So far the majority of AT Super7 motherboards have been disappointments, while the FIC VA-503+ was enough for some users, and while the Soyo 5EH5/M picked up where the 503+ left off, there were still a large population of AT advocates that were left in the dark.  A lack of enough PCI slots contributed to a rising popularity of ATX Super7 boards over their AT counterparts, however for those looking to build the absolute lowest priced system AT is the only way to go. 

Hoping to build on the success of their down-right decent ATX Super7 board, TMC is back once again with the AT version of their hit MVP3 based Super7 board, dubbed the AI5VG+.  With a one PCI slot advantage over the competition, how far can a single expansion slot carry the board before users begin to look at the rest of its features?  Once the rest of its features step into the lime light how does the AI5VG+ compare then?  Watch TMC give the "other three letter acronym" a run for their money as they show off the AI5VG+...

Anand Tech Report Card Rating

Motherboard Specifications

CPU Interface Socket-7
Chipset VIA MVP3
L2 Cache 512KB
Form Factor AT (w/ AT & ATX PS Connectors)
Bus Speeds 66 / 75 / 83 / 100 MHz
Clock Multipliers 1.5x - 4.5x
Voltages Supported 2.0v - 3.3v (in 0.1v steppings)
Memory Slots 3 168pin DIMM Slots (EDO/SDRAM)
2 72pin SIMM Slots (EDO/FPM)
Expansion Slots 1 AGP Slot
4 PCI Slots (1 Full Length)
2 ISA Slots (1 Shared / 1 Full Length)

The Good

By removing 2 of the 4 SIMM slots in the seemingly standard Super7 AT layout, TMC managed to free up enough room for a third DIMM slot to be present on the board.  While this isn't a huge reason to go for the AI5VG+ over the competition it does allow for the IDE/FDD connectors to be placed in a tighter quarters, allowing for one of the 3 ISA slots to be sacrificed in favor of a fourth PCI slot, making the AI5VG+ the first Super7 board AnandTech has reviewed with a 4/2/1 (PCI/ISA/AGP) expansion slot configuration.  From the start it is obvious that the AI5VG+ isn't aimed at pleasing the entire market, in actuality it is targeted more towards the fresh upgrade type of user, or one who isn't planning on re-using any older components outside of the smaller items such as EDO SIMMs or an ISA Modem. 

The four PCI slots allow for a single Voodoo2 to be installed (only 1 PCI slot accepts full length cards) as well as an Ethernet card, a SCSI controller and even a PCI sound card provided that the AGP slot houses a primary display adapter and you only have 1 ISA card installed.  This configuration isn't made possible with any other AT Super7 board on the market today aside from those with a 4/3/1 layout which are generally a bit more expensive, and are aimed at a different market.  The entire point to the AI5VG+ would be to be able to construct a high-end system, using nothing but the newest components, while adhering to a tight budget, hence the AT form factor design of the board.

TMC, as they did with the TI5VG+, makes it clear that an easy to setup and spacious layout is possible in just about any situation, including on an AT MVP3 based motherboard.  By using two easily accessible Dip switch sets TMC left enough room for all components, including the two remaining configuration jumpers (that help set PCI Clock Divider and Memory Bus Speed) to be open for reach without any problems at all.  The Dip switches are easy to adjust and don't require toothpick-sized fingers to modify, a plus for those of us that easily get frustrated with computer components...the motherboard is always the first to experience the wrath of an angry tweaker ;)

The bare essentials, as far as Jumper/Dip-switch settings, are provided for entirely on the motherboard itself...and where the motherboard leaves off, the User's Manual picks up documenting a full set of Core Voltage settings ranging from 2.0v to 3.5v.  If you want to try your luck, try pushing your AMD K6-2 up to 350MHz on the AI5VG+ by using a 2.4/2.5v core voltage setting, while only chips of the best production yield will make it up to that setting, those chips are growing in popularity so if you don't mind taking the risk, give it a try.  TMC User's Manuals are slowly making a reputation for themselves of being of some of the highest caliber written documentation available with a motherboard, the quality of the diagrams and content in their manuals will make almost anyone's first motherboard experience a pleasant one.  Also packaged with the AI5VG+ is a TMC Drivers and Utilities CD-ROM, on which you will find the latest Bus Mastering drivers directly from VIA, the latest AGP GART VxD's as well as BIOS Updates, USB Patches, and much more. 

The 512KB of L2 cache on the AI5VG+ is standard and unlike the FIC VA-503, the board isn't available in a 1024KB version.   In spite of this, the performance of the AI5VG+ is top-notch, placing it in the top 5 well-performing boards that AnandTech has reviewed, and succeeds the 1MB FIC VA-503+ in terms of performance among others in its class (AT-Super7).  The stability of the board isn't a problem at all, while the initial yield of K6-2 300's won't make it much higher than 300 those of you that purchased newer K6-2 300 chips shouldn't have a problem clocking them at 350MHz on the AI5VG+.  The Pentium MMX also has a nice time being overclocked on the AI5VG+, for about $100 you can pick up a board that will be able to take your Pentium MMX up to new heights using the 100MHz FSB.  Thoroughly populated by capacitors and featuring three voltage regulators, the long term reliability of the AI5VG+ shouldn't be of much concern to most users as it will pull through in the most rigorous of conditions judging by the quality of its design.   

The Bad

First, a USB Root Hub connector would've made a nice addition to the cable set that comes packaged with the AI5VG+...looks like you'll have another $10 expense on your hands if you want to take advantage of USB peripherals and the AI5VG+. 

The single full length PCI slot may be a disappointment for users wanting the low cost of the AI5VG+ yet also wanting to be able to upgrade to a Dual Voodoo2 setup in the future, aside from that the only other complaint that can be made about the motherboard is the placement of the IDE/FDD/PS connectors which requires you to carry your cables across the memory banks in order to reach their resting places.  While this can be expected from an AT motherboard, there is always room for improvement. 

The Test
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