance increases DDR motherboards have shown are not enough to stop me from recommending the Abit VP6 to would be upgraders.  We are pleased with ours, and I'm sure it will remain in my personal system for some time to come.  We give the Abit VP6 a HotHardware Heat Meter rating of...

 

Stop Being so Quiet! Get in the H.H. Conference Room and Speak Your Mind.

 

 

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