Socket 8 / Slot 1 / Socket 370 Motherboards
Socket 8 was introduced in November 1995 and is the initial platform used for the P6 architecture, the Pentium Pro CPU. It was primarily used for workstations and servers, and mostly ignored by home users. Motherboards and the CPU itself were pricey, and Pentium Pro is not necessarily a significant improvement for typical home user applications. In the worst case, running 8/16-bit code, the PPro can be slower than a Pentium at the same clock speed. In the best case with 32-bit code or heavy FPU operation, it far outperforms Pentium.
For gamers the PPro was an exciting development. Its various improvements were highly beneficial for emerging 3D games. It can occasionally outperform the bottom Pentium II models.
The initial chipsets from Intel, 450KX/GX, are not ideal for gaming because of PCI deficiencies. It is best to use a later 440FX-based board. It is also a good idea to try the FastVid utility when playing SVGA DOS games because PCI throughput can be dramatically improved. Windows 9x video drivers usually take care of this though.
- Intel 450GX "Orion"
- Intel 450KX "Mars"
- Intel 440FX "Natoma" (82441FX/82442FX/82371SB)
- Intel 440LX (82443LX/81371AB) AGP
- OPTi Discovery (82C650/651 or 650/651/652 with AGP)
- VIA 680 "Apollo P6"
Slot 1 was introduced in May 1997 and served as Intel's successor to Socket 7 and brought the P6 architecture to the home market. CPUs come in a cartridge which contains the CPU chip, cache chips and a cache controller. Later CPUs like Celeron "Mendocino" have on-die cache and thus the cartridge became unnecessary and so Slot 1 was replaced with Socket 370.
Intel 440FX was the first Slot 1 chipset. It was originally designed for Pentium Pro and there are boards with both Socket 8 and Slot 1. 440FX lacks AGP, SDRAM support, and its IDE interface is limited to 16MB/s.
440LX introduced AGP, SDRAM support, and UDMA33. It still has a 66MHz FSB limit. The fastest CPU's that will work are the Pentium II 333MHz (or a Pentium II 400MHz downclocked to 366MHz), the Slot 1 Celeron 433MHz (though faster Celerons can be installed with the use of a slotket) or a downclocked Pentium III with the Katmai core (which will be recognised as a Pentium II usually by the BIOS). Other solutions are to use a special type of slotket that lets one use a Tualatin-core Celeron which will be underclocked also, but will provide a speed up to around 1000MHz. Some of the 440LX motherboards had issues with powering more modern AGP graphics cards.
The 440BX is an evolution of 440LX and was very popular. BX boards officially support 100MHz FSB, though many motherboard manufacturers feature other FSB speeds for overclocking. BX also supports up to 1GB of SDRAM.
440BX chipset notes:
- It doesn't support memory modules greater then 256MB.
- It's AGP slot requires 3.3v support from the AGP card.
- Overclocking the FSB to 133MHz will overclock the AGP bus to an out of spec 89MHz. PCI can remain at 33MHz with proper BIOS configuration.
- Not all BX motherboards will work with Coppermine CPUs and none support Tualatin without an adapter.
This chipset is a low-cost version of the much more famous 440BX. It replaces 440EX, the 440LX's low-end counterpart, adding 100MHz FSB. Few drawbacks do exist when comparing 440ZX to 440BX, although they can be considered minor for most retro builds today:
- Lacks two memory banks, only 512MB total RAM supported.
- No SMP support, so there are no dual CPU boards based on 440ZX.
- No ECC/Parity RAM supported
The marketing effort behind this was to push some of the competition aside, providing entry-level logic with all the basic 440BX features, including 100MHz FSB. While some ZX-based boards were poorly built to further reduce the costs, others were as solid and reliable as a top-branded 440BX one. The ASUS P2-99 is a good example of such board.
The 810 (codename: Whitney) is a low end Intel chipset. The original chipset supports only a FSB of 100 MHz, the enhanced 810E and 810E2 support 133 MHz. None supports AGP graphics. The ASUS P3W-E is an example of a Slot 1 motherboard with 810.
There were some Slot 1 motherboards based on the Intel 815 chipset. Examples include SOYO SY-7ISM (with both Slot 1 and Socket 370) and Abit SH6.
The i820 chipset is designed to support only RDRAM and only 1.5v AGP, although some motherboards feature special RDRAM to SDRAM bridge chip. Using the bridge significantly affects memory bandwith and overall performance.
This chipset is a workstation/server logic, SMP capable, usually found in dual CPU motherboards. The i840 supports dual-channel PC600/PC800 RDRAM, ECC or non-ECC modules. There is no option to run this chipset in a single-channel mode, so, unlike i820, modules have to be installed in matching pairs. The memory controller first introduced in i840 is quite similar to those found in later NetBurst-supporting i850 and i860. In fact, its optional Intel 82803AA MRH-R (Memory Repeater Hub) is compatible with i860 as well.
The i840 was targeted to replace the aging 440BX/GX (as the x40 name may suggest) and is therefore a collection of pioneering and unique features implemented to outperform and outshine older chipsets:
- First x86 chipset to support RDRAM.
- First Intel chipset to support AGP 4x, as well as AGP Pro.
- First Intel chipset to combine AGP and official 133MHz FSB.
- 2GB of RAM (4GB with MRH-R)
The i840 board is a sensible, though expensive choice for a retro build. It will run reliably under Windows 98/98SE/ME (with single CPU and obvious RAM limitations), as well as NT4.0 and later NT-derived OSes. Retro games may benefit from faster AGP and wider RAM bus, but will lack raw CPU power compared to i815 B-Step systems due to no Tualatin support.
There are some other chipsets that feature Slot 1. VIA chipsets tend to be less stable but have some advantages compared to BX because some feature AGP 2/4x, 133 MHz FSB and support for larger SDRAM memory modules.
Most Slot 1 boards are made in the ATX form factor but some AT versions have been made.
Today:: Slot 1 comes with a single significant advantage that seems to outweight all other benefits, as well as all downsides, and this advantage is called "BX". There were more chipsets available for Slot 1, but most others usually have some kind of disadvantage compared to BX. What makes BX so great and what makes BX so popular amongst retro computer enthusiasts is the great flexibility and stability BX motherboards often offer. BX has the advantage of supporting up to 1GB of SDRAM using 4 DIMM sockets (Intels own i815 was limited to 512MB) and was a very stable platform with very few critical hardware quirks. It also has good compatibility and BX motherboards often sport as many as 3 ISA slots in addition to the then usual PCI slots and the AGP slot. CPU support is pretty good out of the box, with basically all BX Slot 1 boards supporting anything from Klamath (early Pentium 2) and Deschutes (late Pentium 2) up to Katmai (early Pentium 3 which was only released in Slot 1 form). Quite a lot of the BX boards had native support for Coppermine Slot 1 CPUs as well, but compatibility differs between different Slot 1 BX motherboard models, often even between different revisions of the same motherboard. In some cases one revision of a certain motherboard may actually (unofficially) support Coppermine while another board with the exact same revision will not (ASUS P2B rev 1.10 being a great example of that, with rev 1.12 being the first P2B to officially support Coppermine). Officially Slot 1 was designed to only accept Slot 1 CPUs with the higher end Coppermines being the top of the line. But these Slot 1 Coppermines are not as easy to find compared to it's Socket 370 counterparts. It is still possible to install a Socket 370 CPU into a Slot 1 motherboard by use of a slotkey and with a slotket even a 1.4GHz Tualeron CPU suddenly is within reach.
Some people also find the peculiar Slot 1 design to be interesting and in some ways it has it's advantages. One such advantage is that, as the CPU is basically one giant cartridge with the CPU cooler part of the cartridge, swapping CPUs is an easy chore which is as easy as swapping around any dedicated PCI or AGP card, one doesn't need to remove the CPU HSF, clean the old CPU of it's TIM (Thermal Interface Material), replace it with new CPU and reinstall the CPU HSF again.
The disadvantages of BX are mostly related to it's native 2x AGP slot (AGP 8x cards won't work in BX) in addition to some of it's AGP slots having problems with AGP cards which need a lot of power. Another disadvantage is BX's inability to use SDRAMs with more than 256MB per module (BX supports SDRAMs with 16MB/chip and a higher density will, at best, result in only part of the total memory size of that module being recognized).
- See also: List of Socket 370 motherboards
Introduced in January 1999, Socket 370 was originally made as a budget CPU socket. Later it became Intel's main CPU Socket until the release of the Pentium 4, after which it moved to the budget end of the market again before being phased out altogether.
Common chipsets for Socket 370 are Intels i815 chipset and it's VIA counterparts, though other chipsets like 440BX and even 440LX were also used for Socket 370 boards. Especially the 815 and VIA 694 chipsets are very popular these days for use as a base for a retro computer. Socket 370 BX remains a good and popular option also, though the vast majority of BX boards came with Slot 1 instead of Socket 370.
A wide variety of CPU's exist for this socket, ranging from the 333MHz Celeron (with Mendocino core) all the way to the Pentium III-S 1400MHz (also known as Tualatin-S). VIA also made a variety of CPU's for this socket, though compatibility is somewhat sketchy.
As this CPU socket went through a few revisions, not all Socket 370 CPU's will work in any given Socket 370 motherboard. Generally speaking there are 3 different types of motherboards using this socket: the early Celeron Mendocino-only motherboards (usually limited to a 66MHz FSB and often these boards will be equipped with Intels 440LX chipset), the Coppermine capable motherboards (having a maximum FSB of either 100MHz or 133MHz) and the Tualatin capable motherboards. Sometimes Tualatin capable motherboards have their CPU socket colored blue instead of the usual white.
To prevent usage of newer CPU's in older motherboards, Intel switched a couple pins around to prevent operation of Coppermine CPU's in the earliest Celeron-only boards and Intel repeated that trick when it started manufacturing Tualatin CPU's. This prevented the use of later chips in older motherboards, even if the right (lower) voltage could be supplied by the motherboard.
Usually Socket 370 boards have AGP slots, unless an IGP is present. The older ones have an AGP 2x (3.3V) and the newer ones have a universal 1.5V AGP 4x slot. Motherboards using ALi's M1631 (Aladdin TNT2) or Intel's i810/810E chipsets do not support an AGP slot. All Socket 370 motherboards have PCI slots and the older types of Socket 370 motherboards have ISA slots. ISA slots are more common on motherboards using non-Intel chipsets. Almost all Socket 370 motherboards are ATX (though a few AT Socket 370 motherboards are known to exist). Only very few Tualatin motherboards featured one or 2 ISA slots. Usually motherboards with the Intel i815 chipset have no ISA slots, except when the motherboard is equipped with a bridge chip. The bridge chip may cause some problems when using ISA sound cards.
The Intel i810/815 chipsets also only support up to 512 MB of SDRAM. Its main competitors didn't have that limitation. Even though Socket 370 will usually come with SDRAM slots, a few Socket 370 motherboards were made that will work with either RDRAM or DDR instead.
All Intel Socket 370 CPUs have their multiplier locked, which decreases it's effectiveness when it comes to underclocking (Socket 7 doesn't have this problem and for DOS Socket 7 is overall a more popular choice). However, many Intel Socket 370 ES (Engineering Sample) CPUs and most (if not all) VIA C3 CPUs can have their CPU multiplier changed, usually by either software or from the BIOS. ES CPUs are quite rare though and not all may come with their CPU multiplier unlocked.
Because Socket 370 shares it's dimensions with Socket A, CPU Coolers for Athlon XP are physically compatible with Socket 370 and as Athlon XP CPU coolers are typically newer, beefier and easier to find, using a CPU cooler designed for Athlon XP is very popular when building a Socket 370 retro computer. However, one should note that installing of many Socket A or Socket 370 CPU coolers for use of Socket 370 CPUs which come with an Integrated Heatspreader (or IHS) may prove difficult.
Today:: Socket 370 is a very popular basis for a retro computer these days, for several reasons. One reason is that these high-end Pentium 3 motherboards are widely available, overall very stable and flexible and it's also a well documented platform with lots of options on both the hardware side (think components like graphics cards and sound cards) as well as on the software side (Windows 98SE and ME are popular, but Windows 2000 and XP will also work). Many interesting parts for Socket 370 based retro rigs are also very common , easy to find (and often cheaply), partially because of the universal AGP slot with with the newer Socket 370 boards are usually equipped. Socket 370 boards featuring ISA slots and Tualatin CPUs (with or without the use of an adapter) combined with an ISA sound card is a very popular build for many retro computing enthusiasts. Another pro about Socket 370 (and mostly because of the higher-end Coppermines and Tualatin-S's) is Pentium 3's relatively low power dissipation compared to it's performance, which has the added benefit that even todays PSUs will usually work with Socket 370 builds, unlike Socket A which requires strong 5v rails which modern PSUs often do not provide.
Socket 370 is overall a very good platform for both beginners as well as the more experienced retro computer enthusiasts, though motherboards that support the latest incarnation of Pentium 3 (the Tualatin) are a bit more tricky to find as these started to get hit by the capacitor plague and because Tualatin entered the market as Pentium 4 was starting to sell, meaning Socket 370 boards which support Coppermine at the most are greater in number to begin with.