ABIT BE6 motherboard: a review
by Bob Wright
IDE Hard Drives?
ABIT BE6 Motherboard
Did you think this was never going to happen? Have you been squeezing room onto your sound card
for the CD Rom drive? When were they going to
start treating IDE like SCSI? It finally has
all come true, the power user’s dream.
ABIT has recently released the
BE6 motherboard with HighPoint’s HPT366 onboard UDMA66 controller, the first of the
true use of the UDMA66 protocol.
Now with two UDMA66/33 channels for four hard drives and two UDMA33
channels on the motherboard we are finding the ability to save money by avoiding SCSI to
allow extremely large numbers of hard drives / IDE devices on one motherboard.
The BX chipset with the lauded UDMA66 specification has become
a reality. Speed, a large number of drives,
this new BE6 motherboard is what the world of IDE has waited for so patiently.
Are there other great reasons for
considering this board, maybe the SoftMenu feature alone will appeal to you, the feature
that made the BH6 motherboard a winner. The
jumper free motherboard.
When we received this motherboard, my first thought
was to just install it into a test box, run a few diagnostics and generate
some raw data. But, something about the BE6 board appealed to
me... and I have seen most of the latest motherboards when they hit
the market. But, this one was different. I did something
I usually would not consider, I pulled apart my personal computer, popped
out the ASUS P2B motherboard and installed this ABIT motherboard.
I have upgraded a great many computers, pulling out
one motherboard and installing a new one, so when I tell you that the
upgrade went smoothly... as easily as any I have ever
done... it means something. It was a perfect replacement
for my old ASUS board. The entire switch out took under 15
The next thing I discovered was the ease with which
Windows98SE was able to update the system drivers. That is no small
thing, as often the new hardware makes little sense to a Microsoft product
unless you completely reload Windows. But, this was one time when
the hardware/chipset/controllers on the motherboard were so well
implemented that Windows98SE worked exactly as Microsoft had intended,
updating the drivers with no assistance. I can tell you I was very
impressed. The whole process, including adding in an Intel PIII-550
CPU and updating Windows98SE took less than 30 minutes... from the
time I unplugged the computer until I was looking at the computer back in
I know... glowing words. There was one
issue I did not expect and surprised me with the motherboard. The
Bios did not support my configuration right out of the box. I was
required to download the latest Bios flash update to solve this
issue. In the CMOS, there was no setting for my boot sequence:
A-SCSI My system has an
Adaptec 2940UW card running a Seagate Cheetah 9.1 gig hard drive.
Downloading and Flashing my Bios solved this issue.
So, what else did I find worth investing in this board?
It could be some simple features I appreciate,
such a three (3) Dimm memory slots that will support up to 768mgs of SDRAM…
and they have still allowed us the luxury of ISA slots, for modems and sound cards.
Often when upgrading an existing system, the last
thing someone wants to hear is, “Oh, by the way, your new motherboard will not support
your modem and sound card. That will be
I have not mentioned the "Soft Menu"
feature of ABIT motherboards, in this case making it an excellent
motherboard option for people with little practical knowledge in building
a computer. Right out of the box, without any looking for
FSB, (Front Side Bus), or Clock Speed jumpers, the motherboard
works. The defaults work right out of the box. What does this
mean? Simply stated, you are not digging through a manual for jumper
settings to match your CPU, it is all done in the Bios and the defaults
recognize most CPUs. For novice PC Builders... this is a great
But, in the final analysis, the best features of this motherboard
are the compatibility with Microsoft operating systems, (Windows95/98/NT),
and the price. ABIT has kept us down in the below
$125 range with this excellent option for upgrading or building a new computer.
note... although we took a whole series of video for image captures,
we taped over them while working on a new article... so we can only
supply the image from ABIT's web site. 'Stuff happens'
Update - October 27,
As an addendum to the original article, it has now been seven
weeks since I installed the ABIT BE6 motherboard in my personal
computer. The one thing I want to report is my personal computer
is VERY STABLE. Yes, I have used the
VXD Fix to solve issues Windows98SE posed with Blue Screens of death,
but there is even more to it. Remember this is all anecdotal...
that information you cannot demonstrate with factual data, but rather a
personal experience. Often that is far better than someone's
quickie numbers generated with a benchmark utility.
In the last six weeks, I have only rebooted the system
once a week. The remainder of the time it has been left running
with no issues... remember that I have over 100 Windows
applications loaded on Windows98SE at this writing. The system
downloads email every 4 minutes from my email personal mail server,
VPOP3 into Eudora Pro. The work time I spend at this system
is with numerous graphics, web browsers and HTML editing applications
running. I cannot say enough about this new motherboard and my
elation with system stability.
Current System Configuration:
ABIT BE6 motherboard
Intel PIII-550mhz CPU
192mg of PC100 SDRam
ATI Rage Fury Pro 32mg video
Sound Blaster 128 PCI sound
3Com 509B-TX network card
US Robotics 56k ISA Internal
Adaptec 2940UW SCSI3 card
STB PCI/TV card
Seagate Cheetah Ultra-wide 9.1
(3) Seagate 8.4gig UDMA33 hard
44x IDE PIO4 CD Rom drive
Iomega 100mg zip drive USB
HP 4P Scanjet SCSI scanner
Thanks for all your great emails...
Update October 27, 1999
Update from ABIT - HighPoint DMA66 Controller
As an update to this article, after
discussing the issue of the UDMA66 HighPoint controller on the
BE6 ABIT motherboard, ABIT acknowledges that at this time there
are some issues with the following hard drives:
- Maxtor Series U8 hard drives
- Seagate's Barracuda hard drives
ABIT hopes to have this problem
solved soon with updates that will appear on their web site for
Another point, that has been harangued
on the Internet is the issue of CD writers and the HighPoint UDMA66 controller. It is
recommended that anyone should install an IDE CD Rom writer on
the UDMA66 controller. Since no CD writers currently require
UDMA66 support, it serves no purpose to install the writer or
even a CD Rom drive on this controller. The recommended
controller interface for CD Rom and CD Rom Writer drives is the
Installing any CD Rom
drive on the HighPoint Controller maybe problematic and corrupt
If you are experiencing
problems with other hard drives and the UDMA66 controller, I
would be interested in hearing from you.
Update December 30, 1999
I have heard a great deal from our readers
about the HighPoint or HPT66 controller, (UDMA66 controller),
on the ABIT BE6 motherboard since writing this original
review. Some of it just nonsense and some of you had real
concerns that I was not taking the issues you faced with the
controller seriously, since I was not using or testing it.
This is after all, the major new feature of this motherboard.
Granted, that is a fair criticism. So,
to begin this update, let me tell you that I now have two
Fujitsu 27gig UDMA66 hard drives running on the controller with
no problems, not that I did not have problems configuring the
motherboard, but that was not necessarily ABIT's fault.
First, I downloaded and updated my BIOS with
ABIT's latest Flash Bios upgrade, the BE6PL. This went
The next step was to add in a Fujitsu
MPE3273AT- 27gig hard drive. I blithely connected the
UDMA66 cable to the drive and booted up the system. Now
all sorts of bad things began to occur and no matter how I
attempted to reconfigure the drives, as long as a drive was
connected to the HPT66 controller, I had a problem... one that
spilled over into my SCSI controller, moving my SCSI hard drive
from SCSI0 to SCSI3. That should have given me all
the clues I needed, but of course like many people who have
written to me, I took it as a sign that the HPT66 controller was
After scanning back through the owners manual
for the BE6 motherboard, stirring around on ABIT's web
site, I decided that it was ABIT's fault and dashed off an
email to ABIT's team about my problems. ABIT to date has
been great in helping me and several Team NOSPIN staff members
in testing their products, so I expected a quick answer.
This was then followed by a phone call to Drew
Dunn, in hopes we could brainstorm this problem.
Now, Drew's first comment was, "Is your Adaptec
Controller in PCI slot3?" But of course it
was... Drew explained that he had completely read the
manual that arrived with the BP6 motherboard from ABIT and it
discusses this issue. Now there is a new concept...
reading the manual. That sent me back to reread the manual
with my BE6 motherboard. There was no
reference in the manual about this point...
So, to simplify here... I just moved the
Adaptec 2940UW SCSI controller to PCI slot1 and removed my STB
TV card from the system, (actually I had been intending to
remove it as it was redundant with my server sitting at my desk
with another STB TV card installed). The system now booted
fine, the SCSI controller set the primary SCSI Seagate drive to
SCSI0. Then, as the HPT66 controller activates during the
POST process, right after the SCSI card, it finds the new
Fujitsu hard drive. I took this as success and added in
another Fujitsu 27gig drive to the controller. In the mean time, an engineer from ABIT
took the time to send me an Email explaining the PCI Slot3
I have reported to ABIT an issue in using a SCSI
controller and the HPT66 controller that still has not been
fixed. As of this writing, there exists a problem with
setting BOOT ORDER in the Bios. In my case, I have set the
the EXT or External controller definition to SCSI, (this option
can either be SCSI or UDMA66). This defines in the Bios
which controller has the hard drive defined as the 'C'
Now, when I set the BOOT Order to EXT, A, C
the system defines the SCSI controller first and then the HPT66
Controller second. However, when I set the Bios BOOT
Order to: A, EXT, C a problem arises. The
system defines the HPT66 controller first and then the SCSI
controller. Is this a problem? He in lies a major
issue, I have attempted to use both Microscope v7 by Micro2000
and Ultra-X's Quick Tech Pro to run diagnostics with floppy
diagnostic disks. With this configuration error, both
diagnostic tools report numerous errors in configuration.
There is no solution to running test with my diagnostic
The system does run great as long as the Bios
BOOT Order is set to EXT, A, C. I hope that a future Bios
update will address this issue. It is extremely inconvenient.
& PCI Slot3
It is not documented in the motherboard manual I
received, but the HPT66 controller shares the IRQ with PCI
slot3. Unless you are using a PCI card that either does
not require an IRQ, (such as a voodoo addon card), or allows for
IRQ sharing, (such as a network card), I recommend not
installing any PCI cards in PCI slot 3 if you intend to use the
UDMA66 HighPoint controller.
Which one is PCI Slot3? That is simple
to determine. The PCI slot adjacent to the AGP slot is PCI
slot1 and then you just count them toward the ISA slots on the
Hard Drive Compatibility
As an update to our update of October 27th, we find
that ABIT has solved the issue with the Maxtor hard drives and
they are, as of this writing, still working on the Seagate Barracuda
drive issue. Other than the Seagate Barracuda drive, UDMA4
or UDMA66 drives function well with the HPT66 controller.
I have run several benchmarks on both the
SCSI3 UW drive and the UDMA66 drive, only to find that the SCSI
drive is still faster. I suppose for now I will remain
pleased I went with SCSI for the shear speed.
*note: This is a
continuation to my original
article/review about the ABIT BE6 motherboard.
Ten Months Later
In the last 10 months since testing and then deciding to use
the ABIT BE6 motherboard in my personal client machine, (typically we test
motherboards sent to us and then use them in servers to run our Network
Operations Center), it has performed admirably. We test a great many
motherboards all the time, yet this motherboard caught my imagination and
once installed in the PC from which I write most of what you find here at
The NOSPIN Group, I have been reticent to tear the box down for an
upgrade. But, speed is always knocking at my door... time to
I often receive Emails after reading these articles asking why my
personal PC is not raging with the latest "bleeding edge" CPUs
and technology... especially since we often have them in inventory
in our shop. This is quite simple... testing beta
software is fun, checking out the latest and greatest hardware can be a
thrill to see it snap along at new blazing speeds. But, after
years of dealing with the issues that arise with compatibility and
crashes... when I sit down to my personal client machine, the last
thing I want is problems. I want it to work NOW and every
time... stable performance and a rock solid installation of the
operating system / application software is my primary concern...
and with a little tweaking and care, the ABIT BE6 motherboard is now a
So, I think long and hard before considering upgrades to my client
PC... but, I made the decision to install a motherboard that would
support a faster CPU, as I have been using a PIII-500 at 100mhz FSB,
(front side bus), with 256mg of PC100 SDRam. We had a new
motherboard arrive with the 133mhz FSB, a UDMA100 controller and VIA
Apollo Pro 133 chipset, which sounded like a fine time to upgrade my
personal PC. That meant taking two 128mg PC133 SDRam chips and a
Intel PIII-733mhz flipchip CPU out of inventory for the upgrade. I
can tell you now that with over 100 applications installed on my
PC... I was concerned by the time this upgrade could entail and probably reinstalling
most of the application software. That made me stop and
consider... and then I took a visit to ABIT's web site.
Change of Mind / Final Decision
I discovered in visiting ABIT's website, the
latest BIOS upgrade, BE6QP. This made all the difference in the
world to me and a change of mind about my upgrade. This Bios upgrade
suddenly allowed a much longer life for my existing system and no threat
to my application or operating system installation. Simply stated,
changing the CPU out on an existing PC will nearly always have zero effect
on the software, especially if the motherboard is not changed. This
solution seemed perfect for my needs. The one big trick is to be sure
after you upgrade the BIOS that all the settings are exactly as
before... or you will be reinstalling your device drivers in
I downloaded the flash Bios upgrade from ABIT, along with the software
installer... and the found the Bios upgrade to go flawlessly.
If you have not flashed a Bios with an upgrade, be sure to read our Guide
to Flash Upgrading the Bios.
Adaptor Card & Intel PIII-750
The next phase was relative simple, once the Bios was
upgraded, I simply used a Slot1 adaptor for the Intel FCPGA/S370 CPUs
and an Intel PIII-750 @100mhz flipchip CPU. My first thought was
to use an ABIT SlotKET adaptor card, but unfortunately I was unable to
find a supplier nearby, so I used an ASUS adaptor.
These cards, (slot1 to 370pin adaptors), are usually very simple to use, set a jumper
pin or two for compliance with your CPU, then snap the CPU into the card
and attach a fan/heatsink. It is just that simple. Once this
adaptor is in the slot, fitting nicely into the existing Slot1
bracket... with the Bios upgrade... I had no
difficulties setting the SoftMenuII for my CPU speed. The system
fired up and with the exception of a new CPU speed of 750mhz @ 100mhz
reported at post, my dependable system seemed exactly as I shut it
down. Okay... there is the point that it did start
considerably faster, the usually 15second boot time was cut to about 10
seconds. You would think it should be faster with a 150% jump in
processor speed, but that is a point where CPU speed is not that relevant,
especially with so many applications installed, creating a very large
registry to be processed at Boot up.
Now, just for my own sake, I ran ZDNET's
Winbench to verify my system speed improvement. The report was consistent
with my150% increase in CPU speed and satisfied my curiosity that
everything had gone fine in the upgrade.
at The NOSPIN Group made a decision years ago to stay away from
"benchmark" reviews and other nonsense to report statistics
about hardware products. The reason is simple... benchmarks
are a very poor indicator of what a given hardware component is really
doing. We prefer to report "Real World" impressions, in an
anecdotal manner... information that really means something to the
Current System Configuration
ABIT BE6 motherboard (latest
Intel PIII-750 100mhz FCPGA
(2) Micron 128mg PC100 SDRam
ATI Rage Fury Pro AGP 32mg
Adaptec 2940UW SCSI PCI card
(2) 3Com 3C905Tx PCI Network
Sound Blaster 16 audio ISA
USR 56k v.90 ISA voice modem
Iomega USB 100mg Zip drive
Seagate 9gig SCSI UW hard
(2) Fujitsu 20gig UDMA66 hard
Maxtor 30gig UDMA66 hard drive
Seagate 8gig UDMA33 hard drive
(2) Creative Labs 52x IDE CD
HP Scanjet 4P SCSI scanner
RCA Cable modem
The one thing that I appreciate about the ABIT BE6
motherboard is the two IDE controllers, the standard UDMA33 controller
and the HighPoint UDMA66 controller, allowing me up to 8 IDE/ATA devices, (you
will note that I currently have 6 IDE/ATA devices installed).
The BE6 motherboard will not support the latest PC133 SDRam,
will not use the fastest 133mhz FSB CPUs... even with a Bios
Upgrade... it does not support the UDMA100 IDE
devices. But, with my current configuration the speed
difference is not noticeable to someone working daily with it. The
BE6 motherboard has been a real champion for my personal client machine
and probably will continue to be for at least the next six months to a
year... when the need for speed
hits me again.
Just to wrap this all up, I want to mention the over 100
emails I have received about the ABIT BE6 motherboard. A couple
were just plain nasty, complaining the motherboard was junk and of
course such Emails never receive more than a cursory glance, then to be
deleted. I do not waste time on snide and nasty emails... if you
want me to read it, be polite.
Some people reported all sorts of horrendous problems,
complaining it was the HighPoint Controller's fault. Take the
fellow who was sure the HPT366 controller was the problem, since he could not
get his Maxtor HD to work, when in fact he had not bothered to check for
a Bios upgrade that once used solved his issue... or the fellow
who continually had system crashes in Windows98, sure it was the
motherboard, only to tell me his CPU was running at 115C
degrees. A little heatsink paste between his CPU and the
fan/heatsink dropped the CPU temperature to below 60C... and
amazingly, all the problems stopped.
Then, of course let us not forget the fellow who
populated every PCI and ISA slot on the board with I/O cards, only to
wonder why he had so many conflicts and why the HPT366 controller would not
work. Yes... PCI slot #1 shares an IRQ with the AGP slot,
PCI slot #3 shares the IRQ with the HPT366 controller... you must
do a little research before configuring any motherboard and you need to
use a little common sense. If a PCI slot continues to want to
share an IRQ with another device like the HPT366 controller, then realize
that the HPT366 controller is part of the PCI bus... and if you
remove the card from that slot the problem evaporates. I should
also mention that not all PCI cards need an IRQ and will work just fine in
PCI slot #3, such as Voodoo accelerator cards.
The ABIT BE6 motherboard is not perfect... but, in
my long experience, years of building PCs, I have yet to find one that
is totally bullet proof, especially if you intend to overload it with
devices. For me... with careful, thoughtful use of system
resources this motherboard has been a winner. Fortunately, I have
other PCs on my network for devices such as SCSI CD writers, video
capture, PCI/TV cards and the like... but, not everyone needs to
over populate a PC... and reduction of devices can often solve a
great many woes.