Motherboard: Aopen MX46-533gn

With things post storm back to normal I took a look at one of the more “modern” mother boards I have. I was given this board quite some time ago, and it looks like it hasn’t been used. I think it was probably new old-stock as it was quite out of date by the time I got it. I’ve kept it as a spare as my Dad is still using a P4 based machine, and I’m currently using a P4 based system for my server.

It’s an Aopen mx46-533gn which supports a socket 478 processor with FSB up to 533Mhz. This board is so far un-tested as I have not had any need for it yet and it isn’t really a great performer as we will see.

The highest CPU officially supported is a Northwood P4 @2.8Ghz with 533Mhz FSB, but the board only supports 333Mhz DDR RAM. So it’s fairly likely that the CPU would end up waiting for the system memory quite a bit.

Additionally it has an 651 SIS North bridge and 962L SIS South bridge. SIS were never known for making high performance parts, although boards that used their chipsets were frequently significantly cheaper. I remember replacing a SIS based board in my brothers machine with an N-Force 2 based board and we got a significant improvement in performance, but other value chipset makers such as VIA also usually had better performing parts.

So this is clearly a commodity consumer board, designed to be cheap and cheerful. It has on-board video like most commodity boards, but being SIS graphics it doesn’t compare favourably. There is at least an AGP 4x slot, so you’re not stuck with it. The on-board LAN and audio are the usual Realtek devices of the time. A Winbond Super IO chip provides legacy ports such as serial, parallel and PS/2 ports for mouse and keyboard.

Realtek LAN chip

Realtek LAN chip

Some of you may have noticed that some boards such as this will produce low levels of digital like noise with their on board sound. Looking at this board I wouldn’t be surprised if it produces such a noise. The reason is mostly the layout of the board. The nearest chip to the Audio output is the Realtek LAN chip, and not far from that is the ROM and Winbond Super IO. The audio chip is the one at the bottom left of the board. This means the audio output traces have to go past a number of high speed digital lines, which due to cross talk are the likely reason for any noise.

Working on or installing this board isn’t as easy as it could be. Whilst there is no need to set the CPU speed with jumpers, other headers such as the front panel and audio are not labeled or labeled poorly. This makes it pretty much mandatory to refer to the manual or easy installation guide.

For then end user it was probably fine, as long as you weren’t after performance. Boards like this one sold in large numbers to people who just wanted a basic computer for a bit of web surfing, email, and maybe some solitaire, and for that it would have been fine. I can’t comment on reliability as I haven’t used one in service, and we didn’t sell these where I worked.


3 Responses to “Motherboard: Aopen MX46-533gn”

  1. May 7, 2015 at 3:30 pm

    SIS made some good chipsets in the 386 and maybe even 486 days. I remember I had a SIS “rabbit” based 386 board and it benched as one of the fastest 386 boards. post 486 boards though I haven’t heard any good things about them or even seen many post 486 SIS chips. at least the Northwood 2.8 Ghz chip works in this board. IMO its one of the better Pentium 4 chips and maybe the best outside of the extreme line.

    • May 7, 2015 at 3:46 pm

      I wasn’t aware they made chips for older boards, I never really had the chance to play with many 386 and 486 boards apart from the ones my family had (that is to say not many!). And getting 286/386/486 machines/boards is quite hard for the retro enthusiast here in Australia.

      SIS seemed to be popular in the commodity boards for quite a while, I used to see them often in many different types of board. None of them ever seemed much good, and after the LGA775 socket came in I didn’t really see any more of them.

      It might take a fast Northwood chip, but I wouldn’t put one in this board. The memory bus being the main reason. I didn’t really use much in the way of P4 chips myself, I was using AMD parts personally at the time. Although I did see many at work and I did note that many of the P4 chips required replacement of their thermal paste much more often than others older and younger or from AMD. I used to get a number of them at the start of every summer for cleaning their heatsinks and new thermal paste. Given servicing when needed they were otherwise fairly reliable and good performers.


      • May 7, 2015 at 4:33 pm

        I never used the P4 myself. I had a PIII 1ghz as my main machine and the P4 didn’t really impress me. I held on to the P3 machine until I jumped to a socket 939 AMD machine which I used as my main rig for 6 or 7 years. I recently had P4 machine donated to me so i’ve been messing with it a little and researching. I’d still pick a AMD of the era over a P4 but the Northwood chips aren’t bad. beats the crap out of the earlier willimette cores and the Prescotts aren’t worth the small speed bump for all the power consumption and heat they putt off.

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