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Epox 8K7A+ AMD 761 / VIA 686B Hybrid
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Date: Dec 15, 2001
Section:Motherboards
Author: HH Editor
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The Epox 8K7A+ AMD 761 / VIA 686B Hybrid - Page 1

The Epox 8K7A+ AMD 761 / VIA 686B Hybrid
Is there a new Sheriff in Town?

By, Marco "BigWop" Chiappetta
August 9, 2001

If you are a hardware enthusiast and have been following the battle between AMD and Intel, you are no doubt familiar with the Athlon and DDR (Double Data Rate) memory.  When the Pentium 4 was first introduced, even the most die-hard AMD fanatics marveled at the impressive memory bandwidth scores Intel's flagship processor, coupled with RDRAM, was capable of.  Not to be outdone, AMD set out to find an alternative to standard SDRAM that could provide increased memory bandwidth to their platform.  AMD, among a few other major players, decided to embrace DDR memory.

To take advantage of the increased bandwidth associated with DDR memory though, a new motherboard chipset had to be designed.  Hence the introduction of the AMD 760 chipset.  The product we will be taking a look at today, the Epox 8K7A+, is a hybrid motherboard equipped with an AMD 761 Northbridge and a VIA 686B Southbridge.  Having no prior experience with an Epox product, I was eager to test the 8K7A+.  Soon after it arrived in our lab, we installed it and ran it through the wringer.  Did the engineers at Epox produce a quality product that does the AMD / VIA / DDR combination justice? Read on and find out...

Specifications / Features of the Epox 8K7A+
Not missing much...


Click any Image for an Enlarged view...
  

Supports Socket A Processors
  • AMD Athlon & Duron
  • AMD-761 + VIA 686B AGPset

I/O Controller

  • 1 Floppy drive controller
  • 120MB ATAPI floppy drive and ZIP support
  • 1 Parallel port (EPP, ECP)
  • 2 Serial ports
  • USB (2 supported onboard. 2 additional as option)
  • PS/2 connectors
  • 1 PS/2 mouse
  • 1 PS/2 keyboard
  • 6 (32-bit) PCI
  • 1 AGP
  • AGP supports 1x, 2x and 4x modes

Award PnP BIOS

  • Flash upgradeable

UltraDMA-100 EIDE Controllers

  • Up to 4 IDE devices
  • Backwards compatible with PIO mode 3/4 & UltraDMA-33/66
  • Extra IDE Port by HPT370/Ultra DMA 66/100 & IDE RAID x 2 (Up to 4 Devices)
200/266MHz Front Side Bus
  • 2x DDR-SDRAM Slots for PC1600/PC2100
  • 1GB max. supported
  • Memory not included

Standard ATX form factor

  • 305mm x 245mm ATX

Built-in AC97 Digital Audio (by VT82C686B)

  • Dual full-duplex Direct Sound channels
  • H/W Sound Blaster Pro for DOS legacy compatibility
  • FM synthesis for legacy compatibility
  • Supports game and MIDI port

Extended Functions

  • Keyboard Power On (KBPO)
  • Supports exclusive USDM (Unified System Diagnostic Manager) under Win9x/NT4 - monitor in Windows system temperatures, voltages, etc.
  • Hardware monitoring functions provided by VIA VT82C686B chipset
  • Supports CPU Vcore & Vio setting by jumpers
  • Supports CPU multiplier by switches
  • Supports CPU clock by BIOS options
  • Hardware sleep/resume
  • P80P Debug (POST) Card onboard design with LED display

THE BUNDLE:

The Epox 8K7A+ comes with a "standard" bundle, including an 80-Wire UDMA/100 IDE cable, a 40-Wire IDE cable, a floppy cable and a secondary USB connector. 

Also included in the box are two excellent user's manuals, one for the board itself, the other explaining how to use the on-board RAID controller.  The bundled CD-ROM contains all of the drivers necessary to get the board up and running along with a copy of Norton Ghost, which is an excellent drive imaging program.

INSTALLATION:

The Epox 8K7A+ installed as easily as any other standard ATX motherboard.  A few standoffs and screws and we were up and running.

                   

Unlike many other motherboards currently available, the 8K7A+ does require the user to set a bank of DIP switches for the CPU multiplier and set jumpers for proper Vcore and Vio voltages (more on this a bit later in the overclocking section).  One great feature that may help some users having installation troubles is the inclusion of an on-board P80P debug (POST) card with an LED readout (visible in all three photos).  Should there be a problem, the LEDs will display a code identifying the cause of the error.  Fortunately for us, we didn't have to reference the error codes.  Our board worked perfectly from the start...

 

The BIOS, Layout and Quality 

 
 
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The Epox 8K7A+ AMD 761 / VIA 686B Hybrid - Page 2

The Epox 8K7A+ AMD 761 / VIA 686B Hybrid
Is there a new Sheriff in Town?

By, Marco "BigWop" Chiappetta
August 9, 2001

THE BIOS:

               

               

               

The Epox 8K7A+ is equipped with a very complete Award v6.00PG BIOS.  There are many tweaking options available and control for all of the on-board accessories.  CPU multiplier and Voltages are adjusted via DIP switches and jumpers, but the FSB can be altered from within the BIOS, all the way up to 250MHz in 1MHz increments.  We used the 1711 BIOS release on our 8K7A+.  Many users claim this BIOS release incorporates 1/5 and 1/6 PCI dividers, which should allow for very high FSB overclocking, but we were unable to verify this.  (Sandra reports a 1/4 PCI divider)  We asked Epox whether or not these other dividers are available but have not received an answer yet.  We'll let you know as soon as we find out.

Layout and Quality
Good Stuff...

THE LAYOUT:

Frequent visitors to H.H. know we like to give each piece of hardware that enters our lab a thorough physical inspection...

                   

We found many things we liked when examining the 8K7A+.  There is ample space around the CPU socket to allow the use of an oversized cooler.  We had room to spare with our GlobalWin WBK38 installed.  Flanking the socket is an array of large capacitors that filter the electrical current being supplied to the CPU.  A clean, constant supply of power to the CPU is necessary for reliable, stable operation.  The Epox 8K7A+ also incorporates a 3-Phase power array with another welcome addition, heatsinks to cool four of the M.O.S.F.E.T.s (Metal Oxide Semiconductor Field Effect Transistor).  Taking a look at the underside of the board we found four more transistors.  The location of these transistors may not allow the 8K7A+ to be mounted in some cases, but we did not have a problem with our InWin Q500.

                

The AMD 761 Northbridge had an AAVID heatsink / fan combo mounted to it with two spring clips.  We removed the cooler to see what type of thermal interface material was used and were pleased to find an adequate layer of thermal paste!  Kudos for Epox for taking the extra step to insure proper cooling of the Northbridge.

                   

The 8K7A+ also has an excellent slot configuration, 1 AGP slot and 6 PCI slots.  We feel this is the best slot configuration as it allows for the widest array of expansion possibilities.  If you take a close look at the AGP slot, you'll notice a retention clip.  Once a video card is inserted into the slot, it cannot be removed without disengaging this clip.  Anyone who transports their computer will not have to worry about their video card unseating during transit.  Something we're sure many LAN Partiers will like to hear.

                   

All of the internal connectors are well placed around the edges of the board.  The front panel header, DIP switches and jumper settings are clearly silk screened on the board, so even if you misplace the users manual, installation of the 8K7A+ should be a snap.  Looking at the external connectors (and the specs on page one),  you'll see this board is equipped with on-board AC'97 compliant sound. The on-board sound is functional, and adequate for non-gamers, but most of you will want to upgrade to a good soundcard.

                   

The IDE and Floppy connectors are also well placed, mounted parallel to the edge of the board.  There are two DIMM slots available, allowing for a maximum of 1GB of RAM.  The ATX power connector is located between the CPU socket and DIMM slots.

Time For Some Numbers...

 

 

 
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The Epox 8K7A+ AMD 761 / VIA 686B Hybrid - Page 3

The Epox 8K7A+ AMD 761 / VIA 686B Hybrid
Is there a new Sheriff in Town?

By, Marco "BigWop" Chiappetta
August 9, 2001

We ran ZD's Business and Content Creation Winstone benchmarks to test "real-world" performance in Office type and Multimedia applications.
 

More Performance
Let's Get it On!

.BUSINESS WINSTONE:

These are the highest scores I personally have ever seen posted by a single CPU system running this test under Windows ME.  Although having this much horsepower is overkill when running a word processor or spreadsheet, its nice to know the power is on tap should you need it!

CONTENT CREATION WINSTONE:

The Content Creation tests are a bit more "strenuous" than the Business apps...

The same holds true in this test.  The Epox 8K7A+ has posted the highest scores I have personally witnessed.  Whether working or playing, this board it definitely a top notch performer.

We should also mention that throughout testing, the 8K7A+ did not crash at all.  This is a very stable board.  The extra steps Epox has taken cooling the Northbridge and applying heatsinks to the transistors used in the power array have surely paid off.

Reviewing the Epox 8K7A+ was an absolute pleasure.  This is a true enthusiast's motherboard, offering all of the features we crave wrapped in a high performing, stable package.  Having to adjust certain settings via DIP switches and jumpers on the board may turn off some users, but its not a major issue once you understand the benefits.  We liked the layout and slot configuration, and had excellent luck while overclocking.  Anyone looking to build a high-end Athlon system should seriously consider the Epox 8K7A+.  One thing is for sure, this motherboard has found a new home in this reviewer's personal system.  The Epox 8K7A+ receives a rare HotHardware Editor's Choice Award and a Heat Meter rating of... 

Think you know about this hardware stuff?  Then get into the Forum and Strut your Stuff!

 

 

 
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The Epox 8K7A+ AMD 761 / VIA 686B Hybrid - Page 4
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