Many people expect to have to shell out big bucks for a quality Pentium II board, or any motherboard for that matter. This misconception is mainly caused by the interpretation that unless a motherboard is made by ASUS, ABIT, etc... it isn't a good one. That is a completely false statement...and MTech's newest line of motherboards prove that it is...


Motherboard Specifications

Socket Style: Slot-1
Chipset: i82440FX (NATOMA)
Cache: N/A (On Chip)
Form Factor: ATX
BUS Speeds: 60 / 66 MHz
Clock Multipliers: 3.5x / 4.0x / 4.5x / 5.0x
Voltages Supported: 1.5v - 3.5v (Auto Detect)
RAM Slots: 6 72pin SIMM Slots (EDO/FPM)
PCI/ISA Slots: 4 PCI Slots
4 ISA Slots (1 Shared / 4 Full Length)
BIOS: AWARD PnP BIOS
PCI EIDE Controller: Super I/O
2 EIDE Channels
1 FDD Channel
2 Serial /1 EPP

 


The Good

My initial impressions of the MTech Phantom, before actually receiving one, were that the board would be a solid performer...however lacking performance wise. After receiving the board for testing, my opinion completely changed. The MTech Phantom not only has the perfect combination of expansion and performance features, but it is also backed by a very trusting and caring company. I will never forget the impression MTech left on me when one of their representatives paid me a visit at my house, a very nice gesture on his part as well as on behalf of MTech. The quality and reliability of a manufacturer is always as important as the quality/reliability of the board itself. In this case, MTech does not skimp in either area. The layout of the Phantom was quite to my liking, all of the jumpers were placed in easy to access areas, and there were no obstructions preventing secondary cooling devices from operating at their maximum capacity. As most other Pentium II boards, the Phantom has jumped on the ATX bandwagon and unlike some other motherboard manufacturers, MTech took full advantage of the ATX specifications to deliver a well cooled/laid out motherboard. The Phantom's good qualities don't stop there, the 6 SIMM slots and the 4 PCI / 4 ISA slots encourage system expansion, personally I believe that having less than 6 SIMM slots with a Pentium II board is ridiculous and MTech realized that when creating the Phantom. Unlike most ATX board, MTech removed the USB ports, apparently for ease of use/installation since many cases do not come with backplates that support the two level port setup. And frankly, USB devices will not be around for a few months more at least so having a few USB ports now would just be a waste of time, once again, great thinking on MTech's part. Performance wise, I was fairly satisfied by the Phantom, of course it didn't offer the Performance of the FX83-A however it did prove to be a high quality high performing board...at a reasonable cost. The stability of the Phantom is well above average...in most cases the board never crashed, even at overclocked speeds. I had no problems what-so-ever getting the Phantom to work with any of my peripherals, and the comfortable AWARD PnP BIOS made setup on it a breeze. The manual, like all other MTech manuals is very well written. It is brief and to the point without skimping on quality. Overall, the Phantom is a great board, it exceeded most of my expectations and is a perfect model for what a Pentium II board should be like...however there is always a dark side lurking with any product...

The Bad

Although the MTech Phantom is overwhelmed with good qualities, it does have its bad sides. First of all, when testing the Phantom it crashed quite a few times under Winstone and Winbench 97...while it was very stable under normal use. Under Windows NT, I couldn't get any scores at all from the Phantom. I'm not sure whether to attribute this to a problem with the motherboard, or a minor flaw with Winstone (something which is quite common). Secondly, the AWARD PnP BIOS which comes with the Phantom is usually my opinion of a great setup utility, however the Phantom's Advanced Chipset Configuration was the worst I had ever seen. The options given to the user didn't even include Burst Read/Write timings for your RAM!!! The only real control you have over the settings are the whopping two choices for DRAM speed, 60ns or 70ns as well as a few other settings (i.e. CPU to IDE Write Posting etc...). I was thoroughly disappointed by the Phantom's lack of configuration options. Finally, the Phantom's jumpers, although laid out in an easy to access manner, can be difficult to set for first time builders, make sure you have the manual at hand!

 


IRQ Usage

The usage of IRQs is a very important factor when choosing and configuring any peripheral, including a motherboard. How the motherboard manages and uses IRQs is very important, and often causes conflicts with other peripherals. The Phantom does not skimp in this area, the AWARD PnP BIOS included with the Phantom allows the user to enable or disable the usage of IRQ12 for a PS/2 mouse if one is present. Also you can individually set the IRQs for each Legacy ISA card just in case some are present in your system. You have the option of manually setting an IRQ for your Video Card if you desire to do so. The Phantom is truly a board for the tweaker, it allows you to configure each and every IRQ usage setting to the max. As with most boards, you can select which IRQ your Serial and Parallel Port(s) use which often comes in handy when you have devices such as modems, printers, and serial mice attached to your system. Immediately after POST, the AWARD PnP BIOS detects and configures all PnP cards including PnP ISA cards. The board definitely does a great job of allow you to allocate IRQs in order prevent possible conflicts with other devices.

 


BIOS Settings

Believe me, you don't need my recommendations for the BIOS Settings on this board...there are no real settings you'll need help with!


The Test

The MTech Phantom performed quite well in the Business Winstone tests, however I couldn't get it to complete any Windows NT4 tests. I'll keep on trying to see if I can get more stable results out of it, if I do I'll post them here naturally...

Test Configuration

Processor(s): Intel Pentium II - 266 (512K)
BIOS Revision: Std BIOS
RAM: 2 - 32MB Micron 50ns EDO SIMMs
Hard Drive(s): Western Digital Caviar AC21600H
Video Card: Matrox Millennium (2MB WRAM)
Busmaster EIDE Drivers: Intel v3.01
Video Card Drivers: MGA Millennium 4.03.00.3410
OS: Windows 95 Service Release 2
Notes:  

 

Windows 95 Performance of the MTech Phantom

CPU Business Winstone
Intel Pentium II - 300 62.4
Intel Pentium II - 266 61.8
Intel Pentium II - 233 58.9

As you can see here, the MTech Phantom performs quite well under Windows 95, it doesn't offer the best performance, but it is a fairly fast board. If you are looking for quality in a board as well as in a manufacturer, the Phantom is definitely a choice for you.

 


The Final Decision

If you are looking for quality in a board, reliability in a manufacturer, and detail in a manual, the Phantom is the answer to your prayers. It is a very affordable and reliable board. MTech is definitely a company that pays attention to the needs of their customers, they are almost a family like company in a metaphorical sense. If that is the type of support you're looking for with your next motherboard purchase, consider this one...

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