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FIC FR33E (VIA PLE133) Socket 370 motherboard review

When I was first asked to review a motherboard with features like on-board video I was a bit skeptical. Being a gamer myself, I would usually cringe at such features mostly do to the fact that you can forget playing todayís high-performance games at comfortable frame rates. Then I thought what about when I build systems for friends and family?

Do they need a machine that can churn out 100FPS in Quake3? Do they even know what the heck Quake3 is? There is many people that use their computers for surfing the web and loading up programs such as Microsoft Word and Photoshop. These same people are never going to purchase games, and in the case they do, they probably wonít care about running them at high resolutions or even using advanced features like FSAA. Therefore, these people do not need expensive video cards. With on-board features, the cost for building a system drops dramatically, great for non-gamers or even a good secondary computer. So if you think youíre in the market for a no-thrills, affordable, feature loaded motherboard, the FIC FR33E could be just perfect.

Here are some specs for the board:

Chipset

  • VIA Apollo PLE133 & 686A

Processor Support

  • Intel Pentium III FC-PGA 450-1000Mhz @ 100/133 FSB

  • Intel Celeron PPGA/FC-PGA 566-1.2Ghz and Up @ 100 FSB

  • Intel Tualatin Core Processors

  • Cyrix III 533-600MHz and up @ 66/100/133 FSB

Memory

  • 2 DIMM; up to 1.0GB PC133 SDRAM

Features

  • Integrated Trident Blade AGP 3D Graphics Accelerator (Shared RAM 2-8 MB)

  • Integrated AC97 Audio (with option to disable in BIOS)

  • Onboard Ethernet with RJ45 LAN Jack

  • IDE Support for UDMA 33/66/100

  • 2 USB Connectors

  • 2 DIMM Sockets

  • 2 PCI slots Ė 1 AMR slot Ė 1 ISA slot

  • 3 Fan Connectors

  • Award BIOS

  • Support for Win9x, WinME, Win2000, WinXP, and OS2

  • CD Plus Software which includes Norton AntiVirus 2001, Norton Ghost, Norton Firewall 2001, WinDVD, Acrobat Reader and more.

Installation and General Impressions

The installation was pretty simple except for a couple of minor glitches. Out of the box, the jumpers were already all set to go, not that there are many of them anyway. One thing I had a little trouble with was the front panel block cable connection. The user manual is a bit confusing how it illustrates the connections, but after about 10 minutes of head scratching, I noticed it was also illustrated on the motherboard which made things easy and quick. The reason it took 10 minutes is because the illustration is in the middle of the board, not near the cable connection. Also, the power button LED connector is a 3 prong unit, and the motherboard only accepts a 2 prong. This is no big deal, just a matter of switching one wire in the connector, but itís something you donít normally have trouble with. Everything else installed without any problems, and was now ready to boot up.

So, I turned the power on, and eagerly awaited the boot-up sequence. One problem, all I heard was beeps. The system would not boot, and was beeping continuously. I checked all connections and everything was fine. After trying a few different things, I finally tried a different stick of RAM (128MB) and the system booted up. FIC claims that the board does support a stick of 512MB of RAM; Iím not to sure what went wrong. The RAM does work in another system, I am assuming an incompatibility issue, but itís just an assumption. After replacing the RAM, the system booted up without a flaw.



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