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DFI AK76 AMD 760 Mainboard
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Date: Dec 20, 2001
Section:Motherboards
Author: HH Editor
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DFI AK76 AMD 760 Mainboard - Page 1

The DFI AK76 AMD 760 Mainboard
Via and AMD...What a Combination!

By Jeff Bouton
7/18/01
 

One of the more beneficial new technologies to appear in the last year is Double-Data Rate RAM.  The benefits of this technology has become widely known and as a result, widely adopted my most major motherboard and videocard manufacturers.  When it was initially introduced, price differences between standard SDRAM and DDR were fairly large.  However with recent price drops in the market, DDR has become a far more economical and widely adopted solution.  Allowing for superior performance with current technologies and memory prices now equivalent to SDRAM, DDR has solidified its place as a leading RAM technology. 

Trying to develop a motherboard that would maintain top rate performance and stability, DFI has adopted the AMD 761 Northbridge, but there is more to the equation.  Along with a solid, yet economical RAM solution, DFI has also opted to marry technologies from both AMD and VIA to come up with, what they hope will be a solid performer at a respectable cost.

Tonight we will be taking a look at the latest AMD based creation from DFI, the AK76-SN.  Combining the AMD 761 Northbridge with the VIA 686B Southbridge, as well as DDR RAM, DFI has produced what promises to be one heck of a motherboard, even without a slew of "bells and whistles."  So without further discussion, let us take a look and see what comprises the DFI AK76-SN...

Specifications and Features Of The DFI AK76-SN
All the bells and whistles...

Chipset 
AMD 761 / VIA 686B

CPU Socket
Socket A

CPU Supported
200/266 MHz Alpha EV6 FSB for AMD Athlon /Duron processor 600MHz~ 1.2GHz and faster

Memory
2 DDR DIMM sockets
max. 2GB (unbuffered) or 4GB (registered)
Supports PC200/266 and ECC DDR SDRAM

BIOS
Award / 2Mbit 

PCI IDE
Dual PIO mode 3/4 EIDE channels up to 4 IDE devices
UltraDMA/100 transfer rate up to 100MB/sec

Super I/O
2 x NS16C550A compatible UARTs
1 x SPP/ECP/EPP parallel port

External Connectors
2 x USB
2 x DB-9
1 x DB-25
1 x PS/2 keyboard
1 x PS/2 mouse

Internal Connectors
2 x external USB
1x IrDA
2 x IDE
1x Floppy
1 x ATX power
4 x fan
1 x WOL
1 x WOR

Hardware Monitor
System/Processor temperature
Voltage
Fan speed 

Power Management 
ACPI and OS direct power management
Wake-on event: RTC/Modem/LAN

Expansion Slots
1 AGP slot (Supports 4x/2x AGP)
6 PCI slots 

Other
Overclock Cruise

Form Factors
ATX, 4 layers
30.48cm x 22cm
12 inch.x 8.66 inch.



The AK76-SN package comes complete with one floppy cable, one ATA100 IDE cable, a Users Manual, a CD containing all necessary drivers, and a complementary mouse pad.  Being a company that focuses on producing a quality product rather than loading up their box with extras, there is little to discuss here.  The box came with what we would expect, as well as a nifty round mouse pad.

Quality and Setup...

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DFI AK76 AMD 760 Mainboard - Page 2

The DFI AK76 AMD 760 Mainboard
Via and AMD...What a Combination!

By Jeff Bouton
7/18/01

Quality
Why did they do that?


The overall design of the DFI AK76-SN is clean and efficient, but there are some concerns when it comes to the layout.  It was nice to find the Socket A placement close to the edge of the board, maximizing the available space.  6 large capacitors are mounted adjacent to the socket, insuring that good clean current is provided to the processor, certainly playing a major role in DFI's quest for "stability."  The placement of these capacitors are a slight concern though.

Although we had no difficulty mounting our cooling package, if we attempted to use a larger heatsink and fan, there may have been an issue of clearance.  As seen with our cooler, a Global WIn WBK38, there is very little room for "expansion," if we were to consider a larger heatsink.


Upon further inspection of the AK76-SN, several other placement issues became evident.  The first is the placement of the power connector in relation to the Socket A. Clearly it can be seen that when the power connector is attached, there is a strong potential for the wires draping over the CPU fan, restricting air flow.  The second is the unusual layout of the IDE and Floppy connections.  Instead of placing the IDE connections parallel with the edge of the board, DFI opted for a perpendicular layout.  As we began working with the board, we found the cabling a little awkward to work with.

Unfortunately, the design issues just kept coming.

As seen in the picture to the left, on the left end of the PCI slots, the BIOS chip can be seen, placed right up against the slots.  At first it seemed that they have found a nice little piece of real estate to place the chip, freeing up valuable board space for other things.  However, there is the potential for PCI board designs that could infringe on that space and possibly create an issue with proper seating.  I think the idea is well intentioned, but question whether it may be regretted in the future.

The case connectors are neatly placed on the outer most edge of the board, clearly labeled for easy connections.


Although a jumper less motherboard seems to be the most sought-after these days, the DFI AK76-SN has decided to implement a DIP-Switch design.  Off one side of the Socket A is two rows of DIP-Switches that allow for both multiplier and voltage settings.  Personally, I found this to be a more desirable set up.  Included with the AK76-SN is a case sticker that clearly outlines the various DIP-Switch settings.  This comes in handy with the hard core overclocker trying to eke out every ounce of power from their AMD processor.  The way I see it, you have two choices when it comes to overclocking.  You can make some changes to the BIOS, have the system become unbootable and clear the BIOS, requiring that all of the previous settings be reset manually.  The other option is configuring the BIOS to your optimal settings, then use the DIP-Switches to start your quest for higher MHz.  If the system has problems booting, all it takes is a flip of a switch and you are back up and running.  In this reviewers opinion, the later is far more convenient and advantageous.


Setup and Installation
Easy...

The installation of the AK76-SN was as simple as could be.  Although we were concerned about some placement of key components on this boards, with some diligence, we were able to organize it in a manner that allows for neat wiring and efficient airflow.  With the use of some velcro straps and plastic hook mounts, we were able to get this board installed in a neat and clean manner.

Ok, now that we're done showing off our handy work, lets take a look at the brains behind the brawn and see what make the AK76-SN tick....
 

Quake 3 Time Demo, and Business Winstone

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DFI AK76 AMD 760 Mainboard - Page 3

The DFI AK76 AMD 760 Mainboard
Via and AMD...What a Combination!

By Jeff Bouton
7/18/01
 

More Benchmarks / Comparisons
CC Winstone 2001 and Sandra too!

Our next test focus on the boards ability to handle graphic intensive programs that require heavy CPU and Memory usage.  Once again, our tests will be compared to the MSI K7T266 Pro..
 

Content Creation Winstone 2001

Well, with the previous results we've seen , this wasn't much of a surprise.  This time around, the DFI AK76-SN was bested by the MSI K7T266 Pro by 7.6 Points.  Although there is a fairly large disparity, the DFI still came up with fairly respectable numbers.

What do you say we get to the real fun stuff and see just how the system benchmarks with Sisoft Sandra, then we'll crank the CPU and Bus speeds up as high as they can go, and do it all again!


Sisoft Sandra

         CPU@1000MHz     CPU@1430MHz (10x143)
 

 MM@1000MHz               MM@1430MHz
 

 Mem@1000MHz             Mem@1430MHz
 

Hard Drive@1000MHz

 

Well, maybe the Quake 3 numbers were sub-par compared to the MSI board, but boy can this board handle some overclocking.  Setting the Bus Speed to 143MHz. and the multiplier to 10 , we were able to to achieve a very stable 1430MHz.

With the Processor running at 1430MHz, we saw substantial benchmark gains across the board.  We have to say that once we got it up to its overclocked peak, this board was real stable.  One of the goals at DFI was to create a board that was stable, and even at excessive Bus speeds, the AK76-SN was rock solid.
 


 

The AK76-SN motherboard from DFI has married chipsets from AMD and VIA in hopes of producing a performance motherboard that is both stable and cost effective.  When it comes to stability, there is no doubt that the AK76-SN is as solid as they come, but at what price?  Perhaps DFI has chosen to sacrifice a little performance for that stability, I'm not sure.  One thing is clear is this board didn't really compete with a similar board from MSI.  A few months back, we had the opportunity to review an i815 board, which was compared to a similar competitors board.  Even then, we saw similar differences in the benchmark results, but the board is still being used today and it is very stable.  Coincidence?  Or are we seeing a pattern? 

Overall, we feel that DFI has made some questionable design decisions with the AK76-SN.  With less than desirable component placement, moderate performance, and excellent stability, we give the DFI AK76-SN a Hot Hardware Heat Meter Rating of a...
 

Are you talkin' ta me?  Get into the HotHardware Conference Room!

 

 

 

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DFI AK76 AMD 760 Mainboard - Page 4
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