First post, by vetz
So I've gotten myself one of these dual PCI-e and AGP boards from Asrock (see offical page). It's a interesting board with Windows 98 to Windows 10 support, but let me go through my experiences with it so far. Hopefully some more members here can chime in with their experiences.
The Intel Core 2 Duo E7600 is the fastest CPU you can install (3.06ghz) stock wise. It is also a very cool running CPU and it's very easy and cheap to get hold off. The board will boot with this CPU installed with any BIOS, but it will cause all kind of errors getting it booting on any floppy, USB or harddrive. Installing the latest unofficial BIOS from PCtreiber (see attached) is a must. From an OC perspective the Core 2 Extreme X6800 is the best, more on OC in the section below.
The board features both AGP and PCI-Express support. The AGP works with any 1.5V and 0.8V (4-8x) AGP card and I've had no problems with bridge based cards. There is a setting in the BIOS to set which type is the primary video, meaning you could in theory have three videocards installed at the same time, AGP, PCI-Express and PCI.
The PCI-Express support is a bit wanky, especially in the earlier BIOS'es. With the PCTreiber BIOS support have gotten a bit better, and even GTX480 works. I've tested the following PCI-Express cards with success:
I've also tested dual GPU cards, the HD4870x2 and the GTX295, none works. So far it seems single GPU cards only.
The main problem with PCI-Express is that it is limited to 4x generation 1 speed, meaning newer cards do get bottlenecked with a quick CPU. By overclocking the PCI Express bus from 100mhz to 108mhz I increased the 3DMark 2006 score by around 1000points, from 12800 to 13800!
In Windows 10, there can be an issue installing drivers for a PCI-Express, but just run the following command and you're good to go:
Open the start menu and type cmd in the search box
Right-click on cmd.exe and select Run as administrator
In the command window, type bcdedit /set pciexpress forcedisable
Reboot your computer
In any Windows version, if you have problems installing the PCI Express graphic card drivers (I had to do this with the GTX480), go to BIOS and change the following settings:
PCIE Downstream Pipeline to DISABLE (Auto is default)
PCIE VC1 Request Queue to DISABLE (Auto is default)
Supports both DDR and DDR2 memory (only one type at the time). I've had no problem using 2x2GB DDR2 memory with low timings in dual channel mode. Maximum addressable memory is 3.3GB due to chipset limitation! Other users report no performance difference between DDR and DDR2. Since the board have both DDR and DDR2 support, the BIOS memory section is quite difficult to figure out in my opinion.
Harddrive and I/O connections:
The board only features 2x 150mb/sec VIA SATA RAID connectors, which can be too few depending on your intended use. The main problem with the board is the location of the IDE connectors. If you have a large PCI-Express video card install you can't have anything in the IDE connectors, or else the video card won't fit! That means you either need to use AGP, a smaller card, install a PCI ATA-133 card or just use the SATA ports.
The VIA Hyperion Prodrivers is needed for Windows XP, but is included in Windows Vista and above
The board is a bad overclocker. I can only get the FSB from the standard 266 to 276! Other users are reporting the same and it's a miracle if you get above 290! Same goes with the PCI Express bus, anything above 110 creates problems. You can't control the CPU voltage and the DRAM voltage can't be specified. You can change the CPU ratio, but only downwards if the multiplier is locked. Here is why the X6800 CPU probably is the fastest CPU you can get as it allows the multiplier to be changed in both directions. This allows greater overclocks than 3.2ghz (which is the maximum I can get through FSB with the E7600).
The board supports almost all Windows versions that exist! It officially supports Windows 98, and I had no problem running Windows 10 64-bit on it! So this makes for a great retro system that can cover almost all Windows games that have been released, even up to the modern ones! For WIndows 98 you could have a Voodoo 5 PCI and with swapping the monitor cable (or using a VGA switch) for great Glide experiences, and then on a reboot enjoy gaming in Windows 10 with a GTX480 (or even faster!)
ASRock made several versions of this board based on the VIA VT880 Pro/Ultra chipset called Core4Dual. These boards also support Quad core's (not 45nm), but at a cost of -5% FSB. The Core4Dual SATA2 also comes with a 300mb/sec SATA controller, but this controller does not have Windows 98 driver support. In my personal opinion, running quad's is not worth it because of the FSB hit and few of the games supporting quad cores.