Motherboard: DataExpert TX531

This week I’m taking a look at the first of many socket 7 boards I have in my collection. The Socket 7 standard lasted a long time compared to most others because of the wide array of hardware support the chip-sets had for CPU and memory technology. The faster Super-Socket 7 even competed with the next generation of chip-sets from Intel, having comparable memory transfer speeds for quite some time. AMD and Cyrix both stuck with the Super Socket 7 for much longer.

Today’s board is actually my older brothers, one he bought in the first PC he bought for himself. It was an AMD K6 rated at 233Mhz equivalent speed, which wasn’t bad for when he bought it. There are a few things that set this board apart, it was made by a company called DataExpert (also known as ColorExpert) and the chip-set was made by Acer.

Judging by the date codes on the chips the board was made late 1997 or early 1998, which was very much a transitional time in terms of memory technology. SDRAM was taking over from the older 72-pin EDO and Fast Page RAM that was the staple of the late 486 and pentium machines. Many boards like this one included sockets for both, but almost all only allowed one type of memory be installed at a time. Unusually this board did allow both types to be installed at the same time, it was configured with 16Mb of each at purchase. Although this was un-documented.

I couldn’t find out much about the Acer chip-set, except that it is a clone of an Intel design. It doesn’t have much in the way of on-board hardware, just the usual storage controllers, serial, parallel and keyboard interfaces. There is some on board cache in the form of two UMC chips that make up the 512Kb pipeline burst cache.

Another interesting thing you don’t often see on digital electronics are the two glass-envelope style diodes shown here. I’m used to having seen these as a signal diode in a crystal set or basic AM radio, I’m sure that’s not the case here.

You’ll notice that the battery clip was broken, Dad accidentally did this late in this boards life when changing the cell. He installed this strip of metal as a kludge to keep the machine going for just a little longer.

In service we probably got at least 10 years (maybe a bit longer) out of this board. Which I think is pretty good considering the manufacturer! I did eventually find a manual for it, but DataExpert have long since disappeared. The manual is a bit hard to read as it suffers from engrish, but it does have the information you need for installing the board.

From the service technicians point of view it’s reasonably easy to work on, but not perfect. Setting the processor and bus speed is done via DIP switches, luckily there is a silk screen reference for these, but some details on some jumpers are absent from the silk-screen. You should be able to install and set this board up without the manual.

With information about this board scarce on the internet it’s hard to pass much more comment about it. Our example was reliable over it’s life-span, and performed reasonably for the tasks given to it at the time. It isn’t really all that remarkable really, there were many different manufacturers making Socket 7 boards of this standard and better. Perhaps that is why DataExpert isn’t around any more, they were crowded out of the market.


2 Responses to “Motherboard: DataExpert TX531”

  1. May 22, 2015 at 5:48 am

    I don’t like the white ISA slots, it feels wrong to me like they should be some exotic expansion slot. The AT keyboard connector is a little odd for being 97/98 as well. surprised there isn’t a second ATX power connector as well. I had a socket 7 board like that with the AT keyboard port as well as AT and ATX power connector.

    • May 22, 2015 at 12:48 pm

      I tend to agree, but being a cheap board from a little known Taiwanese company probably explains much of it. I’d say they used as many cheaper parts as they could, which may include the ISA slots. It definitely matches an older style board compared to other newer contemporaries.

      I’d say this board is probably an old design that has been incrementally updated as little as possible. I think the chipset is a clone of the Intel 430TX, perhaps the board was originally designed with those (or a previous chipset) in mind instead.


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