Chaintech 5SIM

by Anand Lal Shimpi on July 4, 1997 1:53 PM EST
Chaintech's success in the past has mainly come from their ability to uphold the manufacturer/user relationship.  This relationship is one of give and take, and it dictates that if a manufacturer concentrates on the overall quality of a product then the possibility that the user will be satisfied is a very large one.  The previous entries from Chaintech were actually a bit disappointing compared to the competition.  The 5DTM2 and 5TTL lacked the strength and stability to improve Chaintech's current "average" reputation.  The 5TTM1 was a stronger try at achieving a truly successful motherboard, however it was an ill-fated attempt at grabbing the gold.   Chaintech's SiS 5598 board as even somewhat of a disappointment although that could be attributed to the chipset itself rather than the quality of the motherboard.   Basically Chaintech, in the past, has left a few Socket-7 users with a bitter taste in their mouths.  With one last attempt at redemption from the Socket-7 market what did Chaintech do?  They produced yet another SiS based motherboard.  However before you declare the Chaintech 5SIM a total failure, understand this:  Just because SiS manufactures low end chipset solutions that doesn't mean that they can't offer an economically priced TX chipset alternative.  Nope, not the 5598, but SiS' 5582 chipset is at the heart of Chaintech's most promising Socket-7 motherboard. 

Motherboard Specifications

Socket Style: Socket 7
Chipset: SiS 5582
Cache: 512KB
Form Factor: AT (w/ AT & ATX PS Connectors)
BUS Speeds: 50 / 55 / 60 / 66 / 68 / 75 / 83 MHz
Clock Multipliers: 1.5x / 2.0x / 2.5x / 3.0x / 3.5x / 4.0x
Voltages Supported: 2.8 / 2.9 / 3.2 / 3.3 / 3.4 / 3.5
RAM Slots: 2 168pin DIMM Slots (EDO/SDRAM)
2 72pin SIMM Slots (EDO/FPM)
PCI/ISA Slots: 4 PCI Slots
3 ISA Slots (1-Shared / 1-Full Length)
PCI EIDE Controller: Super I/O
2 EIDE Channels
1 FDD Channel
2 Serial /1 EPP


The Good

5sim1.jpg (24878 bytes) At a quick glance, the 5SIM looks like any normal baby AT based motherboard.  Upon closer inspection the large "LX-sized" SiS 5582 chip becomes a prominent marker of the 5SIM's glory.  Outfitted with 4 PCI and 3 ISA slots to accent the 2 SIMM and 2 DIMM slots, the Chaintech 5SIM manages to pack quite a punch for its size.  Don't let its colorful box and harmless appearance fool you, the 5SIM is a force to be reckoned with.  Based on the SiS 5582 chipset, Chaintech's 5SIM doesn't feature any low cost integrated video options, nor an AGP slot intended for a much more expensive motherboard.  Instead it boasts all the features we know and love from Intel's TX chipset such as Ultra DMA/33 and SDRAM support, while expanding the TX's 64MB Cacheable memory limit to include a more realistic 128MB cacheable memory area.  The 5582 was originally thought to be a successor to the SiS 5571 chipset, however the mysterious absence of Linear Burst Mode support by the chipset could lead one to believe otherwise. 
Maintaining that manufacturer/user relationship, Chaintech bundled a handy SiS Busmastering driver diskette with the 5SIM, in spite of the fact that Windows 95 automatically detects and configures the onboard PCI IDE controller as a SiS 5513 PCI IDE Device controller by default.  Although many consider VIA's VP2 chipset (found in FIC's PA-2007 and 2011) to be the best competitor of Intel's TX chipset, the SiS 5582 can arguably be given the same title.   Not only is the Chaintech 5SIM a solid performer, producing excellent results with the Pentium MMX from 208MHz up to 291.5MHz and with the K6 from 208MHz up to 250MHz, but it is also a very stable motherboard.  The only time it crashed was during an attempt to run the K6 at 262.5MHz which unfortunately failed completely even after 5 tries.  5sim2.jpg (21689 bytes)
5sim3.jpg (10527 bytes) Achieving overclocked CPU speeds with the 5SIM is a breeze in spite of the fact that the 5SIM doesn't feature Chaintech's trademarked SeePU jumperless Setup Utility (it doesn't seem as if any SiS based boards are jumperless).  The implantation of Dip Switches into the design of the 5SIM, combined with Chaintech's well written user manual ensures a pleasant and carefree experience with the 5SIM.   Chaintech's competitive nature would deem a competitive price almost necessary for the initial survival and eventual success of the 5SIM.  Courtesy of the low manufacturing cost of the SiS 5582 chipset the average price of the 5SIM should be very close to the $100 mark.  If Chaintech could only perfect their manufacturing process...

The Bad

The Chaintech 5SIM is only available in an AT form factor, meaning that all of you ATX advocates are out of luck.  You will find that the 5SIM's design is quite cramped compared to most, especially if you're installing it in a mini-tower case.  The positioning of the dip switches which correspond to the available Bus speeds and clock multipliers are placed directly underneath the drive cage in most standard AT cases, obstructing access to them.  Aside from the cramped design the voltage regulator setup and overall engineering quality of the motherboard does have room for improvement.  Taking the Pentium MMX up to 291.5MHz required by a 3.2v core voltage setting, and taking the K6 up to 250MHz required a core voltage of 3.4v!

The Test
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