Abit BP6 Dual Socket 370 Motherboard Review
This BP6 motherboard was considered to be "bleeding-edge" technology and brought many "firsts" with its release. For those who don't know, "bleeding-edge" is technology considered to be too new and experimental to even be considered "cutting-edge". This board was the first motherboard to sport dual Socket 370 processors, and the first to offer an onboard Ultra ATA/66 controller with the BX chipset.
The onboard Ultra ATA/66 controller utilizes the HPT366 chipset, which is supported under Linux (2.2.x kernels require an ide patch, but drivers are included in 2.3.x/2.4.x kernels.) Although this board is not brand new on the market, we just purchased it for our personal use, so it's new to us.
- Intel 440BX (66/100MHz Bus) Chipset
- Dual Socket 370 (Celeron 300-533Mhz)
- Onboard HPT366 Ultra ATA/66 Controller
- AGP 1X / 2X
- SOFT MENU II
- Three 168-pin DIMM sockets (Max. 768MB of SDRAM)
- Hardware monitoring - (fan speed, voltages, system environment temperature, CPU temperatures.)
- ATX form factor
It's So Bleeding-Edge, You'll Cut Yourself
As with all "bleeding-edge" technology, there are downsides to all the positive aspects. The BP6 performs well but it has some major stability issues, especially with the Revision v1.1 boards. The board we purchased was a Revision v1.0 board and is relatively stable. We have experienced a few hard locks in which absolutely nothing works, most of these were during the first two or three weeks that we had the board. Recently we've been getting some decent uptimes of around 30-40 days between kernel updates, but the system load is quite low. Some of the more recently manufactured Revision v1.1 boards were made with voltage regulators with the wrong current rating causing a lot of problems to consumers. These defective boards can be returned to Abit for a replacement.
SMP Linux Configuration
To put it mildly, we had one hell of a time trying to get this board to do SMP in Linux from the start. We installed the board right out of the box onto a brand new system and did a clean install of Linux (RedHat 6.2 for this box) on a brand new hard disk. The default SMP kernel that was configured with the install just wouldn't work, and we tried for hours to get it to work with kernels we compiled from source. After many hours of searching for answers on IRC, a few e-mails to some kernel developers and a few shots in the dark, we nailed the problem. The board we were shipped had a faulty BIOS version, which had previously been recalled for reasons of Linux incompatibility. (It sure would have been nice if Abit added this information to their site) I would like to thank all the folks on the linux-abit mailing list that helped us out in tracking this problem down. Soon we flashed the bios and had both CPU's going full tilt in Linux. (It only took us a little over a week.)
Crank Up The Juice On Those CPUs
If you combine the BP6 and two Celeron CPUs you suddenly have an overclocker's dream. With Abit's SOFT MENU II technology, all CPU settings are done in the bios without the hassle of jumpers, making overclocking your CPUs very easy. Although you can get higher clock speeds by overclocking your CPUs, we advise that you to do some thorough research into this subject and make sure you have adequate cooling for your computer before undertaking this task. Another side effect of overclocking is lack of stability, some people have reported that the higher they push the clock speeds, the less stable their systems become. The BP6 can be a great addition to any overclocker's arsenal. We do suggest that you get a high-quality power supply with adequite wattage (300+ Watt) as this does have an affect on the stability of some of the BP6s.
Easy On The Wallet
One of the most remarkable things about the BP6 is that with the addition of the second CPU, you can easily make a very powerful computer using cheaper processors, for a fraction of the price. At a price of just over $100 US, the BP6 is a great choice to the get the most bang-for-your-buck, and even though it has some stability issues, it is still still a good choice for a reasonably priced, high-power Linux workstation.
- Reasonably priced
- Questionable stability
- BIOS Problems and crashes.
Overall an o.k. board, good price, suitable for a workstation.