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geoffrey 12th August 2008 22:30

SuperSocket 7 revisited!
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Overclocking older hardware seem to work pretty well in terms of scoring hwbot hardware points. The thing is that choosing the best board around ain't always that simple, so I think we should join forces and create one big informational thread which would make it easier to pick your board of chose. In this thread we will be discussing super socket 7 boards only, a socket which supported Pentium and AMD processors at the same time, a socket flooded with different kind of chipsets too... Before we dive any deeper inside the chipsets pros and cons, let's have a little history talk:

It all began with:
Socket 5 was the second generation socket designed for Intel Pentium processors. It supported Pentium cpu's up to 120MHz, in contrary to the pre-socket 4 systems we are already speaking of a computer system where there is a general front side bus and a multiplier which allows the cpu to run at greater speed then all the other components in the system. Socket 5 then further involved into socket 7, counting only one extra pin this new socket allowed dual rail voltage and thus more power hungry processors.

Socket 7 became a commonly used socket for many kind of processor, to name a few: Intel, AMD, Cyrix, ... One of it's benefits was that it was backwards compatible, allowing it to run either socket 5 or socket 7 cpu's. Afterwards AMD further developed this socket as holder of their K6-2 and K6-3 processors, further enhanced now the name "Super Socket 7" was born.

For us overclockers you should know that these super socket 7 boards are in fact a very excellent environment to play around with, the high compatibility allows you to try many different kind of processors when only needing one or two good mainboards to play around with.

First socket 5 cpu's saw the light in early 1994, last samples were released just before the change of the century. Where AMD kept on supporting socket 7 Intel went it's own route, having their own socket (Slot 1), it was only later on that the need for a higher performance (because of the taught competition) made AMD jump into Slot A.

A brief introduction into the chipsets:

Socket 7 was for few years roughly the only processor socket around and so it is not odd at all that we find so many different kind of chipset. To name them:

Intel: 430LX, 430NX, ,430FX, 430HX, 430VX, 430TX.
Opti: Python, Cobra, Viper DP, Viper M/N/N-/NK/N+, FireStar/FireStarACPI, Viper Max, Viper Xpress, Vendetta
Ali: Genie, Aladdin 3, Aladdin 4, Aladdin 4+, Aladdin 5, Aladdin 5+, Aladdin 5+ ref F, Aladdin 7
AMD: 640, 640AGP
Sis: 501/02/03, 5511/12/13, 5571, 5581/82, 5596, 5597/5598, 530, 540, 5591/92
UMC: 881x
VLSI: 82C59x, Lynx (82C541/82C543)
VIA: Apollo Master, Apollo VP-1, Apollo VP-2, Apollo VP-2/97, Apollo VPX, Apollo VPX/97, Apollo VP-3, Apollo MVP3, Apollo MVP4

All these chipsets support up to FSB 100 maximum since there are no processors using a higher front side bus speed. Back then overclocking was not at all as popular is it is nowadays and so the board of choose will not be easily made. Unless you are satisfied with having a Pentium MMX with 66MHz bus speed overclocked to 100MHz. Many boards can do that, we are here to look what is beyond these bounderies, so the hunt start for boards which allow more.

Be aware with product names, OEM boards made by Pcchips may not always give you correct idea on what chipset is being used:

HX Pro = ALi Aladdin III
SX Pro (M598) = SiS 530
TX AGP Pro (M577) = VIA MVP3
TX Pro (M560) = ALi Aladdin IV+
TX Pro (M575) = ALi Aladdin IV+
TX Pro II (M571) = SiS 5597/98
TX Pro III (M573) = VIA VP2
TX Pro IV (M570) = SiS 5591/92
Top Gun (M565) = ALi Aladdin IV+
VX Two = SiS ???
M590 = SiS 530

PCCHIPS = Ability = Alton = Amptron = Aristo = Asia Gate = Asiatech = Assa = Atrend = Elpina = Eurone = Fugu = Fugutech = Hi Sing = Houston = Hsing Tech = H Tech = Matsonic = Minstaple = PCWare = Pine = Protac = QDI = Warpspeed

Choosing the right chipset:

A typical super socket 7 board.

Taking the latest chipset doesn't always result in having the highest performance. Chipsets are equipped with internal and external TagRam. The more TagRAM you have, the more memory is cachable, you get a small performance hit once you start using more memory then what is cachable. An example might be the Intel 430TX and 430HX comparison. Intel's latest, the TX, comes with only 64MB cachable RAM (though you can use up to 256MB max) and does not support low latency SDRAM while the HX offers 512MB cachable RAM (and supports up to 512MB max) but does not support SDRAM at all. The outcome is that even when using faster SDRAM on the TX chipset does not make the system faster then when combining a HX chipset with EDO RAM, just because it has less cachable RAM and it can not select low latency's (no 5-1-1-1 f.a.). So to start with, what type of RAM should we really be looking out for?

Memory support
On socket 7 you'll stuck mostly open EDO en SDRAM. There is also stuff like FPM but this is from the early s7 days and is not as fast as EDO and SDRAM is. In reality FPM is of no interest, you can skip and go straight forward to SDRAM and EDO. EDO is roughly 10% slower then SDRAM, with the above described sample of the HX versus the TX you could consider EDO but the best part really is that SDRAM will scale further then EDO RAM and so I would highly suggest to only have a look at boards which support SDRAM and equip it with PC133 CL2 SDRAM. Also look for DIMM support as it provides double memory bandwidth over SIMM (dual-in-line vs single-in-line), but I don't believe there are such a thing like SIMM SDRAM

You find different kind of cache memory support: Asyn. SRAM, Sync Burst SRAM and Pipelined Burst SRAM. Asynchronous RAM runs asynchronous with the bus which is why it is the slowest of the three, the CPU has to wait before the RAM becomes available. Sync Burst SRAM is typically the fastest, but since it comes with higher latency's once the bus clock exceeds 66MHz it is in fact PLB SRAM which is of most interest of us.

The amount of cache does not make much sense went you're hunting high memory bandwidth, though when you start using software which makes lots of use of the cache memory then more cache will certainly pay off. We've already noticed with Barton vs Th-B steppings for the Atlon XP line that more cache always comes in handy when running SuperPi for example, so having a board with 2MB cache onboard will certainly help.

TagRAM and cachable area
The Pentium mainboards use a 32KBx8 cache chip as TAGRAM, this chip allows 64MB of the memory to be cachable. Some boards however are equipped with a second chip or at sometimes a second where you plug in another TAGRAM chip so to increase the size of memory which is cachable. Even though knowing that the size of TAGRAM indicates the size of the cachable area, you should know that there are chipsets out there who will never support more then 64MB cachable memory. This is a limitation of the chipset, not the TAGRAM. Most Intel chipsets except for the HX offer only 64MB cachable memory and so come with a small performance penalty over other chipsets.

Voltage range
There are quite some different CPU's supported and many run on different voltages, the elder ones on more then 3V while the younger generation has enough with roughly 2V or less. But since we will most likely perform overvoltage mods anyway I think we should not pay to much attention to this.
Getting clean voltage will most likely differ on newer on elder boards, but you can always add smoothing caps so again I see no problem.

Frequency select
Except from most examples described above, this is probable the most interesting part. A lot of the elder board are mode to support op up 66MHz only, most Intel chipsets will not hit 100MHz for example. They may be decent for elder hardware but for us are of not many use. There are a lot boards out offering 100MHz FSB since this is the highest speed at which Socket 7 were made, however there are a whole lot boards out there with even higher settings. The choice of chipset does limit the overclock though because once you go past 100MHz FSB many boards have there PCI clock way too high. 110MHz may work but higher will mostly result in a unstable setup.
Some of the better boards which come with the the Aladdin V or the VIA MVP3 chipset are known for not having a 1/4 divider so getting the system to boot at 133MHz is not very likely. The SIS 530 however does support the 1/4 divider, but on its turn is plagued with lower memory bandwidth, the extra bus speed does take back most of that performance loss though.

Dual channel memory, on socket 7?
Yes, believe it or not, it does exist. The Ali Aladdin 7 chipset allows for a 128-bit memory bus when both first and second slots are occupied with the same type of memory. This gives the chipset high scores in memory bandwidth and latency, and you can select up to 133MHz by hardware. Unfortunately this chipset is rather hard to find since at that time the new AMD socket was already available and there was only little demand for the elder socket. Furthermore it is know to have little driver/manual support and that it does not support onboard cache which makes this chipset very questionable.

K6... and K6+... and ASUS P5A
Late in the lifespan of super socket 7 AMD came out with K6-2+ and K6-3+ cpu's which were intentionally ment for the mobile market but also function on the desktop boards. Both are in fact nearly the same, only difference is that the latter comes with more cache. The old K6-2 came with 64k L1 cache with the L2 cache stored on the mainboard. The K6-2+ however comes with 64k L1 cache and 128k full speed L2 cache on die, with the rest of the cache onboard being L3 cache. The K6-3 and K6-3+ do even better, they have 64k L1 cache and 256k L2 cache on die. Together with that, the K6+ cpu's are build on a smaller production process and come with lower CPU ID's making them more attractive for the overclockers. Unfortunately these CPU's are very rare to find. The thing is that the ASUS P5A seem to have compatibility problems with these CPU's and its better not to have this kind of processors in the 1.005 and 1.006 revisions of this board.

Conclusive thoughts
Since we'll be mostly clocking for highest speed and highest 2D performance it does not matter that much if a board comes with no AGP port and stuff like that. It's 2008, if you want a decent AGP system I suggest you start looking for one of the Asrock Conroe boards which have the PT800 chipset. From this list the EPOX EP MVP3G-2 or DFI k6xv3+66 are quite decent. P5A aint bad but rev 5 and 6 will offer slow performance when using AMD K6+ cpu's.
All in all I think the Aladdin 7 and SIS530 boards might be the best around, they have their plagues like instability, driver support and stuff like that but getting the FSB stable at 133MHz is certainly a great advantage of these boards.

WPCREDIT: WPCREDIT is the program that edits PCI Configration Register. Compatible with many chipsets. You must download the correct PCR file which corresponds with your chipset.
CPU Cool: Display's the temperatures, fan speed, voltages, system values (Data input and output) and SDRAM's contents, cooling for Windows and change the frequency of your PC.
Softfsb: Allows changing the frequency of your PC.

Overclocking adventures
Modding the PC Chips M590:
Massman pushin the old socket 7


Many thanks for all the people who contributed into making this a informative thread:
Zeratul, member of the forum, for his excellent socket 7 guide
Duane for his motherboard hardware guide
Dion_b from Gathering of Tweakers forum for his large mainboard DRAM latency tests
All these people from the K6plus forums, too many to name but you know who you are
Marco van de Voort and many others for their 2001 hardware guide

Massman 12th August 2008 22:41

Might be interesting to gather the information we already posted around the forums here.

Great initiative, though, I really like the old-skool hardware.

geoffrey 13th August 2008 22:33

My mainboard has onboard video but no way to shut it down. What about your s7 boards massman?
You seem to get benefits in memory bandwith when you shut it down, probable less noticeable at higher bus frequency's so I suggest you test this with the FSB clocked at 66MHz.

Massman 14th August 2008 09:12

VERY informational thread, G, I really really digg it.

I have two SS7 motherboards lying around at the moment, not sure if one of them has onboard VGA.

To rule in benchmarks, you either need high MHz or much L2 cache. I prefer the L2 cache, as that gives you quite a nice boost, especially in the Pifast benchmark. I'm not sure whether the Alladin 7 will be that much faster, I'd be willing to test it out, though. It seems that certain chipsets are just too slow CPC to even consider buying one.

For high cpu-z validation files, disable L2 cache and you'll be hitting a lot higher speeds. Of course, the OS loads extremely slow then and you'll have to wait a bit before you can actually save the validation :).

If you want to play with a lot more motherboards, go check out the German Ebay. You'll find an insane amount of motherboards for little to no money. Shipping is a bit difficult and pricy, probably, but you can sidestep that by shipping multiple boards to one person in germany and have that person send you all the boards at once to you. Have done that already, no real biggie :)

geoffrey 14th August 2008 09:36

Cache is not the problem, PCI busses are, they run far to much out of specs when you go for 133MHz because there is no 1/4 divider.
but no 133/33, instead you'll have 133/44!

That's where the Aladdin 7 and SIS530 come in handy, they support 133/33, this will most likely make them the fastest boards too if you can get them stable that is.

Massman 14th August 2008 10:45

Amount of L2 > FSB (in Pifast benchmark), it seems.

//Edit: Maybe add these threads to the starting post?

geoffrey 14th August 2008 15:04

Added, thx

Less then 2% difference, not that much really. Did you use software tweaking tool wpcredit.exe? You need to have the correct PCR files for your chipset: you can find both the tool and pcr files here.
Off course, if that guy could run FSB 112 he would surely own you, now the battle is relatively close. Fact is, if you can run you're CPU at 133MHz then you have both the benefits of a higher bus speed and higher cpu speed (depends on which cpu you get). Aladdin 7 boards are very rare to find, expect to pay premiem prices too. They have great memory bandwith but in the end I think they will fall behind SIS530 boards which are well tweaked and have 2MB L2 cache, if both were hitting 133MHz FSB that is.

Massman 14th August 2008 15:28

Oh, fantastic! I already knew Wpcredit, but hadn't found the right PCR files.

jmke 14th August 2008 15:54

the true overclocking spirit still lives!

geoffrey 14th August 2008 22:22

Some interesting boards to look for:
Gigabyte GA-5SMM
PCchips m583lmr
Powercolor p561a

geoffrey 8th November 2008 16:49

1 Attachment(s)

Originally Posted by geoffrey (Post 221951)
Aladdin 7 boards are very rare to find, expect to pay premiem prices too. They have great memory bandwith but in the end I think they will fall behind SIS530 boards which are well tweaked and have 2MB L2 cache, if both were hitting 133MHz FSB that is.

For superpi the larger L2 cache will come in handy and is supported, fact is that none manufacturer offers 2MB L2 cache for the SIS 530 chipset based boards, 512kb at most from what I've seen so far. The Aladdin 7 chipset might be useful for pure memory latency and 3D but the lack of external L2 cache will make this a slow platform combined with most Socket 7 cpu's. In superpi it is probable advisible to stay away from Aladdin 7, the mobile K6 have fast on-die cache and might perform closer to the same setup with 2MB external L2 cache, other chipset off course.

Pentium MMX mainboard design guide (socket 7) shows us the various voltages you can found on your mainboard:

Vcore = VCC2
Some chipset, cache, tagram are also fed by VCC3

Depending on what CPU you get the Vcore might vary, same goes for the I/O voltage. The cache, tagram and chipset might also run on lower/higher voltages, that's the spirit behind SS7.

DDC 23rd November 2008 16:26

New motherboard :D

GigaByte GA-586DX

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