MSI K7T266 Pro DDR - HotHardware

MSI K7T266 Pro DDR

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The MSI K7T266 Pro DDR Socket A Monster
Misguided? or Misunderstood?...

By, Marco "BigWop" Chiappetta
June 14, 2001

The BIOS:

At fist glance, the K7TPro 266's BIOS may seem familiar...but take a closer look.  This is not the Award BIOS that we're all so familiar with, it's a similar looking BIOS from American Megatrends (AMI).  The K7TPro 266's BIOS is powerful, giving users complete control over virtually every setting needed to tweak a system for maximum performance.  Memory tweaks are available, and a very complete set of overclocking options are in the "Hardware Monitor" section of the BIOS, allowing for adjustments of CPU multiplier, Front Side Bus (Up to 164MHz in 1MHz increments) and voltage.  You'll see a little later that this board was definitely "Overclocker Friendly".

Layout and Installation
Tons O' Fun...

LAYOUT:

As we usually do when a new product lands in our labs, we gave the MSI K7T266 Pro a thorough physical inspection.  We found many things that we liked, and only a few that we didn't...

              

MSI mounted a passive heatsink on the Northbridge.  Normally we would like to see a heatsink of this type mounted using spring clips, with thermal paste used as the TIM (Thermal Interface Material), but because the KT266 runs very cool, this simple heatsink mounted with thermal tape should do just fine.  To the left is a shot of the VT8233 Southbridge.  Via has also introduced a new feature known as V-Link with this new chipset.  Via's new V-Link technology offers more bandwidth for communications between the North and Southbridge.

     

The K7T266 Pro is outfitted with an AGP Pro slot, five PCI slots and a CNR slot.  We prefer a six PCI slot configuration, but with a RAID controller already integrated onto the motherboard, and with on-board USB 2.0 soon to follow, we can't really hold much against MSI for their decision.  Also notice the secondary power connector to the right of the AGP Pro slot. This connector will supply a clean, constant source of power, so when new power hungry video cards are released that utilize this type of slot, K7T266 Pro owners will be prepared.  You'll also see the audio-in connectors mounted just below the CNR slot.  While we like that these connectors are placed in an easy to reach, out of the way location, we don't like their placement at this far corner of the board.  With the connectors in this spot, you'll have to drape your CD-Audio cable over your CPU and expansion cards.  If you strive for a clean "spaghetti free" case, this doesn't help.

       

The external case connectors are standard fare, with the usual array of USB, serial and parallel connections available.  There is a lot to see in the middle picture.  Here we can see the IDE-RAID connectors as well as the on-board buzzer, which eliminates the need for a case speaker...one less wire to connect to the motherboard...we like that.  Also notice the clean silk screening that illustrates the position of the case connectors.  If you don't have the manual handy when mounting this board, you'll appreciate these clear illustrations.  To the right you can see the connectors for the two external USB connectors.  Also visible is the spot where a USB 2.0 controller will be mounted in a later board revision.

       

The ATX-Power connector is located in an excellent position, out of the way off all components.  The DIMM slots are clearly labeled, and with the on-board IDE connectors placed behind them (not below then as with many other boards) there should be no ribbon cables in a position that will hinder airflow over your RAM.  The slots are a little too close to the AGP slot though, making it next to impossible to remove memory without first removing your video card.  Another feature worth noting is Diagnostic LEDs (D-LED).  A row of LEDs will light up to help you diagnose system errors.  Very usefull if you're having a problem and aren't sure which piece of hardware is the culprit.

              

There is ample room around the CPU socket, allowing for the use of an over-sized cooler.  It was a little bit tight, but we were able to fit our WBK-38 onto this board without a problem.  As you can see above, the K7T266 Pro is equipped with some very large capacitors.  We've mentioned this before, but we'll say it again...a clean, constant flow of power is essential for a stable system.  We're happy to report that the K7T266 Pro is just that...STABLE.  We've been torturing this board for over a week and it is rock solid.

INSTALLATION:

Physical installation of the board went without a hitch.  The K7T266 Pro is a standard ATX board.  As long as you use proper stand-offs and screws, you won't have any problem.  You'll have to take a few extra steps when installing your Operating System though.  Installation of the Promise RAID controller's drivers, on-board sound drivers (optional), Via 4-in-1s and USB PC-to-PC drivers (optional is required.

Time For Some Numbers...

 

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