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Tyan Trinity 400 Motherboard, revision E (S1854, rev. E)  Dr. John

  Ever since Intel "released" the Coppermine version of the Pentium III back in October of 1999, computer makers and hardware buffs have been waiting and waiting for motherboards with native Flip-Chip Coppermine support.  Now we have a nice board from Tyan with just such support.  The Trinity 400 (S1854) has been out for a few months, but the newer revisions have improved features.  The latest revision of the Tyan Trinity 400 (rev. E) is based on the Apollo Pro 133A chipset from VIA, which gives it support for 4X AGP mode.  The VIA chipset also has frequency dividers for the memory clock, and AGP/PCI clock, that permit higher levels of bus overclocking than was previously possible with the BX chipset.  Older Pentium IIIs based on the Katmai-core would not overclock above 133MHz, but the newer Coppermine-core Pentium III processors can overclock to between 140MHz and 150MHz on the front side bus (and maybe higher). Unfortunately, there are factors that limit overclocking possibilities on the Trinity 400 which we will discuss in detail below.


Specs:

  Processor Types

• Single Slot 1 and Socket 370

• Supports Intel Celeron TM /Pentium“ II / Pentium III

processor 233 MHz to 800 MHz

• Supports processor built-in 128/512K+ Cache

• Frontside bus support for 66 /100 /133 MHz

• Integrated VRM complies to spec 8.4

• Supports Clock multiplier 3.0 to 8.0

• Auto detect CPU Core Voltage

  Chipset

• VIA Apollo Pro 133A

(VT82C694X & VT82C596A)

• Winbond W83977EF Super I/O controller

Expansion Slots

• One 2x/4x AGP slot

• Six 32-bit PCI 2.1 Bus Master slots

• One 16-bit ISA slot (optional)

  System Memory

• Supports 32 MB to 768 MB

• Three 3.3V unbuffered 168-pin DIMM sockets

• PC100 / PC133 compliant SDRAM support

• Supports ECC (72-bit) type memory module

  Integrated PCI IDE

• Two 40-pin IDE connectors for up to 4 drives

• PIO Mode 3 / 4, UltraDMA33/66 supported

• ATAPI IDE CD-ROM and LS-120 supported

  Integrated I/O

• One Floppy connector for up to 2 drives

(1.44 MB, 2.88 MB, 3-mode)

• Two 9-pin 16550 UART Serial ports

• One 25-pin ECP / EPP Parallel port

• Two USB ports

• PS/2 Mouse & Keyboard ports

  BIOS

• Award BIOS on 2 Mb flash

• Plug and Play

• APM 1.2 / ACPI 1.0 / PC99 compliant

• IDE drive auto configure

• Soft power-down

• Multiple boot options

• DMI 2.0 compliant

  Form Factor

• ATX design (12" x 8.3")

• 4-Layer board

• 20-pin ATX power connector


  I tested the Trinity 400 with two types of Intel Pentium III Coppermine Processors, the Flip-Chip 500E, and the SECC2 (Slot-1) 550E. 

  Intel Pentium III 500E FC-PGA:

Coppermine 500E Flip-Chip

  The newest revision (E) of the Trinity 400 has built-in Coppermine Flip-Chip support on the s370 socket.  And it's one of the first boards to market with this feature.  As such, a 500E Flip-Chip went right in and booted right up.  That alone was a welcome change from our early experiences with Flip-Chips. If you are upgrading your system from a BX chipset motherboard, and you are keeping your hard drive setup intact, you will need to install a couple VIA drivers from either the Tyan CD, or your Windows 98SE CD, to recognize the new VIA motherboard resources.

  Test Setup: 

Tyan Trinity 400 (S1854) revision E
128MB Siemans PC-133 SDRAM, 16 x 64, 333
Elsa Erazor X GeForce SDRAM, 32MB
Retail Intel 500E Flip-Chip or,
Retail Intel 550E SECC2

   I really like the overall board layout and design, and the fact that you can start with an old Celeron. And the fact that you can move up to a Coppermine Pentium III later on is fantastic.  This is a truly exceptional feature. Placement of the Slot-1 socket close to the DIMM sockets means that folks with large heat sinks on their Slot-1 processors may have trouble.  But, as I will discuss below, extra-large heat sinks will not be necessary on the Trinity 400.

  The system was, of course, very stable at the default speed setting of 500MHz with the DRAM clock to set to 100MHz (host clock).  Benchmarks at the default speed were still quite good with the GeForce card.  

Settings for testing: 
-> DRAM Clock: Host CLK
-> Windows video adapter "Performance" slider was moved to the left one notch (fixed GeForce problems)
-> AGP read and write wait states: Disabled
-> AGP 4X: enabled
(some texture smearing was observed with AGP 4X)

3D Mark Benchmarks (average of 2 runs)
640 x 480 x 16 bits: 3944 3D Marks
800 x 600 x 16 bits: 3725.5 3D Marks
1024 x 768 x 16 bits: 3259 3D Marks

These numbers could be boosted significantly if overclocking with the Trinity 400 turns out to be possible.

Overclocking:  The next thing to try was overclocking! Without core voltage adjustments in the BIOS, or with DIP switches, I just went ahead and boosted the bus frequency clock, and hoped for the best.  Here are the results:

112MHz (spread spectrum modulation on): The system froze immediately after the POST (power on self test)

112MHz (spread spectrum modulation off): The system froze immediately after the POST

117MHz (spread spectrum modulation on): BIOS reads that the system is running at 90MHz!  The system booted to Windows 98SE, where programs confirmed the system was at 90MHz.  This we could only attribute to a BIOS glitch.

124MHz (spread spectrum modulation on): No POST, required a CMOS reset to recover.

133MHz (spread spectrum modulation on): No POST, required a CMOS reset to recover.

  I attempted to change other BIOS settings to allow the system to boot at 112MHz at least.  I then noticed that Tyan had tied "Spread Spectrum Modulation" (SSM) to various overclock bus settings, so, for example, at 124MHz, SSM is forced to Enable, and you can't change it.  In other motherboards, such as those from Abit, SSM is a distinct choice in the BIOS, and you can disable it for any bus frequency setting.  But not in the Trinity 400, where you are forced to accept SSM enabled at most front side bus settings. In our experience, SSM tends to degrade stability when overclocking a system.  Despite this, even with SSM disabled at 112MHz, the system would not boot.

  Overclocking conclusions?  It is unlikely that you will be able to overclock most CPUs on this motherboard.  In fact, the addition of overclocking bus frequency choices to the menu is dubious on the Trinity 400. It may be a selling point on paper, but this board has terrible overclock stability problems.  So far only Celerons overclock to 75MHz successfully on this board, and even then stability can be a problem.

  Intel Pentium III 550E SECC2:

  Intel has released some 550E chips in a slot-1 format.  We are not certain if this was just a stop-gap measure, or if they have decided that the lack of FC-PGA motherboards made this move essential.  In any case, we got a few of them in for testing.  

  The 550E slot-1 processor that we tested was packaged on 02/14/2000.  The part designation number indicated this Coppermine was a second stepping (B0) processor. 3D Mark 2000 benchmarks were done at the default speed of 550MHz, and are given below.

3D Mark Benchmarks (average of 2 runs)
640 x 480 x 16 bits: 4286 3D Marks
800 x 600 x 16 bits: 3962 3D Marks
1024 x 768 x 16 bits: 3389 3D Marks

Overclocking: Again, none of the overclocking speeds worked with this CPU, as was the case with the Flip-Chip 500E. To see how big a difference the core voltage adjustment actually makes, we put the same 550E processor on an Abit VT6X4 motherboard and tried overclocking the chip.  We were able to run this same processor at bus speeds of 133MHz, 140MHz, and 150MHz with stability on the Abit board with a core voltage setting of 1.75 volts (0.1 volts above default).  As you can see, after lots of practice, Abit knows how to make a board that overclocks with stability.  We will have a full review of the VT6X4 soon.

Summary:  For people who want a good Celeron, Celeron-2, Pentium III, and Coppermine Pentium III motherboard, but who would never consider overclocking their processor, the Tyan Trinity 400 is a near perfect creation. The two biggest problems with the Tyan 400 are the lack of core voltage adjustment, and the lack of separate controls on the spread spectrum modulation.  This prevented this board from being a KickAss Gear favorite. Stability at all overclock levels was completely compromised.  No overclock settings worked with the two overclockable Coppermine processors tested.  This board is perfect for folks who don't want to overclock, but for us overclockers, this board is a no go. It's a shame, because otherwise, the Trinity 400 has it all, and at a great price. 

 
Pros: 
  • 1/2 AGP and 1/4 PCI dividers are essential for Front Side Bus settings above 133MHz.
  • Very affordable
  • Coppermine support
  • Support for Flip-Chips and Slot-1 CPUs
  • AGP 4x
  • Has 6 PCI slots
  • No audio modem riser
  • No on-board audio
  • One of the first boards to market with native Flip-Chip support
Cons: 
  • No Overclocking possible
  • Slow ATA/66 hard drive support compared with the HighPoint controller.
  • No core voltage adjustments on the CPU, this is a major problem for overclockers
  • Spread Spectrum Modulation forced to enabled at many overclock settings

Rating, Tyan Trinity 400:  4.0 out of 5 smiley faces 
:) :) :) :) 
Availability: Good

Note: For those of you don't overclock your rigs, we give this board a 5 out of 5!!!

Copyright 2000, KickAss Gear