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Iwill MPX2 Motherboard review


 

MPX2 Installation & Practicalities:

 

Keeping the neighbours happy:

Some pairs of CPU's in Dual-AMD motherboards can draw up to 150Watts total - a heat-load equivalent to two domestic lightbulbs within 100mm of each other.  

This vast amount of concentrated heat-energy needs to be dissipated swiftly from the the CPU's, the motherboard, then the system-enclosure - ideally without deafening the user.

The CPU's at the same time need to be supplied with adequate & stable power, requiring short trace-lengths between the PSU sockets, large numbers of quite bulky power components, & the socket 462's:

Large fansinks, short trace-lengths, & masses of capacitors, coils & other power components are hot-tempered neighbours: keeping the peace between them is a real challenge for the designers of a dual-AMD motherboard:

Cooling & layout 1 - CPU's:  

Socket#0 - primary, adjacent the DDR slots - has limited room along the lug-axis due to the presence of yet another of the comforting number of large capacitors on the MPX2. A Millennium Copper Glaciator [68mm long] just barely fits - an 80mm long Alpha 8045 won't. 

The Alpha 8045 will not fit Socket#1 [secondary] either - we tried. Note the large-size mount-holes - perfect for waterblocks - & the absence of small fragile surface-mounted components adjacent the lugs - the place the screwdriver always slips onto when pressing the firm clips of modern fansinks. 

'Workstation' cooling - 2 x Silver Mountain's, 60>80mm adaptors, YS-Tech 1.92W low-noise 2400 rpm fans, Arctic Silver
'server' cooling - 2 x Kanie Hedgehog's, 60>80mm low-profile adapters, Nidec BetaV variable-speed fans, Circuitworks 7100 silver thermal grease

MPX2 CPU-cooling: conclusions:

After testing around a dozen fansink models, the CPU-cooling arrangements we ended up with on the 'workstation' & 'server' systems are very similar: 'extracting' fansinks such as the Alpha 6035, Kanie Hedgehog, or Akasa Silver Mountain fitted with low-noise 80mm fans.

It is our opinion that 'extracting' fansinks best suit the very high heat-loads on the MPX2 & similar dual-AMD motherboards - they extract hot air up from the plane of the motherboard, rather than blowing waste heat down onto it.

Use of this kind of air-cooling on the MPX2 met our objective of allowing quite serious overclocking with equivalent or lower noise-levels to a multiprocessor PIII system fitted with standard Intel retail fansinks. 

If very high performance air-cooling is required, the Millennium Copper Glaciator fits OK; but even its 5700 rpm fan - as opposed to the vile 7000 rpm screamers on cruder products - produces noise-levels we find unpleasant: Millennium produce quieter models we have yet to test.

Cooling & layout 2 - CPU monitoring:  

The MPX2's 'Iwill Processor Shelter' feature is an unattended shutdown, set at a danger-level temperature selected by the user - at 95C, say, to shut the whole shooting-match off if a CPU-cooling fan died. 

This level is set from the  'PCHealth' screen in the BIOS, which displays 'core' temperatures of both CPU's; these readings are derived from its onboard Winbond 83627HF & are used to trigger IPS

Curious as to the accuracy of all this, we spent scores of hours testing the MPX2's CPU-monitoring, using laboratory-quality thermal monitoring equipment: 

First, we plotted indicated 'core' temps against rising FSB's - with the CPU's vcores, multiplier, & so on being kept the same:

 . . . then, in the next, rather more detailed graph; real & very accurately measured temperatures from the top & base of the case of each CPU are plotted against indicated 'core' temperatures as FSB rises - all readings here are relative to corrected ambient temperatures:

What's pretty obvious from both graphs is that 'core' temperatures for CPU#1 ['PCHealth#1' - top-most red lines] wander up & down randomly over a 2-3C range, while the FSB steadily rises. 

'core' readouts for CPU#0 ['PCHealth#0'] at least vary in a fairly consistent way while FSB increases, over 9C & 15C ranges; but while our 'server' system shows a vaguely believable - if exaggerated - upward slope; our 'workstation' system shows the bizarre behaviour of indicated 'core' temperatures consistently falling as FSB rises . . .

In the second graph you can see [the bottom 4 slopes] how actual CPU casetop & caseback temperatures show neatly matched rising trends against the rising FSB: they also shows clearly how CPU#0's fansink enjoys vastly better ventilation than CPU#1 - which is shielded from much of the airflow by the the AGP-card - & how the motherboard's heatsoak effect gives a steep heat-gradient adjacent CPU#0.
Raw data from a test-series may be downloaded in Excel workbook form
For the above CPU-case temperature monitoring, we used Omega copper/constantan type 'T' thermocouple wire & a Haven Thermocal thermocouple calibrator, & other instruments calibrated with the Thermocal: measurements are accurate over range to within 0.2C.

Monitoring software:

The 'Windows' monitoring software supplied on the installation CD with our MPX2's - Winbond 'Hardware Doctor' version 3.3 - does not provide a readout of the 'core' temperature from either CPU - inaccurate as they may be: it is, frankly, a waste of time installing it: there are superior alternatives . . . 

 . . . such as the famous 'MotherBoardMonitor' freeware utility, which can provide a 'core' readout only from CPU#0 [primary] at present - the author of this utility, Alex Van Kaam, is working on enabling both CPU's 'core' readouts from the MPX2's Winbond 83627HF monitoring IC if & when Iwill sort out the MPX2's BIOS - this IC is also used by other of the MPX-chipset motherboards.

To enable this readout in MBM 5.1.x, select 'LM83-7 [remote 1]' as the sensor for CPU#0. Other possible sensors provide irrelevant readouts.

'core' temperatures - a reality-check:

The 1.2MHz MP CPU is rated by AMD to withstand a CPU-case temperature of 95C. This case-temperature is generally between 5-15C lower than the 'core' temperature reported by the Palomino's on-chip diode.

We found our overclocked CPU's at '1800+' & '2000+' FSB's & higher-than-default vcores never ran hotter case-temperatures than 27C over ambient [the air-temperature inside the PC-enclosure] under any & every test-load - we could monitor these CPU-case & PC-enclosure temperatures with great accuracy.

MPX2 CPU-monitoring - conclusions:

The MPX2's monitoring of both CPU's temperatures - vital for the administrator of a MPX2-based 'server' - is unacceptably inaccurate & inadequate: the MPX2's  'Iwill Processor Shelter' feature - dependant on accurate 'core' temperatures - cannot be relied upon.

We have reported these above flaws to Iwill, & hope that an improved BIOS may correct them; so that a competent in-OS monitoring utility such as MotherBoardMonitor will then be able to supply users of the MPX2 with this necessary information.

Cooling & layout 3: chipset & power components:

Northbridge: A dramatic feature of the MPX2 is the huge green-anodised heatsink on the AMD762 Northbridge, clamped down by a cranked spring.

We removed these, to find: a) the bases of all 3 samples were approx 0.75mm concave, & b) they were stuck down with double-sided TIM tape. After cleaning this off with acetone, & lapping the bases flat with coarse al/ox, then fine silicon-carbide paper sat on a piece of float-glass, we reseated them onto silver heatsink grease.

We also found that a standard 50mm fan could be secured to this heatsink by simply dropping standard wall-plugs in & securing the fan with self-tapping screws - the spacings of the outermost fins match quite well with the mount-holes of a 50mm fan - perhaps one recycled from an old 486 fansink.

Power components: For stability, the MPX2 reduces high-load trace-lengths by grouping its 3-phase arrangement of Mosfets & coils between the CPU-sockets & beside the EPS12V/ATX 2.03 PSU-sockets. An 'L'-shaped passive heatsink is stuck onto the Mosfets with TIM-tape, with a plastic shield between it & the coils.

Southbridge:  The MPX2 has the 'B2-step' AMD 768 Southbridge - which gives working onboard USB v 1.1

 

The MPX2 has 2 x diagonal mount-holes [not shown] for an active or passive heatsink over this Southbridge; but please note that this must have the large 65mm spacing between mount-hole centres, rather than the commoner 60mm spacing - measure before you buy - any active cooler must be very low-profile if a full-length card is to be installed into 64-bit PCI-slot #3.

Power Supply:

The MPX2's PSU-sockets allow use of either 20-pin+4-pin ATX 2.03 plugs, or [recommended by Iwill] 24-pin+8-pin EPS12V

Please note that there is at least one alternative 24-pin+8-pin PSU-plug layout: the proprietary 'WTX' PSU's for the Tyan Thunder 2462 - these will mechanically fit the MPX2; but won't function electrically: if you get one of these by mistake, 2462 'AMD'>EPS12V adapters are available from stockists or distributors of Enhance PSU's, such as lapicon in the UK.

Iwill put yellow warning stickers on the sockets over where the extra pins of the EPS12V would go. Please note that the smaller ATX plugs [installed correctly as below] do not engage & latch firmly onto these dual-standard sockets. 

We tried three different makes of PSU: the Enermax 431 ATX 2.03; the Enhance 0246 EPS12V, & a cheapo '550W' - in reality 365W RMS - ATX 2.03 PSU from EbuyerUK

Sadly, we had a bunch of hassles with our Enhance 0246, so cannot test any advantage this EPS12V design may have under heavy loads: both models of ATX 2.03 PSU's used have been quiet & produced adequate quantities of stable power on both rails for our CPU's & peripherals. 

If you're using an ATX 2.03 supply, a PSU with at least 200W combined output from the +3.3v/+5v rails is recommended.

MPX2 component-cooling & layout - conclusions:

It's clear that Iwill have put in the design-hours with their MPX2, benefiting from other manufacturer's mistakes, & going through several revisions before releasing this rev 1.3 product to the public: their care & attention to detail shows - & in our opinion, pays off in stability under overclocking stress.

The AMD762/768 combo needs all the cooling it can get - especially the Northbridge - & Iwill's arrangements are the best yet of any MPX-chipset motherboard. 

The MPX2 will disappoint followers of the current fashion for very large [80mm sq] fansinks; but it has adequate room for the best alternative:- efficient medium-volume 'extracting' fansinks, fitted with 60>80mm fan-adapters; Iwill should also be applauded for clearing away the weeny fragile surface components from the areas round the socket462's lugs.

Watercooling fans will be happy with the MPX2's large-size mount-holes.

We also feel the ATX/EPS PSU socket is an ingenious idea, well executed: our only concern is that ATX plugs don't latch into the sockets positively.

Cases:

The MPX2's ATX-E-format's great depth, combined with the height of the large capacitors adjacent the DDR slots - & the height of registered DDR if installed - makes finding a suitable PC-enclosure tricky.

We tried around ten cases; & only one NOT a full-height tower - the Codegen 9001 Midi Server case with strongly offset 5.25" devices- physically accommodated the MPX; even then, its motherboard tray did not reach the fourth row of standoffs on the MPX2. A common problem for other cases is the drive-bays for the HD's or lowermost 5.25" devices getting in the way of the memory or capacitors, or a sufficiently large cooler for CPU#0.  

The relatively large Globalwin YCC-802 midi-case used for the 'server' system had to have its lowermost CD-device removed, & its motherboard tray did not have pre-drilled mount-holes for the ATX-E's fourth row of standoffs.

Take care when sourcing a suitable case for this very large motherboard: it's unlikely you'll be able to re-use any existing 'midi' tower, & we found retailers to be less than knowledgeable - & over-easy with their assurances their cases would fit the MPX2.

      

Codegen 9001 Midi Server case with 'workstation' MPX2

copyright Stephen Hoar and Graham Demaline June 2002 for www.burningissues.net - all rights reserved

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