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Soyo SYKT400 Dragon Ultra vs. Shuttle AK37GTR
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Date: Nov 05, 2002
Section:Motherboards
Author: HH Editor
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Soyo SYKT400 Dragon Ultra vs. Shuttle AK37GTR - Page 1

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

By, Robert Maloney
November 6th, 2002

As another season comes upon us and another new chipset from VIA technologies is released into the market.  It seems like only yesterday (OK, January) that we were building our latest powerhouses based on the KT266A chipset.  Then along came the KT333, but it brought only a minor performance improvement.  Originally touted as having DDR400 as well as AGP 8x support, the KT400 was much anticipated as the next best thing since sliced bread, for the Athlon.  Early on, however, VIA dropped the DDR400 support, due to compatibility and performance issues.  Also, from what we have seen, AGP 8X is not bringing the great performance boost we had hoped for. 

Due to increased competition however, motherboard companies were quick to incorporate KT400 chipsets into their new releases, but are they really ready for the market?  Today we match up two motherboards based on the VIA KT400, the Soyo SY-KT400 Dragon Ultra and the Shuttle AK37GTR.  Both boards come packed with a slew of features as well as colored PCBs, catering to the performance nuts, as well as being aesthetically pleasing to the modding crowd.

Specifications / Features
Let's bring out the contenders!

Soyo SY-KT400 Dragon Ultra
 

 

CPU
AMD Athlon and Duron Processors with 200/266 FSB

AMD Athlon XP Processors with 266/333 FSB


Chipset
VIA KT400 North Bridge

VIA VT8235 South Bridge

Memory
Three DDR 2.5V DIMM sockets
 supporting up to 3GB DDR333/266/200 or 2GB DDR400


IDE

Two PCI bus-mastering IDE ports supporting up to PIO mode 5
 and Ultra DMA 66/100/133

Two IDE channels for onboard RAID 0/1/0+1

Optional serial ATA support through riser card

Audio
On board CMI8738 audio chip providing 6-channel sound

Supports optical and S/PDIF output

System BIOS
2Mbyte AWARD BIOS with ACPI function

Expansion Slots
One 8X/4X AGP 1.5V (Accelerated Graphics Port) universal slot
Five PCI v2.2 32-bit Bus mastering PCI slots

LAN
Davicom DM9161 10/100

Internal I/O Connectors
Floppy port supporting 1.2/1.44/2.88MB FD 
Two RS-232 serial ports (16550 UART compatible)
Parallel printer port supporting SPP/EPP/ECP mode
IrDA connector
6 USB 2.0 ports (2 Rear/4 Front)

Back Panel I/O
Two PS/2 connectors (keyboard and mouse)
Two 9-pin Serial port
One 25-pin SPP/ECP/EPP Parallel port
Two USB 2.0 ports
3 Audio connectors (Line-out, Line-in, Mic-in)
One RJ45 LAN port
One Game port

Miscellaneous

ATX form factor
30.5 cm x 24.5 cm (12" x 9.6")
Six mounting holes


Package Contents
Soyo SY-KT400 Motherboard
Drivers and Utilities CD
8-in-1 CD including Norton Anti-Virus 2002, Ghost 2002, Adobe ActiveShare, Acrobat Reader, WinDVD 2000,
 and trials of AutoSave and Imagemore
Installation Manual
S/PDIF audio bracket
Sigma Box with Compact Flash/Smart Media slots
 and two front USB 2.0 ports
Three ATA 133 IDE Cables
Floppy Cable
I/O shield

Shuttle AK37GTR

CPU
AMD Athlon and Duron Processors with 200/266 FSB

AMD Athlon XP Processors with 266 FSB


Chipset
VIA KT400 North Bridge

VIA VT8235 South Bridge

Memory
Four DDR 2.5V DIMM sockets

 supporting up to 4GB DDR400/333/266/200

IDE

Two PCI bus-mastering IDE ports supporting up to PIO mode 5
 and Ultra DMA 66/100/133

Two IDE channels from Highpoint 372 for onboard RAID 0/1/0+1

Two serial ATA ports using onboard Marvell 88i8030 Serial ATA bridge
with RAID 0/1 support


Audio
On board Realtek 650 audio chip providing 6-channel sound

Supports Digital S/PDIF input/output

System BIOS
2Mbyte AWARD BIOS with ACPI function

Expansion Slots
One 8X/4X/2X AGP 1.5V (Accelerated Graphics Port) universal slot
Five PCI v2.2 32-bit Bus mastering PCI slots

LAN
LAN controller VT6103

Internal I/O Connectors
Floppy port supporting 1.2/1.44/2.88MB FD 
Two RS-232 serial ports (16550 UART compatible)
Parallel printer port supporting SPP/EPP/ECP mode
6 USB 2.0 ports (4 Rear/2 Front)

Back Panel I/O
Two PS/2 connectors (keyboard and mouse)
Two 9-pin Serial port
One 25-pin SPP/ECP/EPP Parallel port
Two USB 2.0 ports
3 Audio connectors (Line-out, Line-in, Mic-in)
One RJ45 LAN port
One Game port

Miscellaneous

ATX form factor
30.5 cm x 24.5 cm (12" x 9.6")
Six mounting holes


Package Contents
Shuttle AK37GTR Motherboard
Drivers and Utilities CD
Installation Manual
HPT 372 Raid Administrator's Manual
Audio bracket for Central and Bass out
1 bracket with additional 2 USB 2.0 ports
Two ATA 133 IDE Cables
One serial ATA cable
Floppy Cable
I/O shield


A brief description of the VIA KT400 Chipset:

The block diagram for the KT400 chipset, hasn't changed much versus the KT333 of old.  However, there are a few new enhancements which should give the chipset a new set of legs for the current generation of Athlons as well as next generation graphics cards.  Unfortunately, the chipset name is a little misleading in that the chipset doesn't actually officially support DDR400 speeds.  However, that doesn't stop motherboard manufacturers from offering the setting in their BIOS.  The real question is, does this setting offer any real appreciable performance improvements?  We'll delve into that later in this article. 

Beyond the memory bus, the KT400 boasts AGP8X support for next generation graphics and a whole host of the latest interface technologies, including USB 2.0.  Also, VIA's V-Link Southbridge/Northbridge Bus, has been cranked up a bit to reach 533MB/sec bandwidth levels, which should theoretically help with disk IO performance a bit as well.

 

Key Features of the KT400:

  • Supports AMD Athlon XP processors

  • 200/266/333 FSB settings

  • AGP 2x/4x/8x support

  • Support for up to 4GB DDR200/266/333 DDR SDRAM

  • 8x V-link 533MB/s bandwidth interconnect

  • Integrated 6-channel audio

  • Integrated 10/100 Ethernet

  • Support for ATA 33/66/100/133 drives

  • USB 2.0 Support

The boards, a closer look... 

 
 
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Soyo SYKT400 Dragon Ultra vs. Shuttle AK37GTR - Page 2

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

 
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Soyo SYKT400 Dragon Ultra vs. Shuttle AK37GTR - Page 3
     

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

By, Robert Maloney
November 6th, 2002

TESTING METHODOLOGY:

To help fully explain the scores we listed in the following benchmarks, we felt it was necessary to explain how the systems were setup before running the benchmarks. On all of the boards, we started off by manually optimizing the BIOS settings to the most aggressive RAM settings and system options. The memory frequency was manually set to DDR333 for the first round of tests, and then to DDR400 on the KT400 boards for another round.  The hard drive was formatted each time, and Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 1 was installed. After the Windows installation was complete, we installed the VIA 4-in-1 chipset drivers, version 4.43, and installed the drivers for the rest of the components, using the drivers supplied on the CD, except for the GeForce Ti 4600.  For the GeForce, we downloaded and installed the latest NVIDIA reference drivers, version 40.71.  Auto-Updating, Hibernation, and System Restore were disabled, and then we set up a 512MB permanent page file. On these test systems we set the visual quality to "best performance" in system performance as well as in the video driver settings. Lastly, we installed all of the benchmarking software, defragged the machine, and rebooted one last time.  We brought out the Asus A7V333 board that we had reviewed back in August for a reference point.  If you remember, this board fared very well, and we thought it would be good to compare the difference between a well-rounded KT333 and the newer KT400s.

The Hot Hardware Test Systems
Can the KT400 replace the KT333?

 
 

TEST BOARDS:

Soyo SY-KT400 Dragon Ultra (KT400)

Shuttle AK37GTR (KT400)

Asus A7V333 (KT333)

 

COMMON HARDWARE:

 

AMD Athlon XP 2200+
256MB Corsair PC3200 DDR
Chaintech GeForce 4 Ti 4600

On-board AC'97 audio
Western Digital WD200BB ATA100 7200rpm 20GB Hard Drive
Creative Labs 52x CD-ROM
Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 1
VIA 4-in-1 Drivers, version 4.43

NVIDIA Detonator Drivers, version 40.71


 

Performance Comparisons with SiSoft SANDRA 2002
Sandra, Sandra, Sandra!

SANDRA (the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information and diagnostic utility put out by the folks at SiSoftware.  It's a quick and easy way to compare results from any system against an internal database of similar systems and drives. These benchmarks are theoretical scores, and can't necessarily be measured in ?real-world? terms, but provide a good way to make comparisons amongst like components.  For each test that we ran, we chose components from the database list that we thought would be found in mainstream PCs.  We ran a set of tests at both the default speeds, and then again when overclocked.  The two columns on the left are from the Soyo Dragon Ultra while the two on the right come from the Shuttle AK37GTR.

Soyo
CPU Arithmetic
at 133MHz FSB
Soyo
CPU Arithmetic
at 145MHz FSB

Shuttle
CPU Arithmetic
at 133MHz FSB
Shuttle
CPU Arithmetic
at 141MHz FSB

In both sets of charts we can see that the boards are capable of putting up some high scores in the CPU tests.  It's hard to really call a winner as the scores were very close to each other, but the Soyo did come closest to the Athlon XP 2200+ score from Sandra's database, only missing by 5 points.  When overclocking the boards, we were able to get the Soyo stable at 145MHz, while the Shuttle topped out at 141MHz.  In each case, benchmarking when overclocked produced results that were well above all of the database scores.

Soyo
CPU Multimedia
at 133MHz FSB
Soyo
CPU Multimedia
at 145MHz FSB
Shuttle
CPU Multimedia
at 133MHz FSB

Shuttle
CPU Multimedia
at 141MHz FSB

The CPU Multimedia tests were pretty much in line with what we saw with the CPU Arithmetic, although the delta between the two boards was a little more apparent.  The Soyo board produced scores that were close to, yet slightly behind, the scores listed in Sandra for an Athlon XP 2200+ CPU.  The Shuttle board was still up there, but lagged behind the Soyo board by another 40 points or so.  Overclocking the boards produced some extra points, although obviously a bit more for the Soyo, which was able to get an extra 4MHz over the Shuttle when overclocked.

Soyo
Memory Bandwidth
at 133MHz FSB
Soyo
Memory Bandwidth
at 145MHz FSB
Shuttle
Memory Bandwidth
at 133MHz FSB

Shuttle
Memory Bandwidth
at 141MHz FSB

Once more, we saw the Soyo board produce numbers that were almost exact with Sandra's score for a KT333 using DDR333 memory, however the Shuttle board could not keep pace.  It was about 40 points behind the Soyo board, and behind all of the other database scores for the other chipsets.  Overclocking the Shuttle board allowed us more bandwidth, eclipsing the KT333 scores by a bit.  The Soyo board, when overclocked, produced a 10% difference between scores.

Soyo
File System

Shuttle
File System

Both boards produced scores well above the database score for an ATA 100, 7200rpm hard drive using FAT32.  The Soyo board, again, held a slight lead over the Shuttle, getting an extra 100 points in file system performance.

Performance Comparisons with PC Mark 2002
CPU, Memory and Hard Drive Testing

For our next overall PC comparison, we chose MadOnion?s PCMark 2002. PCMark 2002 performs a series of CPU tasks such as image compression, text searches, and audio conversion to give us three scores: CPU, Memory, and Hard Disk Drive (HDD).   It is a relatively quick process for comparing the performance of two or more systems.  We ran the benchmark for all three boards using DDR333 memory timings, optimized as best we could, and then again after raising the memory speed to DDR400. Finally, we ran another set after getting a stable overclock, 141MHz for the Shuttle board and 145MHz for the Soyo.  On both boards, however, we needed to lower the memory timings to obtain a stable operating system.

We got a bit of a shock when we saw these scores, as neither of the KT400 boards outperformed the Asus board, based on the KT333.  In fact, you will see this trend in most, if not all, of the following graphs as well.  Also notable was the drop-off when switching between DDR333 timings and DDR400.  This could partially be explained by the fact that the stick of RAM we used was rated at CAS 2 at 166MHz, but only CAS 2.5 at 200MHz.

Here the performance drop-off was even more evident when switching to DDR400.  It is quite apparent why VIA backed off from DDR400 support, as the performance gains are just not to be found.  Running the memory speeds that far off from the FSB just do not provide good results.  The Asus A7V333 topped the charts again, beating out the Soyo by 11 points, while the Shuttle board pulled into a distant third.  Overclocking the Shuttle board, however, brought the greatest gain.  It raised the Shuttle score by 170 points, narrowing the gap.  The Soyo board, on the other hand, only managed to gain a mere 55 extra points, even though it was overclocked higher.

All of the scores were neck and neck, finishing within 40 points of each other.  Predictably, the file system performance scores dipped slightly when overclocked, as IDE devices don't really seem to take well to running out of spec.

Gaming & The Winstones

 
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Soyo SYKT400 Dragon Ultra vs. Shuttle AK37GTR - Page 4

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

By, Robert Maloney
November 6th, 2002

Performance Comparisons with 3DMark 2001SE
Synthetic Gaming

As an avid gamer, I was really interested in seeing the 3D performance, both in synthetic tests, and in real-world scores.  For the synthetic tests, we chose  MadOnion's 3DMark 2001 SE.  It generates a score after rendering scenes and measuring performance using the MaxFX game engine, found in Remedy's popular game Max Payne.  We ran two series of tests, once at 800x600 with 32-bit color and again at 1024x768x32, both times with all other program settings left at their defaults.

High scores all around, with the Asus board holding the slightest of leads over the Soyo KT400, at least at stock speeds.  The scores really took a nosedive, however, when running the tests again while using DDR400 memory.  Overclocking each board resulted in a 350 point increase for the Soyo Dragon, pushing it over the 14,000 mark, and a 520 point increase for the Shuttle board.  Strangely, this increase still put in behind the score obtained at stock speeds with the Asus A7V333.

The differences we saw at 1024x768 were much less evident than at 800x600, although the order did not change.  The Asus A7V333 maintained a 200 point lead over the Soyo board, which in turn was 500 points ahead of the Shuttle.  Overclocking the two boards brought them closer together, with only a 270 point disparity.

Performance Comparisons with Comanche 4 Demo
Some hardcore gaming for you grunts

Another popular DirectX benchmarking program is NovaLogic's Comanche 4.  Since this benchmark is more CPU dependant than other games, we can get a good feel for the overall system performance by comparing the benchmarked results.


The Asus A7V333 and the Soyo KT400 were in a tight race, with the Asus taking the lead by a mere 0.07 frames per second.  The Shuttle board came in at a full frame behind the other two boards.  When we switched over to DDR400 on the KT400-based boards, we also lost close to a full frame.  When we raised the FSB, we pumped out almost 3 extra frames per second on the each board.

Performance Comparisons with Quake 3 Arena v1.17
And once again, the fan favorite!

We used the Quake 3 Timedemo with the display settings set to their minimums and the screen resolution at 640x480x16 for the Low Quality graphs and then chose 1024x768 with 32-bit color for the High Quality tests.  This helped determine the CPU limitations of a motherboard by minimizing the impact the video card has on the performance of the game.  With the display settings calibrated in this manner, the ability of the game to tax the video card is virtually eliminated, allowing the benchmark to focus almost solely on the motherboard's CPU performance.

At the lowest quality settings, the demo completed quickly, and we saw more of the same.  While the Asus board still commanded a lead, the Soyo was close behind, but the Shuttle was a distant third.  In this test, the Shuttle was a full 10 frames behind the other two boards.  Again, the DDR400 scores were much lower than those obtained using DDR333.  It is becoming quite apparent that DDR400's time has not yet arrived.  Overclocking the Soyo Dragon gave us a great benchmark of 329.9 fps, 17% over the original score.

 

The scores were close again, but if you look closely, the Asus A7V333 score at 133MHz FSB actually managed to beat the Shuttle board, which had been overclocked to 141MHz.  The Soyo board started out only 4 frames per second behind the Asus board, but easily leaped past it, posting up 307.4 fps when overclocked to 145MHz. 

"Real World" Performance with the Stones
Simulated Application Performance

Business Winstone is an application-based benchmark, which runs through a series of scripts using popular business programs. It attempts to emulate a business system load, and then give a rating. We left the default setting so that these scripts were done five times and the final score given on the left.

The Business Winstone tests include:

  • Five Microsoft Office 2000 applications (Access, Excel, FrontPage, PowerPoint, and Word)

  • Microsoft Project 98

  • Lotus Notes R5

  • NicoMak WinZip

  • Norton Antivirus

  • Netscape Communicator

Content Creation Winstone 2002 is another application-based benchmark, this time using popular content creation programs that are considered more "bandwidth hungry". It keeps these multiple applications open and switches among them while running scripts.

The Content Creation Winstone tests include:

  • Adobe Photoshop 6.0.1

  • Adobe Premiere 6.0

  • Macromedia Director 8.5

  • Macromedia Dreamweaver UltraDev 4

  • Microsoft Windows Media Encoder 7.01.00.3055

  • Netscape Navigator 6/6.01

  • Sonic Foundry Sound Forge 5.0c (build 184)

Each graph told us practically the same story.  The Asus A7V333, while based on the KT333 chipset, managed to outperform the two KT400 based boards in almost every test.  The Business Winstone 2001 benchmark was the only test in which the Soyo KT400 Dragon managed to usurp the title from the Asus board, whilst the Shuttle board managed third place finishes, consistently a step behind the others.  When the same stick of RAM was set to 200MHz instead of 166MHz, the performance dropped across the board.

CONCLUSION:

It's hard for us to really shake the feeling that the KT400 just isn't all that it's cracked up to be.  DDR400 was not officially supported, and it is very clear why, performance simply drops in every aspect when setting memory speeds to 200MHz.  In fact, the Shuttle became quite flaky when using DDR400, and it took many attempts to complete some of these benchmarks.  While we did not have a chance to try an AGP 8X capable graphics card in this round of testing, our current analysis is that there are negligible gains using AGP 8X Mode.  What is especially bothersome is that two KT400 machines were beaten here on occasion, by a KT333 board using the same components installed in the same exact way.  This could be due to a robust BIOS from Asus, while the early entries from Soyo and Shuttle still needed some tweaking.  Perhaps later BIOS revisions will correct some of these issues.

Soyo SY-KT400 Dragon Ultra

Arguably one of the finest looking boards we have seen, and it comes with many features.  The performance was top-notch although it couldn't beat the KT333 board we used as a reference.  Although it doesn't officially support DDR400, it did not raise any stability issues when clocking the memory at 200MHz, but the performance level was quite poor.  We did have good luck with overclocking, however, and managed to get an extra 10% in the FSB.  A major detraction, however, has to be the price point.   The cheapest we found the Dragon Ultra set for on Pricewatch, was $154.00, a little pricey in our books.  The board itself without all the extras was listed in the $120-130 range.  

  • Great looking board
  • 6-channel on-board audio
  • Active heatsink on NB
  • Include Sigma breakout box
  • High price tag
  • DDR400 = poor performance
  • Was a real screamer
  • Long boot/reboot times
 

Shuttle AK37GTR

Another good looking board that would look great when paired with a Hercules' 3D Prophet 9700 and Fortissimo III, all based on blue PCBs.  While the performance wasn't as great as the Soyo Dragon, it also doesn't cost as much.  Then again, there weren't many items in the bundle either.  We had a hard time finding it out there in the retail channels, but generally we would expect a sub-$100 price point.  Again, DDR400 was not officially supported, but we suffered through such instability, we started to question whether or not we would complete the benchmarks.  All in all, a good performer at a good price.

  • Blue PCB was interesting choice
  • 6-channel on-board audio
  • Not too pricey

 

  • Board layout needs some work
  • DDR400 = poor performance
  • Bundle was lacking

 

Discuss This, Or Any Other Review in the PC Hardware Forum!

 

 

 
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Soyo SYKT400 Dragon Ultra vs. Shuttle AK37GTR Page 5


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