|Soyo Dragon2 KT880 Motherboard
The bundle that shipped with the Soyo KT880 motherboard was complete and supplies everything a user will need to get their new motherboard up and running.
All the cables one would need to connect any drives, whether they be SATA, PATA, or a floppy disk drive, are included. There are four Serial ATA cables, but unfortunately no power cable converters. There are also two 80-pin parallel ATA ribbon cables included, as well as one floppy disk drive ribbon cable. Also provided is a custom IO shield and a rear bracket that accommodates an LPT and COM port. For good measure Soyo also included a packet of thermal paste and a Soyo case badge labeled "Dragon2". On the software front, Soyo included only one CD-ROM disc that carries all of the necessary hardware drivers along with four additional software titles including Panda Anti-Virus, Pro Magic Utility, Image IT Utility, and Data Processing Utility. A user's manual is also included which was quite comprehensive and provided all of the necessary details regarding the motherboard.
A black PCB was chosen for this particular motherboard along with blue and purple accents on the DIMM and expansion slots, giving the Dragon2 a nice look and feel.
The layout of the motherboard is pretty standard with no major areas of concern, but nonetheless some small caveats exist. The can capacitors located toward the front of the CPU socket are very close. Those planning on using an oversized after market cooling solution may have trouble squeezing it into place. The location of the 20-pin and 4-pin ATX power connectors is not ideal either, as the bulk of those wires will be hanging across the motherboard when connected. Other than the above mentioned nitpicks, however, this motherboard layout works well and should provide an easy setup for most. And for the overclockers among us this motherboard holds five 3-pin fan headers for those that like to load up their cases with fans and keep things cool when pushing their system to the edge.
Powered by the VIA KT880 chipset, the KT880 Northbridge and VT8237 Southbridge provide a lot of the extras including high-speed USB 2.0 support, native SATA RAID support, and a slew of others. Also on board, however, we can find an ALI M5281 PATA RAID controller providing support for RAID 0, 1, 0+1, and JBOD for PATA drives. Also on this motherboard is a VIA VT6307 controller powering the two IEEE 1394 Firewire headers. This motherboard also sports the VIA VT6122 Gigabit LAN controller providing 10/100/1000 Mbit speeds for the LAN connection. The 8-channel audio we mentioned earlier is powered by an on-board CMedia CMI9780 CODEC. This motherboard is tightly packed with goodies which should whet the appetite of most power users. But being able to customize which hardware is enabled and how it works is key as well. Let's take a look at the BIOS that shipped with this motherboard and see if it provides as much versatility as the hardware.
The Soyo Dragon2 KT880 motherboard uses American Megatrends, Inc.'s BIOS. The first three screen shots are your typical BIOS menus. The initial BIOS screen presents all of the options available to the user. The Boot Configuration Setup screen should be self explanatory, as this is where the user will choose which order and type of hardware to boot from. A PC Health Status screen is also provided which allows the user to track all of the system's vital signs including voltages, fan speeds, and temperatures. This is also the screen where the user can set the safety feature of shutting down the system should the CPU temperature reach dangerous levels. The final screen shot in this set is where the BIOS starts to get interesting. The Advanced Settings screen allows the user to set the timings of the RAM as well as the AGP speed and the graphics aperture size.
DRAM timings provide a few pre-programmed options, or the user can set all of the timings manually. Configuring the timings manually allows specific values to be set for CAS Latency, Precharge to Active, Active to Precharge, and Active to CMD. Once the RAM timings are set, it's off to do some overclocking. The Soyo COMBO Feature screen provides these tools. There are some preset values to choose from such as Fast and Turbo, but true enthusiasts will prefer doing things manually. Starting with voltages, the user can change the CPU, AGP, and DDR voltages. The CPU voltage adjustments top out at 1.850V. Setting system performance to manual unlocks a few other options including the CPU ratio, Front Side Bus, and AGP/PCI clock. The CPU ratio options are plentiful and provide every necessary multiplier to hit the sweet spot with your particular CPU and memory.
The biggest downfall comes when trying to manually adjust the front side bus speeds. Choosing anything other than the preset front side bus speeds will cause the AGP/PCI clock to change with the front side bus. There is no lock to speak of. This BIOS does provide a selection of dividers to keep the AGP/PCI clock at 66MHz/33MHz, but going over a 200MHz front side bus speed begins to bring the AGP/PCI clock above stock, since a 1/6 divider is the lowest setting available. This is somewhat disappointing as many systems tend to get unstable when the AGP/PCI clocks gets too high. While this is not a devastating problem with this motherboard, it is a rather large drawback to the enthusiast crowd and those looking for the most when it comes to overclocking. Overall though, the features of this BIOS are quite broad and should prove fully capable to all but the most extreme power users.