Luckily, the 730S, like the i815E, supports an external AGP 4X graphics port.  Making use of this port will disable the on-chip graphics, but it allows for a direct upgrade path for those users that have the 730S in their system.  The only downside to this is that SiS must include all of the pins for the external AGP 4X connector on the 730S chip itself.  Combine that with the fact that the chip must also house both a North and a Southbridge and you can see that the chip is already going to be more expensive than the i810E. 

If a motherboard manufacturer or system integrator doesn’t mind giving up the flexibility of the external AGP 4X slot, they can opt to use SiS’ 301 Video Bridge that allows for a secondary video output to either a digital flat panel monitor, a TV or a secondary CRT.  As we alluded to however, this can only be used in place of the AGP 4X slot, you cannot have both. 

The 730S boasts PC133 SDRAM support with no support for DDR SDRAM; we won’t see a value DDR chipset from SiS until the end of next year with their Odyssey chipset (SiS 740).  (It seems like someone over at SiS’ engineering department has been reading a lot of Greek mythology lately judging by their codenames.)  A maximum of 1.5GB of PC133 SDRAM may be installed in a 730S board.  With the chipset being targeted at the value PC market segment, this limitation doesn’t seem to be that big of an issue.

The SiS 730S Reference Board

Click to Enlarge


Something to keep in mind is that SiS has much less experience with PC133 memory controllers than VIA.  We have criticized VIA heavily in the past for having poor memory performance, but VIA has had since late 1999 to perfect their PC133 memory controller whereas the PC133 memory controller present in the 730S is generally new territory for SiS.  Keep this in mind as we move into the benchmarking section of this review.

The 730S claims support for both the 100 and 133MHz DDR FSB frequencies (effectively 200/266MHz).  While we could get both settings to work, the 133MHz setting was noticeably less stable even to the point where none of our Windows 2000 tests would complete.  Chances are that the issues will be sorted out in future revisions of the chipset if not simply requiring a BIOS update on our particular test board. 

The 730S has support for 6 USB ports in addition to the usual AC’97 and Modem Riser card support.  Like the i815E, the 730S has built in support for 10/100 Ethernet or 1Mbps HomePNA with the inclusion of an external controller chip, the SiS 900 in the case of 10/100 Ethernet support. 

A chip called Homer Getting your very own bus
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