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Iwill MPX2 Motherboard review


 

MPX2: how it comes; how it goes:

How it comes: The MPX2 comes in a spiffy box, with no mention of the MPX2's overclocking features; but a big picture of the Northbridge heatsink.

Inside, you find a small, clearly printed manual, a support CD, a pair of cables, three spare jumpers  . . . & that's your lot. We would like the contents to include an IO-port shield.

Infuriatingly; the manual omits pin-outs for the secondary onboard USB, & is unclear on the case-connectors [doesn't show polarities]. It is clearer than most manuals, written in pretty fair english, & is not as evasive as most when it comes to overclocking.

This large & heavy motherboard is not a close fit in the box, which in our early boards lacked padding - one of our three MPX2's had a corner broken on arrival.

How it goes:

The questions posed at the beginning of this burningissues review were:

"Is the MPX2 a good server-board? . . . & if so,

Is there any point in overclocking it? - & - (cough, ahem) if so; how high?"

Well, two questions probably deserve two answers: the first is from the co-author with the 'workstation' specification MPX2:

"The Iwill MPX2 is probably the most stable board I have used and it is certainly the fastest.

Iwill have spent time, and money, on getting this board right and on the whole they have succeeded. It is very sad that they have let themselves down with the BIOS; no multiplier options in the June 2002 release, temperature readings that are wildly inaccurate, apparently poor 32bit 33MHz PCI throughput, no PCI latency adjustment, and no 1:5 or 1:6 divider.

Admittedly it may not be possible to add the 1:5 or 1:6 dividers but they really must get most, if not all of the other issues mentioned sorted out before any competent server system administrator will consider this board as a viable option.

If you are looking for a dual board that is stable, fast and overclockable this board is worthy of serious consideration and if the issues above are dealt with I would consider it a must- have board, especially if you are dealing with large graphics, MP3s or other large files. Incidentally it is able to open Photoshop 7 in about 5 seconds.

The MPX2 was bought for this review in the hope that I would like it and keep it, well this particular board won't be for sale for several years because I will be using it on a day to day basis."

The second is from the co-author with the 'server' specified MPX2

"Is the MPX2 a good server-board?"

Yes: it's stable, roomy, well-made, & thoughtfully designed - the wretchedly poor implementation of 'Iwill Processor Shelter' is worrying, as is the linked failure to provide competent monitoring software; but no doubt this will be sorted by the time the MPX2 is available in quantity.

The MPX2's implementation of the AMD762/768 chipset has question-marks hanging over its PCI-buses performance: our simple benchmarks run with low-to-medium end RAID-hosts show puzzling discrepancies between the 32-bit & 64-bit buses.

It seems probable the complex architecture of this chipset makes it difficult to separately optimise each bus.

The 3 BIOS' to date hold out a decent range of features; I am concerned that several of these do not yet work properly: however, none of these features directly affect the MPX2's functionality as a stable base for an 'entry-level server'

Server-boards have different [higher] levels of support & thorough development - Iwill's performance will be keenly observed. 

"Is there any point in overclocking it? - & - (cough, ahem) if so; how high?"

As an overclocker's platform, the Rev.1.3 MPX2 is far & away the best dual-Athlon motherboard:

It has long been rumoured the AMD MP/X chipset had a stable FSB-limit of around 150-155MHzs - mainly thought to due to the stresses of channelling all that DDR bandwidth through the Northbridge to & from 2 CPU's.

We found the MPX2 to be a fairly trivial air-cooled 'clock to the high 160's/low 170's FSB with suitably tolerant components; but also that it's fatally flawed for data-critical use at these speeds by the absence of dividers higher than 1:4.

The MPX2's fine-grained FSB/Multiplier tweakability combines addictively with server-board stability: if there's such a thing as an overclocker's server-board, this is it.

I think the MPX2 Rev.1.3 is a considerable achievement by Iwill - so good it has no real competition.

Acknowledgements:

We paid for all the kit used in this review; & the opinions contained therein are entirely our own. We were assisted throughout by the help & co-operation of those mentioned beneath; who we would like to thank:

Iwill: Joseph, David

Laser: [Iwill agents in Europe] Theresa

Armari: [UK quality workstation/server builders] Paresh

Lapicon: [UK agents for Enhance EPS12V] Adrian, David

Friends, colleagues, & allies who helped us with advice, encouragement, & help in sourcing components:

Brad, Caleb Braff, Rod Day, Colin Demaline, James Kettner, etc & etc

Other MPX2 reviews:

01 July 2002: Typically fine Rev.1.3 review at 2cpu: interesting, unusual, & insightful benchmarks; review strong on practicalities & constructive criticism: well illustrated.

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

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