Soyo SYKT400 Dragon Ultra vs. Shuttle AK37GTR

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Soyo SY-KT400 Dragon Ultra vs. Shuttle AK37GTR
Showdown at the KT400 Corral!

By, Robert Maloney
November 6th, 2002

Quality and Setup of the Soyo SY-KT400 Dragon Ultra
A platinum card you can really use

In one corner of the KT400 Dragon, we have two yellow IDE ports used in conjunction with the HighPoint 372 Raid Controller for RAID 0/1/0+1 combinations as well as a floppy drive connection.  These were placed perpendicular to airflow from fans in the front of the case. There also was a 5V Stand-by LED, alerting the user when power is being supplied to the board, a boon to those of us constantly monkeying around with the boards. The VIA VT8235 South Bridge nearby, controls IDE, USB and other peripherals.  We also found 2 of the 5  fan headers here.  The other two were placed closer to the CPU, and the fifth was already being used by the active fan on the heat sink placed over the North Bridge.

                 

Against the back drop of by the platinum PCB board, we had two green USB 2.0 Controllers for extra USB connections when using the Sigma box.  There were 5 purple PCI slots and the AGP 3.0 slot.  Our question was, why color all but the AGP port?  Unfortunately there were no retention devices in use on the AGP slot.  Placed between two of the PCI slots were the CD-in connections. Generally we prefer these to be placed toward the edges of the boards rather than placed between slots, especially when there are a number of cards installed.  We found an ATX 12V-Pin connector right long side the AGP port.

The I/O ports had standard PS/2 ports for the mouse and keyboard, 2 serial port, 1 parallel port, a game port as well as 2 USB 2.0 jacks, a LAN RT-45 port and 3 Audio jacks for line-out, line-in and a microphone.  Behind this was the power array, with the MOSFETs and capacitors arranged neatly.

The C-Media onboard chip provides for 6 channel audio without the need for third party cards.  It uses the CM18738 chip plus C-Media XeaR technology, which allows for virtual rear channel spatial sound effects, when using 2 speaker setups.  An optional SPDIF audio card can be connected to the SPK5 connector to provide more audio output options.

         

Finally we have the KT400 Northbridge cooled by an active heatsink/fan combo seen here as a aluminum finned heatsink with a custom fan.  The fan was relatively quiet and did not add to the overall system noise.  Finally we had 3 DIMM slots and the IDE ports.  The fan header titled CPUFAN1 must be connected with this setup, or the system will not boot.  This can be disabled later in the BIOS, but to get this far you must initially attach the CPU fan.  We tried simply attaching a case fan, but to no avail.  On our third attempt, the machine screamed like a banshee, apparently due to an issue with the thermal diode. We reset the components and did not get this to reoccur, but this was very alarming, as was the intended effect we suppose.

THE BUNDLE:

             

The Soyo SY-KT400 Dragon Ultra came in a huge box, twice the size of the average package.  In fact, to show all of the contents, we had to take two pictures.  For the main setup, there was a comprehensive manual, with overly large sections concerning the RAID configuration and how to maximize your audio experience, two sections that often get overlooked.  Realizing that many builders are going to opt for a RAID setup as well as include other drives, Soyo put three 80-pin IDE cables as well as a floppy cable in the box.   Rounding out the package was a S/PDIF audio bracket and a custom I/O shield to match the ports.  To top it off, there was another 8-in-1 CD with a bunch of great utilities, including Norton Anti-Virus 2002 and Ghost 2002, Adobe ActiveShare and Acrobat Reader, and WinDVD 2000.  The second picture shows what Soyo calls the Sigma Box.  The Sigma Box we received had two USB 2.0 ports for easy connections to the front of the case, as well as Compact Flash and Smart Media slots.  We had also seen a variant of this box on the web that had four USB 2.0 slots, for those who don't need the card readers.  A feature that may not be readily noticed, is that unlike other breakout boxes of this type, the Sigma box can be adapted for use in both a 5 1/4" or 3 1/2" opening.

THE BIOS AND OVERCLOCKING, AND DDR400:

No hardware jumpers were present for setting CPU frequency or multipliers.  All of this is handled in a special area of the Award BIOS called the SOYO COMBO feature.  There were a number of choices here for all overclocking tasks.  The CPU frequency made can be set at predetermined modes, set to manual where 1MHz steps can be used, or you can simply input the desired FSB.  The CPU to PCI divider can be set to /3, /4, /5, /6 dividers to keep the PCI and AGP speeds as close to normal.  The DRAM clock can be set to 100/133/166/200 or use by SPD.  The BIOS will automatically detect the FSB of Athlon XP and Morgan CPUs, but Thoroughbred users will need to manually type in 133.

There were the Normal, Fast, and Turbo setting for overall computer performance, and at stock speeds we set this to turbo.  The CPU, DDR, and AGP voltages can all be altered separately with .25V intervals on the CPU from 1.1V to 1.85V.  The DDR voltage can be raised to 2.8V in 1V intervals, and AGP to 1.8v.  This section also allowed us to enable or disable the on-board audio, RAID, and LAN devices as well as choose from 14 settings for booting the system.

     

     

The advanced tune-up settings provides the means to change the timings for the memory or leave them at speed defaults.  There are also two AGP options, one for aperture and the other to enable or disable Fast Writes. The advanced chipset features gave a few more options such as enabling or disabling spread spectrum, cacheing the BIOS and RAM as well as more specific controls for the AGP card such as aperture size and the AGP Mode.  There were also AGP driver controls and values, but as they are not fully explained in the manual they are best left at default.

The PC Health Status will show the voltage for each component as well as temperatures of the External CPU or CPU on the die and the case ambient temperature.  Fan speeds are shown for the CPU fan and two of the case fans.  Fan-off control will shut down the PC should the CPU fan fail and the ABR will do the same should a certain temp be reached.

We were glad to report that we had no issues with raising the memory speed from 166MHz to 200MHz, although we had to set the CAS settings back from CAS2 to CAS2.5.  Unfortunately, as we will show you, the performance of the system tanked after this. We had a good experience, however, with overclocking the Soyo Dragon, although it took a few reboots and some cajoling.  Eventually, we got the system to boot into Windows at 149MHz by stepping up the CPU VCore to 1.775V and the AGP to 1.6V.  The CPU to PCI divider was left at /4 and we did not change any other settings except the system performance.  At anything but "Normal", the system would freeze during post.  Even after changing this to normal, we still had quite a few issues with the memory locked in at "By SPD", which locked it at 166MHz.  If we changed the memory timing to 166MHz, the real memory speed would rise incrementally with the FSB, and we had plenty of headroom to play with.  Although we were able to get into Windows at 149MHz, we could not complete a majority of the benchmarking routines, and found the best stability at 145MHz.

 

The Shuttle AK37GTR is up next

 
Tags:  Shuttle, dragon, t400, Ultra, T4, GT, ULT, AG, K

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