September 22, 2000

Soyo SY-7ISA motherboard review

Author: JT Smith

By: Jeff Field
NewsForge Columnist

Features of the SY-7ISA
The SY-7ISA from Soyo is a Socket 370 board based on the Intel I815 chipset. The board is an ATX form factor motherboard. It has one AGP, one AMR, and six PCI slots. For external expansion, it has two USB, one Serial, one Parallel and one on-board VGA port. It also has onboard sound with a MIDI/Joystick port, Line-in, Line-Out and MIC. It has three DIMM slots for up to 1.5 gigabytes of RAM. At 100MHz all three slots may be occupied, at 133MHz only two slots may be occupied. The board supports front side bus speeds from 66 MHz to 166MHz, 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-7ISA Feature Set
CPU
Socket 370 for Pentium III FCPGA and Celeron Processors.
66/100/133/145/150/166MHz FSB
AutoDetect CPU Voltage

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

Memory
64MB to 512MB DIMMS
3 DIMM slots

Expansion
1 x 4X AGP Slot
6 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
This board is an ATX form factor board. It is layed out spaciously, with almost everything in an easy to access place. Everything except the CPU, that is. A common problem among Soyo boards is that they do not place enough space between the CPU Sockets and the capacitors, making it difficult to install larger heatsinks on the board (though it is possible, you just need to be careful).

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-7ISA
2.2.16 2.4.0-test5
933MHz 2:05 3:07

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-7ISA
RC5 kkeys/sec OGR nodes/sec
933MHz 2,658,747.30 4,990,264.23

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-7ISA
Device Read Timings (-t) Cache Read Timings (-T)
933MHz 4.20MB/sec. 150.59MB/sec.

Benchmark Commentary
The results for this board are very nice. They are (as you would expect) extremely similar to the SY-7ISM results. Altogether the two boards are extremely similar as far as performance goes, but this board offers more expansion, key to building a high end PC.

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-ISA is not an overclocking board. I could not get it to run stable at more than 137MHz front side bus speed. This is most likely because you can not change the CPU core voltage, something that can be key to successful overclocking. However, there are plenty of FSB speeds offered, so you do have options, however, if you are buying this board with the intention of overclocking, you may be disappointed.

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 U.S. Web site is located at http://www.soyousa.com.

Conclusions
The Soyo SY-7ISA is an excellent motherboard. Combining great performance with loads of expansion room and the latest features, the SY-7ISA is everything someone could want from a workstation. If you are the average person who doesn't overclock, this very well might be the board for you. If you are a hardcore overclocker, I can't recommend this board, however, most people aren't. The board performs great under Linux, and could even be used for an entry level Linux system thanks to its onboard components (however, if you don't intend to use the expansion, I'd suggest the 7ISM instead, as it'd be cheaper and better suit the purpose).

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

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