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Tyan's Trinity 510 motherboard

A hesitant step in the right direction

ModelTrinity 510

THOUGH TYAN HAS a reputation for stable, high-quality motherboards, they've never really done anything wild. Tyan doesn't color outside the lines, cut corners, run out of spec, or ruffle any feathers. Well, at least that's the way it used to be. Then Tyan got an exclusive deal to provide motherboards based on AMD's 760MP chipset for the first three months of its availability, and now they have a motherboard based on VIA's controversial and unlicensed P4X266 chipset. What's more, you can overclock it.

VIA's P4X266 chipset has proven itself to be a worthy competitor, not only against DDR offerings from Intel and SiS, but also to Intel's own RDRAM-based chipset. Still, some companies have shied away from VIA Pentium 4 chipset, which isn't licensed from Intel, to stay in Intel's good graces. Tyan, it would seem, isn't worried about Intel's reaction.

I would never have expected the normally buttoned-down Tyan to produce a P4X266 board, much less one that lets you manipulate the system bus. Just how much BIOS freedom do you have with the Trinity 510? How well does it perform? Is Tyan ready for the enthusiast market? Read more to find out.

The specs
The Trinity 510's feature set is best described as sparse. Check it out:

Though versions of the Trinity 510 are available with on-board AC'97 sound and Ethernet, our review sample had neither. You'll notice that there is no on-board RAID controller, either. I'm a big fan of on-board RAID because, even if you choose not to run a RAID array, you still have two extra IDE ports at your disposal. Additionally, the RAID controller can provide better single-drive IDE performance than most chipsets' IDE controllers.

The layout
This is Tyan, so we won't be getting any radical PCB colors. Here's the Trinity 510:

The Trinity 510: good ol' green

There are no extra features to crowd the Trinity 510's board layout, so there's plenty of room. Note the single power connector, a departure from what we've seen with other Pentium 4 boards to date. As long as your power supply can feed the motherboard a sustained 30 amps on the 5 volt line, Tyan says there's no need for an auxiliary connector. You might think Tyan's living dangerously, but their solid reputation for stability has me wondering if that extra power connector is really necessary.

The Trinity 510 has four DIMM slots, double what most 845 boards have

Unlike its Intel 845-based competition, the Trinity 510 has four DIMM slots. Alhough the maximum memory size is only 2GB, you can load the Trinity 510 up with smaller, cheaper DIMMs to reach that limit. Be warned, though: this board is pretty picky with memory. It likes Crucial's single-sided DDR DIMMs best, and it doesn't appreciate mixing and matching memory types.

IDE ports on the lower edge of the board can be problematic

Tyan put the floppy and IDE ports towards the lower edge of the board on the Trinity 510, and that might pose problems for those of you with full tower cases that house drives right at the top. Still, this placement of connectors spaces things out nicely, especially since the ports themselves aren't crammed tightly against each other.

The Trinity 510'sport cluster: no frills

Rear port arrangement doesn't get any barer than with the Trinity 510. With no auxiliary devices, you get only the standard set of ports. There are two extra USB ports available through a USB header, but much to my dismay, many motherboard manufacturers are still providing USB inserts for PCI slots rather than front-facing mounts, which would be far more useful.