Epox 4PDA2+ v2.0 - HotHardware

Epox 4PDA2+ v2.0

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Epox 4PDA2+ V2 Motherboard Review
One Step Closer to Near-Perfection

"Burned" in by Robert Maloney
September 3, 2003

The Epox 4PDA2+ v2.0 Motherboard:

    

"A green board?" we hear you ask.  Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you.  Blame it on the Hulk, but this "beast" of a board is backed with a standard bright green PCB with maroon or burgundy highlights for the AGP, IDE RAID, and Dual DDR DIMM slots.  The RAID controllers are differentiated from the standard IDE ports by the coloring scheme, with maroon for RAID (matching the rounded IDE cables) and yellow for standard.  If anything, the yellow ports almost seem out of place, where a more subdued color would have been more pleasing to the eye.  (Ah, the artist in us is revealed but we digress...)  All of the IDE and floppy connectors are grouped along the edge of the board which should keep cabling together if not a bit too tight should they all be in use.    Four SATA ports can also be found in the lower left corner, surrounding the Silicon Image SIL3112A SATA and HighPoint HPT372 IDE RAID controllers.

      

The layout is well thought out and simple to follow.  The RAID and SATA controllers are where they should be, close to the actual ports.  The same holds true for the Agere 1394a FireWire controller, sitting just to the right of the three FireWire headers along the side of the board.  Five PCI and the AGP 3.0 slot provide means for adding in additional components.  Just past the slots are the CMI9739A 6-channel audio CODEC and Broadcom BCM5705 Gigabit LAN controller.  The Audio-IN and CD-IN headers used in conjunction with the CMI9739A don't come with the usual plastic retention clip that we were used to seeing, but there shouldn't be any issue connecting the wires, and this is mostly a legacy-type connection anyway that most people can opt not to use.


     

Glittering above the rest of the components was the gold-plated heatsink with the Epox logo.  It was a finned type, passively cooled, and should be ample enough to cool off the North Bridge underneath without taking up one of the three fan headers.  We also should mention that the AGP/DIMM slot conflict was not an issue with this board.  We did not have any problems when removing the DIMMS while our Tachyon G9500 video card was installed.  One feature that we really wanted to point out was the LED Diagnostic found in the lower left corner, near the front panel connector.  Should something go awry during the POST routines, a two-digit code is displayed.  Quickly checking the code against the appendix list in the manual can alert the user to the source of the problem.  This may not be as elegant as Asus' POST Reporter, but it is still a friendly measure, especially for new system builders.  One possible side effect, however, may be a weird sequence when booting the system.  When doing a cold boot, the system powers up as the LED cycles through its codes, shuts down momentarily, and then POSTS and loads in Windows.  Thankfully, this doesn't happen during warm boots and resets.  It actually caused much fretting after initially building the system as we wondered whether there was a real issue here, but nothing ever seems to be amiss and the system operates normally.


The BIOS:

        
 

Once again, we were presented with an AWARD BIOS, whose screens are so familiar that it makes setting up a system a relatively easy task.  Our first stop was in the Advanced Chipset Features, where we checked in on the memory timings.  By default, the DRAM timings found our GEIL DDR sticks at some relaxed timings, so we toggled the first option the 'Manual' and chose the most aggressive settings the board offered, ending up at 2-5-2-2.  Epox's version of PAT on the 4PDA2+ V2 board is labeled "Accelerated Memory Mode", and there are multiple options as to how aggressive you would like this set at.  While we left it as "Max", there were also "Turbo", "Expert" and "Standard" settings for those inclined to use them.  Moving onto the PC Health screen, all of the necessary temperatures and voltages are monitored and be quickly glanced at for trouble spots.  In general, we found that the VCore rail was consistently lower than what we set it at, so we usually bumped it up a bit higher than normal to compensate.  One interesting feature that we had not seen before was an option to display the PC Health monitors during the POST routine.  Now, at every system boot, temperatures and voltages can be viewed, something especially welcome when overclocking the CPU.

     

Speaking of overclocking, the original version of the 4PDA2+ received a few knocks for not providing enough voltage options, especially for the CPU VCore.  This has been corrected with the second version.  The Front Side Bus can be set up to 350MHz, while CPU voltages range as high as 1.825V, using .025V steppings.  It's not quite as high as we have seen on some of the other Springdales, but even during overclocking we never went over 1.775V.  The VDIMM voltage options are also plenty, going from 2.6V up to 3.3V, in .1V steps.  Since raising the FSB has global effects on the system, the memory frequency can be modified using the standard ratios of 1:1, 5:4, and 6:4 (3:2) in order to bring the memory speed back into an operable range.  The AGP/PCI clock can also be modified, using dividers, or setting an exact speed (such as 66MHz) in the subtle tuning item.  What this all comes down to is, Epox listened to the consumer, made some changes, and the 4PDA2+ Version 2.0 motherboard now has what it needs to be competitive with any of the top boards in the Spingdale arena.

How the 4PDA2+ stacks up with the rest

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