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Hardware

PCChips M598 Motherboard (SiS 530)

Introduction

This is yet another of the "clone boards" distributed under many different names by many different resellers. It's identified by the large heatsink with "SiS 530" printed on it but there are no other identifiable markings but a small "version" number near the keyboard connector. This board runs its front-side-bus at 100 MHz making it a really good deal if you want to take advantage of the superior price point of the AMD K6-2 processors. This motherboard can be had for about $80 and is one of the earlier PC100 boards with integrated graphics and sound. Like the other PC Chips clone boards, some resellers will sell you an ATX Form Card which brings two USB connectors, a PS/2 mouse port, and a mini-DIN IRDA connector to the back panel. Tiger Direct sells the board at a good price but they don't sell the $6 ATX form card for some reason. With a hard disk and case already in hand I was able to cobble together a very fast 350 MHz AMD K6-2 system with 64 MHz of PC100 RAM and USB -- with only $240 cash on a hot day of street buying in Flushing, NY. Surely, you can find even lower prices via mail-order today.

Integrated Hardware

Video
There is onboard AGP video (SiS 530 chipset) that can be configured to use up to a whopping eight megabytes of main memory for the frame buffer. This is a tremendous graphics engine for a motherboard at this price. Unfortunately, I was not able to get my hands on the AGP miniport drivers to enable the AGP bus in Windows 98 so I can't speak for its AGP performance. As a PCI adapter it seems comparable to a generic Intel 740. Either way, an AGP video system with 8 megabytes for the frame buffer is great for a bottomfeeder system. Since the framebuffer memory is shared with the system it's not as fast as a system that has dedicated SGRAM on a video card, but it's competent enough for a bottomfeeder.

Update: Even with the latest driver this chipset does not have a CPU-to-AGP bridge listed in the Windows 98 System control panel. I'm still not sure this really is an AGP device.

Sound System
Some of the older non-PC100 PC Chips clone boards (like the M571) had ISA sound chipsets remarked as PCI parts. This board features actual PCI audio with wavetable synthesis in the form of the C-Media PCI chipset. This board has a jumper to disable the sound system in hardware, which is a good thing because the older PC Chips M571 BIOS wasn't very good at killing the sound chipset.

Identification

The revision number of this board is next to the keyboard connector. Mine is labelled "v 5.0" which comes from a dealer in Flushing, NY. I'm not certain of the significance of these version numbers when seeking this motherboard out. This board is sold under many different names and sometimes under no name at all. Tiger Direct sells this as their "M598" board. The "SiS 530" mark may not always be present on the heatsink and there appear to be some boards around without a heatsink on the BGA package at all. Those boards can be physically dangerous and should be avoided.

Comments and Experiences

Buying clone boards can be a risky proposition. If you can't afford the excellent EpOX and SOYO brands perhaps you feel adventurous enough to save about $30 and get yourself a clone board.

I'm concerned with the AGP drivers. Not for my lack of trying, but I just could not find what I thought were the appropriate AGP miniport drivers. Remember that ALL non-Intel motherboards, and even some Intel boards, require you to install AGP miniport drivers to enable the CPU-to-AGP controller in Windows 9x. There may be some drivers posted at www.sis.com.tw by now so you may want to look before buying this product. A SiS representative assures me that the graphics subsystem on this board is AGP and I have no reason to doubt his integrity. Having said that, my experience suggests that if you think AGP is important (not everyone does) then this board may not be for you. I thought for a little while that I had been scammed into purchasing the M596 but that is an ATX board. I finaly found after extensive looking on the internet for photographs, spec sheets, and various identification tools that the system is genuine. It's so hard to tell with a clone board if you're getting a genuine product (see the M571 story for more on that). It almost makes me want to give up and spend the extra $20-$40 for SOYO or EpOX, but not quite.

If you have lots of legacy hardware this is probably one of the last hold-outs for ISA junkies with its two slots, but the memory is strictly DIMM only. On the other hand, the BIOS automatically figures out your CPU's clock multiplier and voltage after you specify the vendor and advertised clock speed. This is helpful if you're getting the board and plopping in an old CPU before getting a new CPU. This is also one of the first clone boards I've seen that has CPU temperature monitoring in the form of a thermistor placed right in the empty space underneath the CPU socket -- I can never find those on other boards. I'm still trying to find where EpOX hides theirs!

URLs

PCChips M598 information and drivers: http://www.pcchips.com/m598.html

PCChips: http://www.pcchips.com/

Tiger Direct http://www.tigerdirect.com/

Disclaimer

This information is constantly being updated. Please check back often or contribute your own comments at the contact link at the bottom of this page.