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| Tyan S2495 - Up Close and Personal |
| Under the Hood |
There's nothing better than opening up a motherboard box and seeing all the extras that come along bundled with it. However, the Tyan S2495 didn't pack much inside the box beside the motherboard itself. Just the basics are there and even that is lacking a bit. The board ships with one ATA 133 ribbon cable and one floppy drive ribbon cable. There is also a back I/O panel cover that ships with the board. Like I said the basics. There are also a couple of driver disks and a manual. Although the manual lacks some depth, it is very straight forward and helpful.
Since the board does offer support for six USB 2.0 ports, it would've been nice to see Tyan throw in an additional two USB 2.0 jacks on a rear slot plate, to take advantage of the two USB pin-headers on the board. The bright side to this is that a lot of cases in today's market, ship with at least two USB 2.0 jacks. So, if you want to take advantage of all six USB 2.0 ports on this board, then you'd better have a case that sports two USB 2.0 jacks. Unfortunately, there is no IEEE-1394 firewire support. Thankfully, the added bandwidth that USB 2.0 provides should be plenty for any external components. Tyan didn't fill the box with much, but there's enough to get you up and running. After getting past the bundle, it's always nice to see what the board itself is equipped with. Let's take a closer look at the Tyan S2495.
Under The Scope: Layout and Features
The Tyan S2495 Trinity KT400 carries most features an end user would like to see on today's motherboards.
Pictured above is the back I/O panel and the KT400 Northbridge cooler. The ports on the back panel are pretty straight forward. We have the PS/2 mouse and keyboard connectors. Two serial ports and a parallel port are here, as well as four USB 2.0 ports and an RJ-45 LAN jack with LED's. Also on the back are the audio jacks: a line-in, line-out and mic-in port. The Tyan S2495 also has a SPDIF out pin-header. All together, this board offers 6 channel sound. Tyan chose a blue heatsink to lift the heat off their Northbridge. It is held in place by two plastic spring clips. As far as actual contact with the Northbridge chip itself, there is a sticky thermal pad in place under the heat sink. I'd like to see thermal paste there but a thermal pad is better than nothing. While in operation the heat sink was warm to the touch so it appeared to be doing a satisfactory job.
The layout of the board has some issues but for the most part, it is workable. The CPU socket itself is guarded on both sides, with other components, which will limit the size of any aftermarket heat sinks one can use to cool the CPU. On one side, we have can-type capacitors that sit extremely close to the CPU socket and on the other side, just as close, is the DIMM1 slot. When there is a memory module in the DIMM1 slot, there is only about a half an inch of space between it and the CPU socket. The board has three DIMM slots which are in the usual location on the upper right hand part of the board, but as I mentioned, a little close to the CPU socket. The AGP slot is much too close to the DIMM slots and any work with memory modules will require the removal of the video card. There are four IDE ports on the board. The two red IDE connectors offer the IDE RAID support and the two blue connectors are your standard primary and secondary IDE slots. Just to the left of the IDE connectors is the floppy drive connector. However, the Tyan S2495 motherboard has a pretty straight forward design and I didn't experience any major issues. The biggest problem I see is not being able to add a larger heat sink on top of the CPU, which may disappoint the overclocker inside of us.
The board itself offers some very nice features. Both IDE RAID support ( RAID 0, 1, 0+1 ) and Serial ATA RAID support are on this board. The IDE RAID is offered by the onboard Highpoint 372N controller, while the SATA RAID is handled by the onboard Silicon Image 3112 chip. Offering two different kinds of RAID support is an excellent feature, especially since hard drives have become very affordable and a RAID array is much more realistic these days. There is an AGP 8X/4X slot and 6 PCI v2.2 expansion slots, so there is plenty of room for add in cards, if you feel the need. The 6 channel onboard audio is provided by the ALC650 CODEC. Although I can't say the sound is as impressive as the nForce2 solution, it does do a good enough job for most pc enthusiasts. Only true audiophiles will feel the need for an add in sound card. Ethernet is powered by the VIA VT6103 and is of the 10/100Mb/s variety. As far as hardware monitoring goes, the board has three fan pin-headers, but only two of them are monitored in the BIOS. There is also an LED display to post boot codes. Wow, that was a lot to mention. I wasn't kidding when I said Tyan dumped a lot of goodies on this board. Let's take a look at the bios and see what we can tweak on this board.
Tyan went with an Award BIOS to drive this particular board. While this BIOS does offer some good choices for those interested in overclocking, I don't feel it will give all the necessities for getting an extraordinary overclock. Let me first start by saying that this is as stable and solid a motherboard at default settings, that I have had the pleasure of working with. With that said, let's talk about what options one does have when attempting to overclock this motherboard. There are voltage adjustments for the CPU in 0.25V increments all the way up to 2.2V! Plenty of room to give that CPU some extra kick, although this will be limited by the fact that a larger heat sink will not be there to offset the increased heat from such a voltage adjustment. The DIMM voltage is adjustable in 0.025V increments up to +0.175V. This will give that extra needed power to hit the DDR400 plateau perhaps, on modules that aren't up to the challenge at default voltage. The CPU clock can be adjusted anywhere between 100MHz to 200MHz by keying in a value. I would've like to see this board support a FSB higher than 200Mhz, but we'll have to make do. The CPU multiplier can also be adjusted anywhere in the range of 5X to 22.5X. I think this is one of the best choices to have in the BIOS because this gives you the best opportunity to hit that sweet spot for both the memory and CPU overclock, as long as you have modified those Athlon traces and unlocked your CPU. Besides voltage, the DIMM timings can be adjusted. There are quite a few timing variables that are adjustable such as CAS Latency, Bank Interleave, Precharge to Active, etc. To make a long story shorter, all the DIMM timings you need are there to push those memory modules to the fullest. There is also a PC Health Status screen to monitor the temp of the CPU and motherboard as well as fan speeds and various voltages. The power on this board seems to be adequate as the default Vcore comes in at 1.61V and Vagp registers at 1.53V.
While this bios offers some very strong points for overclocking there are some shortcomings as well. For instance, neither the PCI nor AGP bus speeds are lockable. So any increase to the FSB will, in turn, crank up the bus speed to both the PCI and AGP slots. This will create some instability with high overclocks and could possibly be the limiting factor to a higher overclock. There is no AGP voltage adjustment which further hinders any increase to the AGP bus. I think the most limiting factor to this board, however, is its inability to set DDR400 with a FSB over 133MHz. When you enter the Frequency/Voltage Control menu, there is a DRAM timing setting which can be set to By SPD, 133, 166, and 200MHz. The only problem with this setting is that it is locked as soon as you enter a FSB value greater than 133MHz. Sadly to say, since I'm testing this board with an Athlon XP 2600+ 333MHz FSB chip, I can only try and reach the DDR 400MHz setting by getting the FSB to 200MHz. Not an easy overclock with a stock AMD heatsink/fan or any heatsink/fan really.
In summary, the BIOS offers some nice settings, but lacks the features to make it a pure overclocker's board but then again, that is not the be all end all, is it? Nonetheless, this board proved to be extremely solid. Moving away from the BIOS, let's take a look at our setup and the benchmark results as well as what stable overclock I was able to achieve. You will probably be surprised!
Setup and Benchmarking