Soltek SL-PT880Pro-FGR on VIA PT880
The second mainboard included into this review belongs to the class of hi-end solutions, rather than to low-end ones, although it also has an alternative chipset inside. The price of the SL-PT880Pro-FGR approaches $100, suggesting a non-Intel chipset, too. Counting out this sum of money, the user gets the full set of capabilities, implemented in the VIA PT880, but also enhanced through extra controllers. Take a look at the mainboard specifications:
Intel Pentium 4/Celeron (800/533/400MHz FSB, Hyper-Threading, Socket 478)
VIA PT880 + VIA VT8237
FSB frequencies, MHz
100-250 (with 1MHz increment)
Adjustable Vcore, Vmem and Vagp
4 DDR DIMM slots for dual-/single-channel DDR400/DDR333/DDR266 SDRAM
Expansion slots (PCI/ACR/CNR)
USB 2.0 ports
8 (4 – on the back panel)
2 (1 – on the back panel) in the VIA VT6307 controller
2 ATA-100 channels (in the South Bridge)
2 Serial ATA-150 channels (in the South Bridge, with RAID support)
??? RAID support
RAID 0, 1, 0+1 in Promise PDC20378
Six-channel AC97 codec: VIA VT1616
Gigabit Ethernet VIA VT6122
ATX, 305mm x 244mm
As you see, SL-PT880Pro-FGR differs from ASUS P4S800D both in capabilities and exterior. The PCB of the ASUS’ board looked rather barren, while the Soltek abounds in various components and has original coloring. Well, external looks are not as important as what the product offers us at work.
First of all, Soltek claims compatibility of its mainboard with all Socket 478 processors including Prescott based CPUs. On the other hand, they make a remark that only Prescott processors with a frequency of 3GHz and lower are supported. This is evidently a safeguard measure as the CPU power unit looks quite reliable. It is three-channel and uses powerful MOSFETs, capacitors and inductance coils. After examination, we tried a Prescott 3.2GHz with this mainboard and found no problems in its work, although the PSU power unit, without any cooling, was heating up significantly.
The mainboard carries four DDR DIMM slots, grouped in twos, five PCI slots and one AGP. The AGP supports 1.5V graphics cards and the first PCI is situated very close to it, so a massive cooling system of your graphics card may block it altogether. Overall, SL-PT880Pro-FGR is an ordinary mainboard in this respect.
Thanks to the South Bridge (VT8237), used in the mainboard, there are USB 2.0 and SerialATA interfaces as well as AC’97 audio available. Particularly, four USB ports are nestled at the mainboard back panel, and four more are implemented as onboard connectors. Regrettably, you don’t receive any USB brackets for the back panel of the system case – you’ll have to buy them separately.
AC’97 audio is implemented through a six-channel VT1616 codec. This solution can’t boast any extraordinary features. Moreover, it was quite bad in our mainboard: a poor implementation of the analog tract worsens the quality of sound. The connections panel of the mainboard has three audio jacks (inputs are shared with outputs). Moreover, there is no wiring on the mainboard for the SPDIF output. Thus, the integrated audio solution of Soltek Sl-PT880Pro-FGR mainboard is just satisfactory, nothing more.
Soltek paid much attention to support of ATA devices, though. Overall, we have three Parallel ATA-133 channels and four SerialATA-150 channels. Two channels of each type are implemented in the chipset South Bridge, which also allows uniting SerialATA hard disk drives into RAID 0 and 1arrays. The rest of the channels (two SerialATA and one Parallel ATA) are attached across a highly functional Promise PDC20378 ATA RAID controller that allows building 0, 1 and 0+1 RAID arrays.
Soltek SL-PT880Pro-FGR also supports the FireWire interface through the onboard VIA VT6307 controller. One port resides on the mainboard I/O panel, and another is available as an onboard connector. Regrettably, the accessories to the mainboard don’t include a bracket with FireWire connectors for outputting this port.