Abit KA7 Athlon Motherboard!

Abit KA7 Athlon Motherboard! - Page 2

Abit's KA7 - KX133 Athlon Motherboard
AMD's Athlon Set Up The Abit Way!

April 11, 2000 By Dave Altavilla

Installation / Setup With The KA7
Soft and easy
Abit was the pioneer of easy CPU setup with their "Softmenu" technology.  In addition, they often bring features into the BIOS setup of their boards, that you might not otherwise have access to.  With the Abit KA7 you get their new "Softmenu III" technology and setup could not have been easier.  Here is a look at some of the innovation that Softmenu III brings.

Click image for a full shot of Softmenu III

Here you see a shot of the BIOS and we have selected the 1GHz setting.  Now, don't get all excited, we did not perform our testing at this speed since we used an Athlon 750 for testing.  However, it was just cool to see that the 1GHz. setting is available to use, should you fall upon the good fortuned of owning a 1GHz. Athlon.  In addition, the KA7 gives you the ability to set the Front Side Bus up to speeds of up to 155 MHz. and also increase the FSB in increments of 1MHz. along the way and beyond 155.  You also have the ability to set Core and I/O Voltages for the CPU.  This proved to be an excellent addition of stability in our overclocking tests which we will get to next.  The SDRAM timing can be set to "Host Clock" (or FSB speed), "Host+PCI Clock" or "Host-PCI Clock".  We would have welcomed the ability to just set the speed to 133MHz. regardless of the FSB but we really can't complain too much about the current KA7 approach, since you can pretty much dial in speed and stability with your RAM, no matter what FSB speed you are running.  Finally, there are the settings of CPU "Drive and Pull Strength".  We were not able to see much of a benefit either way with this setting but it gives you the ability to adjust signal strength between the Northbridge Chipset and the CPU.  This MAY add stability or performance although we did not prove this out.  Again, this is just another innovation we haven't seen to date on any other Athlon based board.  Hats off to Abit for their KX133/Softmenu III approach.  Great stuff...


Overclocking The Athlon With The KA7
VERY interesting...

We are going to jump right into the system specs here since they are an important part of this section.  We will provide them for you again later with the benchmarks.

Click image for a full shot of our test rig

As you can see in scale here, the KA7 is a rather large board.  However, I don't view this as a downside since clearly this board is intended for the power user and most folks in this class have roomy cases to sport a full featured board like this.  What you see here is a very straight forward setup, Motherboard, RAM, Video and Audio.  Also, take note that we used a standard Global Win Heat Sink / Fan combo.  Indeed it is a big "mutha" of a unit and it fit with room to spare in front of the DIMM sockets.  What is more important is the fact that we used a very practical setup with respect to our overclocking tests.  No liquid nitrogen cooling here folks.  We wanted to show you results that you could achieve without spending your life's work on your system.


HotHardware Athlon Test System
A reasonable set up

Full Tower ATX Case w/ 300W PS, AMD Athlon 750 @ 750MHz. and Overclocked (supplied by Outside Loop Computers), Abit KA7 Motherboard, 128MB of Corsair PC133 SDRAM , WD Expert AC418000 7200 RPM ATA66 Hard Drive, Elsa Erazor X2 AGP w/ NVidia 3.68 Drivers, Kenwood 72X CDROM,
Win 98SE, DirectX 7.0a

Our first attempt was to overclock the Athlon 750 just using the abilities of the KA7.  We were able to crank the CPU up to a high of 878MHz. with an FSB of 115MHz./PCI 35 and 2MHz. increment increase over the FSB.  This provided excellent performance and stability with the SDRAM set to "Host" for 117MHz. with a "Turbo" (CAS 2) setting in the BIOS.  We could not set the memory clock to "Host+PCI" or the machine would lock after a few minutes in Win98.  A "Host+PCI" setting would run your memory at 152MHz. and the Corsair Module we used, just couldn't handle it on the KA7.  However, because you can run the SDRAM clocks asynchronously to the FSB, you can still overclock the CPU and run your memory within spec.

This brings us to something we forgot to mention in the setup section.  You can also set DRAM CAS and Access timings a number of different ways, which can add to stability in extreme overclocking or bring you extra memory bandwidth should you have good quality PC133 memory.  All told, we were very impressed with the KA7's innate ability to overclock the Athlon platform, an area that until now, has mostly been avoided by most motherboards supporting AMD's flagship CPU.

We then proceeded to augment the KA7's own overclocking abilities with those of an Athlon Gold Finger card.  Remember the Outside Loop Afterburner?  It's baaack!  :) 

Thanks to our friends at Outside Loop, we have the ability to actually change the Athlon's Multiplier which take a entirely different approach to overclocking the chip.  Since Athlon's typically don't take well to high front side bus speeds, like a P3 Coppermine does, the Afterburner can really open doors for you.  Couple that with the abilities of the KA7 dialing in FSB speed by 1MHz. increments and you get some REALLY interesting results!

We dialed in the FSB speed on the KA7 to 111MHz. and the Multiplier of the Athlon 750 that we were using, was set to 8.5.  We were able to boot Windows 98SE and take these Sandra benchmarks for you.

Sandra CPU Benchmark @ 944

Sandra Memory Benchmark @ 944

We were "totally stoked" as the saying goes, when we saw the system post and boot Window98 at 944MHz.  Also equally as impressive are the Sandra Scores here.  It makes you want to shell out the $1200 for a 1GHz. Athlon.... almost.  :)  Now, back to reality here.  As you may guess, with our standard Global Win Dual Fan Heat Sink, this setup was not stable for even one pass through of a Business or Gaming Benchmark.  Remember, we wanted to show what is possible with a simple off the shelf cooling solution.  Add a Peltier to the mix here and things could settle down nicely.  Time to go find a good Athlon designed Peltier but that is a story for another day!


Let's get on the test track shall we?

Benchmarks and the Rating


Tags:  Motherboard, Athlon, Abit, board, A7, AR, K

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