Diamond Micronics C400 motherboardReview date: 1 December 1998
Last modified 03-Dec-2011.
Diamond Multimedia got into motherboards the Microsoft way - they found someone who made good ones, and bought them. Micronics is now part of the Diamond empire, and the C400 is the first motherboard to carry the Diamond name.
Yup, that's a motherboard. Note the comprehensive data sheet that supplants a full paper manual.
The C400 is a mini-ATX BX chipset board with four PCI slots, one ISA slot and one slot shared between PCI and ISA. There's also one AGP video slot. The C400 accepts any Slot 1 CPU (Pentium II or Celeron) up to 450MHz, supports up to 768Mb of RAM in its three DIMM slots, and has the usual serial, parallel and twin USB ports, dual Ultra DMA/33 EIDE connectors and an Award 1Mb flash-upgradable BIOS.
It's also got all the usual extras that don't often get used - an IrDA header, Wake On Ring and Wake On LAN support, and an SB-LINK header for users of older PCI Sound Blasters.
Unusually, this motherboard doesn't come with a comprehensive paper manual. A surprisingly complete Quick Installation Guide sheet gives enough information for even inexperienced users to set the board up, but the full documentation is on the almost-empty accompanying CD. You might think this would present a problem for those who don't already have a PC to read the manual on, but, as I said, the simple data sheet is actually very good. If you can't figure out what to do from the Quick Installation Guide, the manual probably isn't going to help you.
One point that the Quick Installation Guide doesn't make clear is how to mount the CPU retention doohickey - the rails that the Slot 1 processor slides down into. The Quick Installation Guide shows one kind of fastener for the rails, the CD-ROM manual shows another, and what's provided is yet a third, a cheapo system where you push nylon pins down into the base of the rails to lock the retainer in place. This sort of retainer works fine if it's installed properly, but if the pin receiving locking post things in the rail base aren't pushed all the way down to start with, you can burst a blood vessel pushing on the fasteners and still end up with a dodgily mounted CPU.
This aside, the C400 docs are superb. They explain more than most manuals, including detailed BIOS setup information, and are written in clear English, and properly proofread. It's a shame that this is an unusual feature.
This is a well laid out, well labelled motherboard.
The slightly awkward CPU retention kit is only a minor problem.
The switch and LED connectors are in one simple line, not the one-and-a-half two-column blocks with ultra-teeny labelling that many manufacturers inflict on us. Indeed, everything's labelled in text of a size visible to most humans.
Clearly labelled LED and switch connectors, all in one row in one place. Where have you been all my life?
The C400 also seems to be well thought out electronically. It has large smoothing capacitors, keyed connectors and solid soldering on the stress-bearing ports. Corner-cutting in the electronics causes crashes, which should not be a problem here.
Forget it. This is not a speed freak redline-your-CPU board. You can't set processors to bus speeds other than those they're supposed to run at, and you can't change processor voltage. Well, not without using nail polish or Teflon tape or an X-Acto knife. You don't want to know. Trust me.
All BX chipset motherboards are almost exactly the same speed, so the only performance feature that matters is reliability. Judging by its construction quality, the C400 should be a highly reliable piece of equipment.
If you've never built your own PC before, this is a great board to choose, simply because of its clear labelling and good documentation. And you don't sacrifice speed, either, provided you don't want to overclock your processor. At less than $250 (Australian dollars) it's a great motherboard at a good price.