DFI AD73 RAID Motherboard

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The DFI AD73 RAID Motherboard Review
Plain on the Outside, Powerful on the Inside

By, Jeff Bouton
April 18, 2002


When it comes to chipsets, VIA's KT266A has matured into what has undoubtedly become one of the most popular chipsets on the market today.  But this maturity didn't come without a few bumps along the way.  When we first saw glimpses of the original KT266, there was a lot of talk of major improvements in performance, but we soon found out that it wasn't the case.  As more people started using motherboards with the new chipset, VIA was plagued by increasing reports of poor memory performance.  As more an more people experienced this problem, the picture became clear to VIA that something was wrong.  The development team went back to the drawing board and addressed the memory issues by introducing a new memory controller to the chipset and the KT266A chipset was born.  As time has passed, the KT266A chipset has demonstrated its excellent overall performance, setting a new performance standard.  The redesigned chipset proved to be a solid performer thanks to the improved memory controller as well as ever improving drivers.

Today we will be taking a close look at the AD73 RAID motherboard from DFI.  The AD73 is DFI's latest Athlon based motherboard to incorporate the KT266A chipset, but this time they added a twist.  The main difference between this board and the older models is the addition of the VT8233ACD Southbridge, giving the AD73 RAID motherboard ATA133 compatibility with it's standard IDE channels.  DFI's goal is to provide an economical motherboard that can offer high-performance which rivals that of more expensive motherboards and chipsets.  Considering that the KT333 chipset hasn't truly blown us away with its performance and the ATA133 standard has not been widely adopted, it is likely that this is an attainable goal even without the upgraded Southbridge.  So let us jump right into the mix and see if DFI can truly challenge a couple of high-end KT333 systems with the AD73 RAID motherboard.
 

Specifications of the DFI AD73 RAID Motherboard
Plain and Simple

Chipset
VIA KT266A/8233A

CPU Socket
Socket A

CPU Supported
AMD Athlon XP 266 MHz FSB (1500+ to 2000+)
AMD Athlon 200/266 MHz FSB (up to 1.4GHz)
AMD Duron 200 MHz FSB (500MHz to 1.3GHz)
and future processors

Memory
3 DDR DIMM Sockets
max. 3 GB memory
Supports PC1600(DDR200)/ PC2100(DDR266) DDR SDRAM

PCI IDE
Dual PIO mode 6 EIDE channels up to 4 IDE devices
UltraDMA/ 133 transfer rate up to 133 MB/s

Super I/O
2 x NS16C550A-compatible UARTs
1 x SPP/ECP/EPP parallel port

External Connectors
2 x USB
2 x DB-9
1 x DB-25
1 x PS/2 Mouse
1 x PS/2 Keyboard
 
 

Internal Connectors
1 x connector for 2 additional external USB
1 x IrDA
2 x IDE
2 x RAID IDE
1x Floppy
1 x ATX power
3 x fan
1 x WOR
1 x WOL

Power Management
ACPI and OS Directed Power Management
Wake-on-Events : RTC/ Modem/ LAN

Hardware Monitor
System
processor temperature
voltage and fan speed
 
Expansion Slots
1 x AGP slot supports 4x / 2x AGP
5 PCI slots
RAID On Board
RAID 0 or 1

Other features
ATA133
BIOS
Award/ 2Mbit
Form Factors
ATX, 4 Layers
30.5cm x 24.5cm
12 inch, x 9.65 inch.


The motherboard we received for review was rather straight forward.  The package contained the bare minimum needed to get the system up and running.  Two manuals are included, one with information about the motherboard and the other for configuring the Promise RAID controller.  A driver CD was included with everything needed to install the board successfully.  One floppy cable and two 80-Pin IDE cables were also included.  Although we did not recieve a full retail package, we expect that the contents will not change.

So let's roll up our sleeves and see what this motherboard is made of.
 

Quality and Setup of the DFI AD73 RAID Motherboard
Looking Good...

The layout of the DFI AD73 RAID motherboard is clean and simple  with few issues to report.  It is important to note, however, that this is far from a "jumperless" motherboard.  DFI has included jumpers that give the ability to adjust the FSB from 100MHz. to 133MHz. as well as the ability to disable the RAID controller.  Dipswitches are on hand to adjust the CPU's multiplier setting if you have an unlocked processor.  An ample supply of capacitors are provided to insure clean and stable current is supplied to each key system component.  Four IDE connectors are available, the blue connectors are for standard IDE controllers and the red are for the on-board Promise RAID controller.  We found it curious that DFI opted to offer ATA133 compatibility with the standard IDE channels, yet they include an ATA100 Promise RAID controller.  This isn't a major strike against the board since the ATA133 standard hasn't been widely adopted yet, however it does seem a bit lopsided. 

DFI did make an attempt to provide cooling for the Northbridge, but our hopes were dashed when we found the heat sink attached with a thermal pad and no fan.  To be honest, this would have a lot more weight if this was a high-powered overclocking system, but the AD73 is more geared toward the workstation market, in which case the heat sink should be more than adequate for the job. 

5 PCI slots are provided as well as one AGP with a hinged retention clip to assure solid seating of the videocard.  A total of three fan-headers are strategically placed on the board to accommodate a CPU fan and 2 additional fans.  Although the ATX connector is not placed in what we would consider an ideal location, it does favor the center of the board which makes it easier to coax the power wires away from the CPU.  The system also includes 3 DIMM slots to accommodate a maximum of 3GB of DDR RAM.

Now that we've highlighted some of the features of the DFI AD73 RAID motherboard, let's go back to the drawing board and discuss the multiplier setting for some of our less experienced readers out there. 


Setup and the BIOS

 

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