Article was last modified in May, 1999.
In case you haven't heard it already, ABIT's BH6 is by far the best overall Slot 1 motherboard available today. In most cases that would mean a really high price - however, ABIT's excellent design allowed them to cut down on cost, and maximize on features. The BH6 is currently available for around $105 US, and is definitely worth the money.
| MODEL |
|ABIT BH6 |
| DESCRIPTION |
|Slot 1 AGP ATX MAINBOARD |
| CHIPSET |
|Intel 440BX |
| EXPANDABILITY |
|1 x 32 bit AGP slot |
5 x 32 bit Bus Mastering PCI slots
2 x 16 bit ISA slots (One shareable PCI/ISA slot)
| SECONDARY CACHE |
|N/A (on chip) |
| SYSTEM MEMORY |
|3 x 168 pin DIMM memory slots |
Supports 8/16/32/64/128/256MB 168 pin modules
| I/O ON BOARD |
|1 FDD port (supports LS120, 3mode, 1.2/1.44/2.88 FDD) |
2 RS-232 Serial Ports (16550 UART compatible)
1 Parallel Printer Port (SPP/EPP/ECP mode)
2 PCI Bus Mastering ATA E-IDE Ports, Supports LS120/ZIP
2 USB Ports, PS/2 Mouse Port, IrDA Port
| OTHER FEATURES |
|Slot 1 Platform |
Supports 66/75/83/100/112/124/133 MHz bus frequency
PC97 ACPI compliant
Ultra DMA 33 or ATA E-IDE interface
Wake on LAN header
The BH6 differs from it's sibling the BX6 in many ways - mainly the addition of one extra PCI slot (for a total of 5), the ability to un-lock higher multipliers on Pentium II 350 and 400MHz CPUs, it's smaller physical price, and it's lower cost.
- 5 PCI Slots:
One key feature that most users look for today when purchasing a motherboard is 5 PCI slots. Acting on this, ABIT added a fifth PCI slot to it's BH6, for a total of 5 PCI, 2 ISA (1 shared), and 1 AGP slot.
- AGP Slot:
Accompanying the 5 PCI slots is ABIT's AGP slot, which is fully AGP 2X compatible, and like all Intel motherboards, there will be no separate drivers required to get the AGP slot working properly - it should be fully compatible with just about any video card available today (including the G200 and TNT).
- Small Physical Size:
Though jam-packed with many features, ABIT has still managed to keep the BH6 relatively small - even smaller than it's original BX6. This allows it to be installed in smaller ATX cases.
They did this by removing one DIMM slot (for a total of 3). 3 DIMM slots should be more than enough for most people, but if you do require more, you may want to look into the BX6. Removing the fourth DIMM slot means that the BH6 doesn't require an external DRAM buffer (which increases stability with extra DIMM slots), which saves quite a bit of space.
The BH6 also uses a smaller "Winbond Flash ROM" chip, instead of the bigger IC's that most other motherboards use in order to decrease cost, along with size.
- SoftMenuTM II Jumperless CPU Setup
One thing that ABIT is well known for is it's jumperless motherboards, which utilize ABIT's SoftMenu technology, or, in the BH6's case, the new SoftMenu II technology. This means that there are no hard-to-reach jumpers or dip-switches to mess around with - just install the board, and you're all set to go.
When you enter the "SoftMenu II CPU Setup" option listed in the AWARD BIOS, you can have the BH6 automatically configure your CPU's settings by choosing from a list of pre-defined settings for Pentium II processors, or (for the more advanced type), you can manually set the FSB and multiplier settings by choosing the "user defined" option. This "user defined" option is more for the overclocking type, and is much easier than messing around with jumpers or dip switches.
The SoftMenu II CPU Setup allows you to choose FSB frequencies ranging from 66MHz to 133MHz, including the 75/83MHz bus speeds, as well as the 112/124MHz bus speeds which make excellent choices for overclocking. The 124MHz bus speed can be very useful when overclocking, and is not currently present on any other BX motherboard. You can also choose multipliers up to 5.5x. And of course, ABIT does not limit what CPUs you can use with which bus speeds - any Celeron or Pentium II processor has access to the full range of 66 - 133MHz bus speeds, without the need for the "B21" trick.
ABIT's SoftMenu II utility also allows you to manually change the core voltage of your CPU. On all other motherboards besides ABIT's, Pentium II's based on the Deschutes (and all Celeron's) always core use a core voltage of 2.0v. However, when overclocking, it is often required to increase the core voltage in order to increase stability. This is where the SoftMenu II setup comes in - it allows you to choose up to a 2.3v core for Celeron processors, and up to 3.2v for Pentium II processors. You can either have the BH6 automatically detect the correct voltage for you processor and configure it, or you can again set it to "user define", and set it yourself. Be warned though that higher voltages mean more heat, so make sure you have a good heatsink/fan unit cooling your CPU if you plan to increase the voltage beyone the CPUs default.
Another thing that set's the BH6 apart from all other BX motherboards is it's ability to set the "SEL100/66# Signal" manually, which allows you to unlock the higher multipliers on Intel's Pentium II 350 and 400 MHz CPU's, which are normally locked. This is because the SEL100/66# Signal present on those two chips is set to "High". When you set the SEL100/66# Signal to "low", it "tricks" your CPU into thinking that it is actually running on a 66MHz bus, and thus enables higher multipliers. Normally, a Pentium II 350 would be locked at a 3.5x multiplier, and a 400MHz PII would be locked at a 4x multiplier, but by setting the SEL 100/66# signal to "low", you effectively "unlock" all multipliers, which allows the processor to operate using multipliers in the range of 3.5x - 5.0x.
Unfortunately, this SEL 100/66# setting does not work on any Celeron processor, since the Celeron was originally designed to run at a 66MHz bus in the first place, and it's signal would be "low" by default. Also, Intel has managed to overcome this feature in it's new Pentium II 450MHz CPUs (and all further Pentium II's), which means that the SEL 100/66# setting will work with Pentium II 350 and 400 MHz only.
- The lack of any bus speed between 83MHz and 100MHz:
The 90/95MHz bus speeds can be extremely useful for overclocking. An example of this is with the new Celeron 333A. Without the 90 or 95 MHz bus speed, the highest speed a Celeron 333A can go up to (stably) on a BH6 is 416MHz (83x5), since the multiplier is locked at 5x.
- The IDE connectors:
On almost all modern motherboards, the IDE connector has one pin removed, and on the IDE cable, one of the holes is blocked up that matches with that pin, to ensure that you plug the cable in the right way. Just about 99% of modern motherboards and cables work this way. On the BH6 however, all of the pins are there, and none of the IDE cables that I have will fit into the slot, besides the single one that came with the BH6. This means that a lot of people may have to use that one cable and attach their CDROM and hard disk on the same channel.
Buying individual IDE cables can be very expensive (~$15 CDN), and also very annoying, because almost all the ones you come across in a store will also have one pin blocked.
Fortunately, there are a few solutions to this problem. One is to use a thumbtack to make a hole in the IDE connector on the cable. Another is to remove the pin on the motherboard (which may be a bit hard since there is a frame around the IDE connector). You can also use a safety pin, and try to pull the block (which is plugging up the hold) in the IDE cable out. All of these solutions are a bit tricky, and it would have been a lot easier if ABIT had just removed this pin in the first place.
Like all of ABIT's other boards, stability and performance is not an issue with the top-notch BH6. Of course, the BH6 ships with ABIT's thorough User Manual, and ABIT's support CD-ROM which includes all of the necessary utilities and drivers you will need to get your board working under Windows 95 (98 should have all drivers built in). ABIT deserves a big pat on the back for this "overclocker's dream" - it's excellent price and support, combined with some of the best features available today, make it a clear winner.
Places to Buy:
TC Computers - http://www.tccomputers.com/
AZZO Computers - http://www.ram-ware.com/
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