ASUS SK8V K8T800 Motherboard Review
Socket 940 Platform Featuring VIA's K8T800 Chipset

By: Chris Angelini
January 4, 2004

They say it takes years to establish a solid reputation and minutes to destroy it, which is why the office Christmas party requires a delicate balance of business and pleasure.  Dating back to 1997, the folks charged with evaluating hardware have showered ASUS motherboard products with praise for performance, stability, and in many cases, value as well.  Consequently, ASUS is one of the most highly regarded motherboard manufacturers.  The industry is more competitive now than ever before, though, and it isnt enough to merely be popular. 

The ultra high-end Athlon 64 FX market is particularly sticky because it is defined foremost by performance.  But because the processor stems from AMDs Opteron family, platform stability should be inherent.  Value is the least likely consideration, given the chips $700+ price tag and registered DDR memory requirement.  Then again, ASUS doesnt want to develop a compelling platform only to have a competitor undercut its price. 

ASUS' SK8V represents the latest Socket 940 platform to see widespread availability, centering on VIAs K8T800 chipset and complementing the SK8N in its Athlon 64 FX lineup. The boards pedigree implies performance.  Its specification sheet proclaims a full featured offering.  However, with a Socket 939 variant of the Athlon 64 FX on the horizon, there cant be many Socket 940 FX-family rounds left in AMDs six-shooter.  All factors considered, ASUS handles the delicate Athlon 64 FX situation with finesse, as the SK8V looks to be living up to the company's established position.


The SK8V's Specifications
Features and Functionality


CPU - Socket 940 for AMD's Athlon 64 FX or Opteron 100 Series
- Retention mechanism built-in
- Supports one AMD64 processor on a 940-pin interface and 1MB of L2 cache
VIA K8T800 North Bridge
VIA VT8237 South Bridge
3 x 184-pin DIMM Sockets support max. 8GB Registered ECC PC3200/2700/1600 DDR SDRAM memory
Dual-channel memory architecture
Expansion Slots
1 x AGP 8X
5 x PCI
1 x ASUS Wi-Fi slot for optional wireless LAN upgrade
South Bridge
2 x UltraDMA 133/100
2 x Serial ATA with RAID 0, 1 function
Promise R20378 RAID controller
1 x UltraDMA 133
2 x Serial ATA with RAID 0, 1, 0+1
ADI AD1985 6-channel CODEC
S/PDIF out interface
3COM 3C940Gb Ethernet LAN
Special Features
AI Net
ASUS POST Reporter
ASUS CrashFree BIOS 2
ASUS Instant Music
ASUS MyLogo2
ASUS Multi-language BIOS
Overclock Features
ASUS JumperFree
ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)CPU, Memory, and AGP voltage
Adjustable SFS (Stepless Frequency Selection) from 200MHz up to 300MHz at 1MHz increment


Back Panel
I/O Ports
1 x Parallel
1 x Serial
1 x PS/2 Keyboard
1 x PS/2 Mouse
1 x Audio I/O
4 x USB 2.0
1 x RJ-45 Port
1 x S/PDIF output
1 x IEEE 1394
Internal I/O Connectors -
CPU/Power/Chassis FAN connectors
- 20-pin ATX power connector
- 4-pin ATX12V power connector
- Chassis Intrusion
- GAME port connector
- CD/AUX audio in
- S/PDIF_Out Connector
- 2 x USB 2.0 connector supports additional 4 USB 2.0 ports
- IEEE 1394 connector
- COM2 connector
BIOS Feature
4Mb Flash ROM
AMI BIOS, PnP, DMI2.0, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 2.3, ASUS EZ Flash, ASUS MyLogo2, ASUS CrashFree BIOS 2
Support CD - Drivers
- ASUS PC Probe
- Trend Micro PC-cillin 2002 anti-virus software (OEM version)
- ASUS LiveUpdate Utility
Industry Standard
PCI 2.2, USB 2.0
Form Factor
12" x 9.6"

VIA's K8T800 chipset, on which the SK8V centers, is perhaps the most feature-complete chipset supporting AMD's 64-bit initiative.  As indicated in the above diagram, the Athlon 64 or Opteron processor connects to the K8T800 North Bridge via a 16-bit HyperTransport bus running at 800MHz DDR (1.6GHz effective), for a total of 3.2GB per second of bandwidth in each direction.  NVIDIA's nForce3 150 Pro comparatively communicates over a 16-bit downlink and an 8-bit uplink, both running at 600MHz, for which the platform has received criticism.  The firm counters that it's single-chip design reduces latencies, compensating for the divergent HyperTransport link.  However, as the forthcoming benchmarks demonstrate, high-end Socket 940 processors do indeed expose a palpable performance difference between the two chipsets.

The only caveat to VIA's robust HyperTransport implementation is a slower V-Link connection conjoining the North and South Bridges.  Topping out at 533MB per second, the V-Link interconnect runs half as fast as the 1GB per second link featured on VIA's PT880 Pentium 4 chipset.  Fortunately, traffic from the VT8237 South Bridge isn't likely to exceed or even hit the theoretical 533MB ceiling.  As discussed in our PT880 preview, VIA divides its South Bridge technology into three distinct categories, each simplified with a special marketing designation.  From our PT880 article, we told you the following:

"Vinyl Audio" refers to the chipset's integrated AC'97 codec, in addition to an optional onboard 7.1-channel Envy24PT processor.  The "DriveStation" is actually a two-channel parallel ATA controller, with support for up to four devices and an integrated two-channel Serial ATA controller equipped with RAID 0, 1, and 0+1 support.  When motherboards based on the chipset ship, they'll include software to enable RAID configurations on the fly, or after an operating system has already been installed on a single drive. VIA "Connectivity" includes all of the other South Bridge technologies, like USB 2.0 (eight ports), PCI slots, 10/100 Ethernet, and I/O devices.

K8T800 also features AGP 8x compliance, though VIA is purportedly busy with a PCI Express variant of the chipset, dubbed K8T890, slated to debut in 2004 with a faster implementation of the HyperTransport bus.  Once that emerges, you can also expect VIA to employ Ultra V-Link, its 1GB per second interconnect between the North and South Bridges.


The Board, BIOS and Overclocking