The KV8 Pro Motherboard - A Closer Look
In our opinion, the KV8 Pro does not have a flashy, eye catching design. The PCB is red with it components sporting typical color schemes. From a physical design standpoint, the board has a fairly good layout, with minor concerns over the distance between the ATX and 12V supplementary power connections. The ATX power is located in a relatively good position to avoid any issues with power cabling interfering with airflow around the CPU, although swapping its position with the floppy connector would have been ideal. The secondary 12V connector is located at the opposite side of the board, behind the capacitor cluster, which can make it hard to tame the power cabling with some power supplies.
There was a neat collection of capacitors placed adjacent to and around the CPU socket, which helps regulate the voltage being supplied to the most critical component of the system. The Northbridge was backed with a blue, extruded heat sink to help maintain proper operating temperatures, critical during normal operation and when overclocked. A post code LED offers a view into the system status and is a handy tool if trouble ever arises.
There were only two DIMM slots on the KV8 Pro, supporting up to 2GB of memory. To the left of the DIMM slots was the AGP slot which was far enough away to not be an issue when adding or removing memory modules. Further to the left were a total of 5 PCI slots, offering a fair amount of expandability. Along the front edge of the board were the drive connectors, including two IDE, two SATA and one floppy connector. Ideally, we would liked to have seen a second controller included for additional SATA RAID options, but ABIT opted to leave it at one controller. The rear of the KV8 Pro came equipped with 2 PS/2, one serial and one parallel port, an RJ-45 for Gigabit Ethernet and 4 USB 2.0 ports. Noticeably absent was any FireWire capability whatsoever. The board was equipped with 6 channel integrated audio with ports provided for Line-In, Line-Out, Front and Rear Speaker, Center and Subwoofer connections. There were also S/PDIF Optical input and output connectors next to the serial port.
The overall design of the KV8 Pro was clean and simple. The lack of FireWire was the biggest sticking point as was the 2 DIMM slots. Other than that, the features and layout were good with plenty of head room built in for expansion. Next we will take a closer look at the BIOS of the KV8 Pro which yielded some very interesting surprises.
This particular board came with a Beta Phoenix BIOS that had some interesting features, some of which are not yet publicly available. The main center of all of the board's features lie within the Guru Utility screen. Here we found a wide array of settings available for this board, some common and some not. The first thing we noticed was the CPU was dialed in to run at 2000MHz, yet the bus was set to 204MHz, pushing the CPU to 2040MHz. As we continued down the screen, we found another, more noteworthy setting called the Multiplier Factor. Here we found a range of multiplier settings available from 5-10X, allowing us to set the multiplier lower, not higher, than the default (This feature will work on all "Cool'N'Quiet" capable Athlon 64s). The next option that should appeal to the overclocking enthusiast is a wide voltage range available for the DDR Memory. ABIT offered a range from 2.50v to 3.2v in increments of .10v. Providing ample voltage to high-performance DDR memory is key for stability and having memory voltage options in excess of 3v is very nice, particularly when overclocking is planned. These two features alone make the ABIT KV8 Pro a compelling choice for the overclocker.
The GURU Utility also contained CPU voltage options ranging from 1.50v-1.85v in increments of .25v and the AGP voltage was adjustable from 1.50v-1.65v in .05v increments. There were options for HyperTransport Voltage adjustment as well as PCI divider settings from Fixed, 8:2:1, 7:2:1, and 6:2:1.
The Guru Utility screen had a section called ABIT EQ that provides a plethora of internal information about the board. The first page was a Temperature Monitoring section that provided real time CPU, SYS and PWM temperatures. The next page provided Voltage Monitoring that covered the full gamut of the board's internals from actual CPU, DDR and AGP voltages to HyperTransport, ATX and Standby Voltages. The next screen offered Fan Speed monitoring that linked to each of the board's 5 fan headers including CPU and SYS Fans. Lastly, was the FanEQ Control screen that lets users manipulate how each system fan behaves, controlling the high and low limit settings by which speed control kicks in. Each of these settings is also adjustable through ABIT's SoftMenu software within Windows, which links directly with the Guru processor.
Topping off an excellent collection of control and monitoring options, ABIT included an ample set of memory performance options within the DDR Configuration screen. Here we found all of the memory timing options. By default the system is set By SPD, but many more options were available when we chose to configure the memory manually. The DRAM Clock allowed us to lock the memory at DDR200, DDR266, DDR333, DDR400 or set it to Auto. CAS Latency ranged from the standard 2.0, 2.5 and 3.0 while the rest of the menu offered more finite settings for the enthusiast who wants complete control over memory behavior.
Overall, we found the BIOS of the KV8 Pro to offer an exceptional feature set over other, more costly boards. However, there is a catch. As of yet, all of this information should be taken with a grain of salt since the most current BIOS available at the time of this review did not include an active multiplier setting nor did the DDR Voltage go any higher than 2.8v. These options should be considered experimental at most and should not weigh heavily in your decision to purchase this board. However, aside from these two issues, the remaining feature set is still impressive.