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Soyo K7DRAGON vs The Gigabtye 7DXR
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Date: Dec 15, 2001
Section:Motherboards
Author: HH Editor
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The Soyo K7DRAGON vs The Gigabtye 7DXR - Page 1

Soyo's K7-DRAGON -vs- Gigabyte's 7DXR
The KT266 and AMD760 Square Off!

By, Marco Chiappetta
October 25, 2001

Athlon motherboards have come a long way since AMD's flagship CPU was first introduced.  Initially, some OEMs would not even produce boards for the Athlon because they feared it would damage their relationships with Intel.  Some of the brave OEMs that did produce motherboards for the Athlon, wouldn't brand the products with their logo, and even shipped some boards in plain white boxes in hopes that they would draw minimal attention.

Well, things have now come full circle.   The Athlon has arguably become the CPU of choice amongst the influential Enthusiast / Do-It-Yourself community, and many top tier OEMs are widely releasing powerful, full-featured motherboards to house AMD's speedy CPU...and they want everyone to know about it!  There are also competing chipsets available from companies like VIA, ALi, SiS and AMD.  Currently, the two most popular DDR capable chipsets for the Athlon are VIA's KT266 and AMD's own 760.  Today, we'll be taking a look at two boards, the Soyo K7-DRAGON based on the VIA KT266 and the Gigabyte 7DXR which is an AMD 761 / VIA 686B hybrid.  These two boards offer a host of extras, like RAID and on-board audio, but which one belongs in the rigs of the discriminating H.H. readers?  Let's find out...

Specifications / Features of the Soyo K7-DRAGON and Gigabyte 7DXR
Fully Loaded...

  

Click any Image for an Enlarged view...

SOYO K7-DRAGON

DESCRIPTION:

  • 200/266MHz System Interface Speed AMD Socket-A based VIA KT266 ATX Motherboard

  • Supports AMD XP Processor

  • DDR SDRAM

  • RAID controller on board

  • Audio on board, with 6-chanel Hardware Audio

  • Graphic, Universal AGP Pro slot

  • Overclocking, setup FSB by 1MHz increment

  • Network, 10/100 Mbps Ethernet

PROCESSOR:

  • Supports AMD Socket-A type Processor

  • Including Duron & Athlon & XP CPUs

CHIPSET:

  • VIA KT-266(8366/8233) chipsets

  • Support 200/266 MHz FSB

SYSTEM MEMORY:

  • Three 184-pin DDR SDRAM 2.5V DIMM sockets Support up to 3GB

EXPANSION SLOTS:

  • Five 32-bit Bus Mastering PCI slots (V2.2 compliant)

  • One Universal AGP Pro slot (support 1x/2x/4x mode)

  • On Board Audio Subsystem

  • On board CMI 8738 Audio chip to provide 6 channels audio solution

  • Supports optical output & SPDIF output

  • On Board Ultra I/O CHIP

  • Two RS-232 Serial Ports (16550 UART compatible)

  • One Parallel Printer Port (SPP/EPP/ECP mode)

  • One FDD port (supports 3 mode, 1.2/1.44/2.88 MB FDD)

  • Provides IrDA port with optional cable for transceiver

  • Provides 6 USB ports (2 rear, 4 front)

  • Ultra DMA IDE Ports

  • Four independent channels for eight IDE devices (two for Raid)

  • Supports up to PIO mode 5 & UDMA 33/66/100

  • Two PCI bus mastering ATA E-IDE ports

  • Boot-Block Flash BIOS

  • Award PCI BIOS with ACPI function

  • Supports multiple-boot from E-IDE/SCSI/CD-ROM/FDD LS120/ZIP

  • 2M byte Flash ROM

  • Board Dimensions

  • Four Layer PCB, 30.5cm x 23cm(12" x 9.05")

  • ATX form factor

  • Enhanced PC Health Monitoring

  • On-board voltage monitors for +3.3, +5V, +12V, Vcore,(TBD)

  • CPU fan speed monitor (TBD)

  • CPU temperature monitoring through flexible thermal sensor (TBD)

DOUBLE STACK BACK-PANEL I/O CONNECTORS:

  • PS/2 Mini-DIN mouse & keyboard ports

  • 2 USB ports

  • One RJ45 connector

  • Two D-Sub 9-pin male serial port

  • One D-Sub 25-pin female printer port

  • Audio I/O: LINE-OUT x1, LINE-IN x1, MIC JACK x1

  • One Game port

  • FCC CLASS B AND CE EMI REGULATION COMPLIANT

  • PC 99 COMPLIANT

 GIGABYTE 7DXR

PROCESSOR:

  • Socket A for AMD Athlon? /Duron? 200/266MHz FSB processors

  • 95/100/103/105/110/115/133/..150* MHz FSB

  • Auto/1.5V/1.525V/1.55V...1.85V(15 scales / 0.025V per scale) CPU Voltage adjustable

  • Supports CPU multiplier 5.0/5.5/.../12.5

CHIPSET:

  • AMD 761? north bridge & VIA 686B south bridge

  • Creative CT-5880 sound chip & AC97 codec

  • Promise ATA100 w/ RAID chip

MEMORY:

  • Supports up to 3GB DDR SDRAM

  • 2.5V/2.7V/2.9V DDR Memory voltage adjustable

  • 3 DIMMs of 184-pin DDR sockets

  • Supports either PC1600/DDR200 or PC2100/DDR266

  • Supports 72bits ECC type DRAM integrity mode

SLOT:

  • 1 x AGP Pro slot with an extra power-in socket

  • 1.5V/1.6V/1.7V AGP Pro voltage adjustable

  • 5 x PCI slots support 33MHz & PCI 2.2 compliant

  • 1 x AMR (Audio Modem Riser) slot

I/O:

  • 2 x UDMA ATA100 IDE RAID connectors for RAID 0 and RAID 1

  • 2 x UDMA ATA 66/100 bus master IDE ports

  • 1 x FDD, 2 x COM, 1 x LPT, PS/2 Keyboard, PS/2 Mouse on board

  • 1 x joystick, 1 x line-in, 1 x line-out and 1 x MIC

  • 2 x USB ports on board, 2 x USB ports by cable

  • IrDA TX / RX header

POWER:

  • ATX power connector

  • Power-on by LAN, RTC, Modem & Switch

  • Power-off by Windows® 95/98/Me/2000/NT shut down & Switch

FORM FACTOR:

  • ATX form factor, 4 layers PCB ( 30.5*24.4 cm)

  • H/W MONITORING

  • Auto speed down and alarm when CPU overheat or fan failure (OS independent & driverless)

  • 4 cooling fan connectors

  • Stop CPU fan in suspend mode

  • System health status detect & report by BIOS

  • H/W detect & report Power-in voltage, CPU voltage and CMOS battery status

BIOS:

  • Dual AWARD BIOS, 2 x 2M bit flash ROM, enhanced ACPI feature for PC98/Win98/Win2000/WinMe compliance, Green, PnP, DMI, INT13 (>8.4GB)

  • IDE#1~#4, SCSI, LS120, ZIP & CD-ROM bootable

  • AC recovery ON/OFF control

  • Auto-detect & report system health status

  • Supports DualBIOS? & @BIOS?

  • Suspend-To-RAM (STR); Supports Wake-On-LAN

  • Supports USB KB/MS Wake up from S3

  • Provides 4 fan power connectors

  • Supports EasyTune III?

THE BUNDLES:

The Soyo K7-DRAGON is packaged with a plethora of goodies.  Included in the box you'll find three, yes, three 80-Wire UDMA/100 IDE cables, a floppy cable, an excellent user's manual, a drivers CD and even a small package of thermal paste.  Also present is the cabling and secondary bracket necessary to take advantage of the 6-Channel on-board sound.

The DRAGON also ships with a CD that contains some excellent bundled software.  Norton Ghost and Antivirus 2001, Adobe ActiveShare and Acrobat Reader, along with WinDVD 2000, VCom Autosave, eWalla and Imagemore are all on this CD.  Kudos to Soyo for including some very useful software with the K7-DRAGON.

The Gigabyte 7DXR has a more "standard" bundle consisting of a user's manual, two 80-Wire UDMA/100 IDE cables, a floppy cable and a CD with all of the necessary drivers to get the board up and running.

INSTALLATIONS:

Installation of both boards was very quick and painless.  The K7-DRAGON is jumperless, so it was just a matter of properly mounting the hardware and powering up the system.  The Gigabyte 7DXR, however, is slightly more complicated to install because the CPU configuration is done via on-board DIP switches.  Once those switches were set though, the 7DXR ran perfectly.
 

 

The BIOSes, Layouts and Quality 

 
 
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The Soyo K7DRAGON vs The Gigabtye 7DXR - Page 2

Soyo's K7-DRAGON -vs- Gigabyte's 7DXR
The KT266 and AMD760 Square Off!

By, Marco Chiappetta
October 25, 2001

THE K7-DRAGON BIOS:

The K7-DRAGON is a jumperless board, so within the BIOS there are settings to control virtually all aspects of the board...

                   

                  

                  

All of the regulars out there will surely recognize the very common AWARD BIOS powering the K7-DRAGON.  All of the most wanted "tweaking" and overclocking options are available, with one exception...there is no way to adjust the VIO voltage.  Of most interest to all the enthusiasts will be the "Soyo Combo Menu" (middle, far right).  The Combo feature is similar to Abit's Softmenu.  This is where you'll find all of the overclocking options.  Changing your multiplier, FSB or VCore voltage is only a matter of pressing a few keys.  Users can also adjust memory timings to increase performance, or accommodate different RAM types.

Layout and Quality
This Ain't Your Momma's Mobo...

THE DRAGON'S LAYOUT:

We definitely had a good "out-of-box" experience when we opened the package to our K7-DRAGON an began it's physical inspection...

             

Initially, we were happy to see that Soyo chose to include active cooling for the Northbridge, but when we removed the heatsink / fan combo, we were disappointed to find that no thermal interface material was used.  We won't hold too much against Soyo for this though, because enough Thermal Paste is included with the DRAGON to cover the Northbridge and a CPU.  Also visible above is the "new" 8233 VIA Southbridge.

             

The K7-DRAGON also ships with the best on-board sound solution we have used to date.  A C-Media 8738 6-Channel sound chip with analog and digital I/O ports is standard.  The sound quality was excellent using the on-board sound, on par with soundcards like the Sound Blaster Live!, but not quite on the level of the Audigy or Hercules Game Theater XP.  One of the "cooler" aspects of the DRAGON is clearly visible in many of these pictures, the Purple PCI slots!  The Purple slots and Black PCB make this board an excellent choice if you have a windowed case, or like to show off your hardware.  We prefer a 6 PCI slot configuration, but considering the K7-DRAGON already has built-in RAID, a sound card and a 10/100 NIC, 5 PCI slots should be plenty.  The DRAGON is equipped with an AGP Pro slot as well.  We consider this a plus, even though there are very few graphics cards available that utilize this type of slot.

             

If you take a close look at the external case connectors, you'll see another of the K7-DRAGON's extras, the on-board 10/100 NIC.  On-Board sound...on-board NIC...throw in a nice video card, and you've got the makings of an excellent LAN box!  The case connectors are clearly labeled and well placed at the corner of the board.  The rest of the headers for the extra USB connectors, IR interface and Smart Card reader are also well labeled and place along the bottom edge of the board.  Unfortunately, Soyo didn't include any of the necessary hardware to take advantage of these extra headers.

            

The IDE, Floppy and RAID connectors are located along the edge of the board.  This is our favorite configuration, as it makes it much easier to keep your cabling neat.  Around the Socket you'll see the large capacitors used to filter the current to the CPU, which is necessary for stable operation.  Behind the capacitors you'll find the ATX power connector out of the way of any critical components.

Overall, we were very pleased with the K7-DRAGON's layout, it is obvious that Soyo put much thought into this board's design...

Let's See What Gigabyte is up to...

 
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The Soyo K7DRAGON vs The Gigabtye 7DXR - Page 3

Soyo's K7-DRAGON -vs- Gigabyte's 7DXR
The KT266 and AMD760 Square Off!

By, Marco Chiappetta
October 25, 2001

OVERCLOCKING PROWESS:

The Soyo K7-DRAGON is the far easier board to overclock with.  Within the BIOS, under the "Soyo Combo Feature" menu, you will find items to manipulate the CPU multiplier (5.5 - 14), Front Side Bus (FSB) from 95-166 MHz in 1 MHz increments and VCore voltage adjustments from 1.35v - 1.85v in +0.025v increments.  The only thing notably absent is a VIO adjustment, should users want to bump up the voltage to their memory.

Overclocking with the Gigabyte 7DXR is done by using a combination of DIP switches mounted on the board and through FSB adjustments in the BIOS.  Multipliers between 5.5 and 12.5 are selectable via DIP switches, FSBs from 100MHz-250MHz are available within the BIOS (there are also FSBs selectable via DIP switches) and a VCore voltage between 1.5 - 1.85v  in .025v increments is selectable, again using some on-board DIP switches.

Overclocking with the Gigabyte 7DXR can also be accomplished using their "EasyTune III" software.  EasyTune III is a small application that allows users to make FSB adjustments from within Windows.  We have used this software in the past, but prefer to overclock via the system BIOS.  For a quick look at what EasyTune III is all about, check out this page on Gigabyte's site.

The Hot Hardware Test Systems
You Just Have to Love Them!

AMD Athlon @ 1400MHz. & 1450MHz.

Soyo K7-DRAGON VIA KT266

2568MB Corsair PC2400 (CAS 2)

GeForce 3 (21.85 Drivers)

3Com 3C905 NIC

Hercules Game Theater XP

IBM 7200RPM 30GB HD x (2)

Creative Labs 52X CD-Rom

Standard Floppy Drive

Windows Millennium

DirectX 8.0a

Via 4-in-1s v.4.33

AMD Athlon @ 1400MHz. & 1450MHz.

Gigabyte 7DXR AMD 761 / VIA 686B Hybrid

2568MB Corsair PC2400 (8-8-8-2-6-2-2)

GeForce 3 (21.85 Drivers)

3Com 3C905 NIC

Hercules Game Theater XP

IBM 7200RPM 30GB HD x (2)

Creative Labs 52X CD-Rom

Standard Floppy Drive

Windows Millennium

DirectX 8.0a

Via 4-in-1s v.4.33 & AMD AGP Drivers

Performance Comparisons
Time for some numbers...

The first benchmark we ran was the venerable SiSoft Sandra...

SiSOFT SANDRA:

Soyo
CPU @ 1400MHz

Gigabyte
CPU @ 1400MHz

As you can see, there is no discernable performance difference between either of these boards in Sandra's CPU test.

Soyo
MM @ 1400MHz

Gigabyte
MM @
1400MHz

We see more of the same here.  Sandra's Multi-Media benchmark shows both boards running neck and neck.

Soyo
MEM @ 1400MHz

Gigabyte
MEM @
1400MHz

In the all important memory benchmark we see the AMD-761 powered GA-7DXR outpace the KT266 powered K7-DRAGON by hair.  The difference isn't anything to write home about, but every megabyte counts.  The AMD-761 is also known to have to lower latency than the original KT266 (the KT266A turned the tables though).  The slight increase in available bandwidth along with the lower latency should theoretically yield better performance in bandwidth intensive applications.

Soyo
RAID 0

Gigabyte
RAID 0

Both of these boards used the exact same on-board Promise 20265R RAID controller, and it shows looking at the above scores.

Soyo
CPU OC'd @ 1590MHz.
(11.5X138)

Gigabyte
CPU OC'd @
1590MHz.
(11.5X138)

We also pushed our 1.4GHz. Athlon to it's limit with both boards.  This particular CPU isn't the best overclocker, 1590MHz. was the maximum speed we could hit.  The K7-DRAGON and 7DXR both took this CPU to it's limit without a problem.  This same CPU has been installed in an IWill KK266Plus and an Epox 8K7A+, some of the best "overclocking" boards out there, and has never made it past 1590MHz. and remained stable.

Time for some gaming scores...

QUAKE 3 ARENA:

At 640x480x16,  using a high end graphics card, Quake 3 Arena is limited by the CPU's performance.  At this low resolution, the K7-DRAGIN and 7DXR both posted nice scores, just barely missing the 200FPS barrier.  The Gigabyte 7DXR had a miniscule 2FPS  advantage...

Jammin' to the Stones

 

 
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The Soyo K7DRAGON vs The Gigabtye 7DXR - Page 4

Soyo's K7-DRAGON -vs- Gigabyte's 7DXR
The KT266 and AMD760 Square Off!

By, Marco Chiappetta
October 25, 2001

Ziff Davis Media's Business Winstone 2001 and Content Creation Winstone 2001 benchmarks are used to simulate "real-world" application performance...

More Performance
More of What You're Lookin' For!

BUSINESS WINSTONE:

Business Winstone 2001, and CC Winstone, run a few popular business and Content Creation applications through a series of activities and monitors how long the system takes to complete those activities.  Based on timings, the test calculates the system's performance scores accordingly.

The K7-DRAGON just barely outpaced Gigabyte's offering in ZD's Business Winstone tests.  Virtually any quality motherboard coupled with a good amount of RAM and fast processor is capable of running any of today's Business-Type applications adequately though.  Nonetheless, scores this high are very good for a Windows Millennium based system.

The Content Creation tests are somewhat more intense...let's move on and see how these boards hold up...

CONTENT CREATION WINSTONE:

The Content Creation Winstone scores posted by both of these boards were excellent, especially considering we were running Windows Millennium.  This time the Gigabyte GA-7DXR nudged slightly ahead of the K7-DRAGON, but a performance differential this small is unperceivable during "real-world" usage.

Throughout all of our testing, both the Soyo K7-DRAGON and Gigabyte 7DXR were rock solid.  The only crashes to speak off occurred when we pushed our Athlon beyond it's overclocked limits.  If stability is your main concern,  you won't be disappointed by either of these products.

CONCLUSION:

Now for the $64,000 question...How do you choose between two boards of this caliber?  I have to admit, I'm torn.  Normally, the performance gain (even though it is very small) associated with the AMD 760 based Gigabyte 7DXR would be enough to sway me towards the 7DXR.  The K7-DRAGON, however,  has more features, better on-board sound and is much easier to overclock with and configure...not to mention it's black PCB and purple slots are just plain "cool"!  Ultimately, I think I'll take the high road and leave the decision up to you.  Both boards are excellent and worth considering if you're about to build or upgrade an AMD based system.  The only drawbacks to owning either of these boards is the impending release of many higher performing VIA KT266A based motherboards.  We give both the Soyo K7-DRAGON and the Gigabyte 7DXR a HotHardware Heat Meter rating of...

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The Soyo K7DRAGON vs The Gigabtye 7DXR - Page 5
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