August 25, 2000

Friday<BR>Penguin Hardware Review

Author: JT Smith

By: Jeff Field
Soyo SY-7ISM Review

Features of the SY-7ISM
The SY-7ISM from Soyo is a Socket 370 motherboard based on Intel's new I815 chipset. The board is a Micro ATX form factor motherboard. It has two PCI, one AMR (for softmodem) and one AGP. For ports, it has two USB, one Serial Port, one Parallel, one On-board VGA. It has onboard sound as well, with a joystick (MIDI) port, Line out. Line in and MIC. It has two DIMM slot for up to one gigabyte of PC100 or 133 SDRAM.

The board supports front side bus speeds from 66 MHz to 150MHz, allowing for 66MHz, 100MHz and 133MHz CPUs to be used on the board, up to a 933MHz Pentium III. RAM speed (100MHz/133MHz) is selectable in the BIOS so you may use PC100 memory in conjunction with a 133MHz FSB CPU.

SY-7ISM Feature Set
CPU
Socket 370 for Pentium III FCPGA and Celeron Processors.
66/100/133/140/145MHz FSB
AutoDetect CPU Voltage

Chipset
Intel 815 Chipset
AC97 Onchip Audio
Intel I815 On Board 2D/3D Video

Memory
64MB to 512MB DIMMS
2 DIMM slots

Expansion
1 x 4X AGP Slot
2 x PCI Slot
1 x AMR (Auto Modem Riser) Slot
I/O
2 x Ultra DMA 33/66 Bus Master IDE
1 x FDD, 1 x COM, 1 x LPT, PS/2 Keyboard, PS/2 Mouse
1 x Joystick, 1 x Line-In, 1 x Line-Out, 1 x MIC.
2 x USB On board, 2 x USB via Cable (Cable Not Included).

Power Management
Support ACPI/APM
ATX Power Connector
Soft Power-off
Supports USB device wake-up
Suspend / Wake-on by ACPI & APM device

Documentation
Minimal print documentation is included with the board. Troubleshooting information, diagrams of the motherboard and jumper settings, as well as documentation on how to do the software setup. More information is included on the CD, however, so assuming you have access to another PC with a printer, you may print out (or read online) your own documentation.

Board Layout and Design
The board is a Micro ATX form factor board. It is meant to be compact, and if you've ever worked inside a "compact" PC, you know that that has a tendency to mean "hard to work with." For the most part, the Soyo's design is satisfactory. The power supply connector isn't blocked by the CPU, and all the slots allow full length cards. However, the design around the CPU socket leaves something to be desired, as there are capacitors very close to the CPU, making it much more difficult to install a heatsink. Other than this, the design is satisfactory.

Setup and Testing Process
In order to test this board, I used Mandrake 7.1. Experiences with other distributions should be similar. I tested the SY-7ISM at 933MHz (133MHz x 7.0) and 980 (140MHz x 7.0). An attempt was made at 1015MHz (145MHz x 7.0), but it was not stable. To compare, you should read my ABIT BX133 review from last week.

To test the motherboards, I ran a variety of CPU, I/O and memory intensive benchmarks. The first benchmark is a set of timed Linux kernel compiles. Compiling a kernel is a common action for a Linux user, making it a very valid benchmark for a Linux system. To do the testing, I used a Mandrake 7.1 installation. I configured the kernels by typing "make config" and selecting the defaults (holding down enter works nicely). I type "make clean; make dep; time make bzImage" in order to time the kernel compiles.

Performance
System Specifications
Pentium III 933EB MHz CPU provided by Intel.
128 Megs PC133 Memory
Western Digital 7200RPM 10.2 gig IDE Hard Drive
Sound Blaster Live! Value Sound
3Com 3C905TX-C PCI 10/100 NIC
300 Watt AMD-Approved ATX Power Supply
The above components were purchased from Specialty Tech.
3DFX Voodoo3 3000 16Meg AGP
Operating System: Mandrake 7.1 with 2.2.15 Kernel.

Kernel Compiles
To test the motherboard, I ran a variety of CPU, I/O and memory intensive benchmarks. The first benchmark is a set of timed Linux kernel compiles. Compiling a kernel is a common action for a Linux user, making it a very valid benchmark for a Linux system. To do the testing, I used a Mandrake 7.1 installation. I configured the kernels by typing "make config" and selecting the defaults (holding down enter works nicely). I type "make clean; make dep; time make bzImage" in order to time the kernel compiles.

Kernel Compile Times (Minutes:Seconds)

Soyo SY-7ISM
2.2.16 2.4.0-test5
933MHz 2:09 3:15
980MHz 2:02 3:02

Distributed.Net
Next, I used the Distributed.Net client to perform benchmarks using "dnetc -benchmark." This benchmark uses highly tuned, CPU specific computation cores to achieve the best results possible. Because the core is small enough to run in cache, this test gives you numbers specific to the raw performance of processors of the same type. So, while not fair for cross-platform comparison, it is valid when comparing similar CPUs, or in this case, the same CPU at different speeds, on different motherboards.

Distributed.Net Results

Soyo SY-7ISM
RC5 kkeys/sec OGR nodes/sec
933MHz 2,624,660.80 4,920,687.34
980MHz 2,766,203.19 5,186,969.09

HDParm
Using HDParm measures the performance (cached and un-cached) of hard drives under Linux. This shows the potential performance of a hard drive under this particular motherboard.

HDParm Results

Soyo SY-7ISM
Device Read Timings (-t) Cache Read Timings (-T)
933MHz 4.21MB/sec. 142.22MB/sec.
980MHz 4.39MB/sec. 150.59MB/sec.

Benchmark Commentary
As you can see, the Soyo SY-7ISM is an excellent performer, and would do well for a simple workstation/desktop PC. CPU, hard drive and memory performance are top notch, and will only get better with faster CPUs. Soyo did an excellent job squeezing a lot of power out of such a tiny board.

A note. These results should be used in comparison versus other similar products to see which is faster, and benchmarks should never be your final determining factor. I always consider stability and support before absolute performance - if it doesn't work, what does it matter how fast it is? So please, take all benchmarks with a grain of salt.

Overclocking
The Soyo 7-ISM is a decent, but not great, overclocker. It allows you to overclock the CPU by changing the FSB setting in the BIOS, although you are limited by whether your CPU uses a 100MHz or 133MHz front side bus. Also, you can not up the voltage, which is why this board can not run a PIII-933 stably at 1015MHz. For someone looking to squeeze a few extra MHz, it's a fine board, but something to be passed on by the serious overclocker.

About Soyo
Soyo, formed in 1985, entered the PC motherboard in 1986 with their first XT motherboard. Since then, Soyo has been producing PC motherboards of all shapes and sizes. They have become one of the most popular motherboard brands in the world, and carry with them a good reputation. Soyo has a very widely varied product line, including motherboards with Socket 370, Socket 7, Slot 1/2 and Slot A CPU interfaces as well as boards based on chipsets from VIA and Intel in a variety of Form Factors. Soyo's US website is located at http://www.soyousa.com.

Conclusions
The Soyo SY-7ISM, while having limited expansion capability, is an excellent performer, and is also a good opportunity for those wishing to build a cheap Linux system, as the sound and the onboard video can be used instead of buying other components. To assemble an entire system, you'd only need to add the various storage components, a case and a network card or modem. For a serious gamer/user, I would recommend a board with more slots, as two PCI is not enough for most serious PC/Linux users. However, for someone looking to build a game system or cheap workstations, this board is an excellent choice. It performs very well at the job it was built for, and is overall an excellent motherboard.

Full Disclosure: SY-7ISM provided by Soyo, CPU provided by Intel.

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