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.
develop a motherboard that would maintain top rate
performance and stability,
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
come up with, what they hope will be a solid performer at a
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
AMD 761 / VIA 686B
CPU Socket Socket A
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
2 x USB
2 x DB-9
1 x DB-25
1 x PS/2 keyboard
1 x PS/2 mouse
2 x external USB
2 x IDE
1 x ATX power
4 x fan
1 x WOL
1 x WOR
Hardware Monitor System/Processor temperature
ACPI and OS direct power management
Wake-on event: RTC/Modem/LAN
Form Factors ATX, 4 layers
30.48cm x 22cm
12 inch.x 8.66 inch.
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...
DFI AK76 AMD 760 Mainboard - Page 2
The DFI AK76 AMD
AMD...What a Combination!
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
connectors are neatly placed on the outer most edge of the
board, clearly labeled for easy connections.
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
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
Quake 3 Time Demo, and
DFI AK76 AMD 760 Mainboard - Page 3
The DFI AK76 AMD
AMD...What a Combination!
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..
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!
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.
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.
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