PCChips M598 Motherboard (SiS 530)
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.
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.
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.
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!
PCChips M598 information and drivers: http://www.pcchips.com/m598.html
Tiger Direct http://www.tigerdirect.com/
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