VIA has recently entered the integrated mainboard chipset
market with the release of the VIA PM 133, a Socket 370 based chipset. This
chipset is essentially a combination of the VIA Apollo 133A chipset coupled with
the S3 Savage 2000 2D core and S3's Savage4 3D core.
Since the PM 133
provides for an integrated video solution, it is quite attractive for OEMs and
system builders as the additional cost of a third party video card is
eliminated. And as you may have guessed, the PM 133 is VIA's alternative to
In this review, we will be paying close attention to
one particular PM 133 based solution from Soyo the Soyo 7VMA.
Thanks to the flexibility of VIA chipset design, the PM 133
can be paired with either VIA's older ATA 66 southbridge, the 686A, or with the
newer 686B which incorporates support for ATA 100 (the Soyo 7VMA B is based on
the PM 133 & 686B). Soyo Europe was kind enough to provide us with an early
7VMA test sample, which featured the older 686A (ATA 66)
The Soyo 7VMA
package features the following material...
The board itself
ATA 66 cable & FDD cable
One CD with motherboard drivers, including a
full version of the manual in PDF format and a system monitoring utility.
photocopy of the manual (retail version has the original manual)
containing full versions of Symantec Norton Antivirus, Norton Ghost & Norton
Starting off, we were delighted to see the 7VMA layout to
be extremely clean and the components to be easily accessible. It appears that
everything is placed exactly where it should be. The FDD and HDD ports are
placed next to the DIMM sockets and memory can be installed or uninstalled
without having to remove the AGP video card. This board does not seem to create
any expansion problems when installed on smaller ATX cases. The VIA northbridge
sports a heatsink attached with thermal paste. There are 2 x 2200µF, 5 x 1500µF,
15 x 1000µF & 4 x 470µF capacitors present on the Soyo
Once installed, the
board automatically detects the CPU type as well as its FSB. One feature that we
have seen a lot of these days is "voice diagnosis". Soyo's version of this
features is dubbed as "Voice Doctor". Voice Doctor is a handy little feature
which informs the user (in English or Chinese through the system's PC speaker)
in case of a serious system failure or incorrect hardware installation.
Essentially, this feature is included as a simple means to alert the user of
common hardware setup problems. Though experienced assemblers may not require
it, it is certainly a rather pleasant feature to have.
installation was a snap and all the necessary drivers were easily installed.
However, we did notice a slight problem. When enabling the HCLK +33MHz BIOS
memory option, the system would run rather unstable although the memory bus
speed was much within our SDRAM module's specification. We tried two different
types & brands of SDRAM modules but the problem was not
Test Bed Setup
OEM Intel Celeron
Tested boards: DFI CS65 SC (Intel 815), Soyo 6BA+IV (Intel
BX), Soyo 7VMA (VIA PM133), DFI CA64 EC (VIA Apollo Pro 133A with ATA 100
128 MB PC 100 CAS 2 SDRAM
3dfx Voodoo5 5500 AGP
Digital 30GB ATA/66 HDD, 5400 RPM
Orchid Nusound 3D (Aureal Vortex 1 sound
NEC 5500A DVD ROM (8x/40x)
The memory speed on the Soyo 6BA+IV
was set at 66MHz as the Intel BX chipset does not provide support for
asynchronous memory/CPU FSB speeds. As mentioned earlier, the Soyo 7VMA was
unstable when we used the HCLK +33MHZ (100MHz) BIOS memory option.
BIOS settings were tweaked for maximum performance on all of the tested boards.
On all of the tests we used the Orchid Nusound PCI soundcard for audio output
instead of the integrated AC97 CODEC (unless noted otherwise).