| Quality and Setup of the ABIT KX7-333R Motherboard
| Looking Good...
The ABIT KX7-333R Motherboard:
The KX7-333R may not be quite as flashy as some of the other KT333 motherboards we've reviewed recently, but it comes equally equipped as some of the more expensive motherboards. What it lacks in a flashy exterior, it more than makes up for with a powerful, feature rich interior. The unit comes with 4 DIMM slots for up to 3GBs of 100/133/166MHz. DDR-RAM. An ample supply of capacitors are placed around the DIMM slots, ATX power, and Socket A to insure that clean, constant current is provided, crucial for maintaining a stable system. We feel that the ATX power connector is placed in an optimal position to minimize its impact on surrounding components, virtually eliminating the chance of the power supply cables interfering with proper airflow of the CPU cooler. The board comes with a total of 5 fan headers, one for the CPU HSF, one for the Northbridge active cooling and three more for additional cooling devices.
Two standard IDE connectors are positioned behind the DIMM slots for connecting up to 4 drives. With the KX7-333R, these ports support ATA133, allowing for burst transfer rates of up to 133MBs per second with ATA133 capable drives. Two more IDE connectors are placed behind the PCI slots to accommodate the on-board HPT372 RAID controller. Note how these are positioned so the data cables will have little affect on the airflow of a lower, front side chassis fan. Just past the RAID IDE connectors is the floppy drive connector as well as the Power LED headers. These headers are clearly marked, leaving little guess work as to matching the case connectors to the proper pins on the board.
The CPU socket is placed in such a way that there should be few problems installing an oversized cooling package. A total of 6 PCI slots are available on the KX7-333R for maximum expandability. We were disappointed to see the lack of a retention clip on the AGP slot to help secure the video card in place, however, we were pleased to see active cooling on the Northbridge. Underneath the HSF on the Northbridge was a decent layer of thermal paste applied to aid in proper heat transfer, although we feel that the coverage could have been more uniform.
The KX7-333R comes equipped with 3 status LEDs that provide visual clues to the status of the board. One light shows that the system has standby power being supplied to it. Another illuminates to show that the power is on, and one shows that the reset button has been depressed. These are all useful when trying to diagnose a system problem, and they provide a simple reminder that power is still being supplied to the board.
Now that we've seen what the ABIT KX7-333R is made of, let's take a look and see what makes it tick.
The Phoenix - AwardBIOS:
When it come to the BIOS of the KX7-333R, it was love at first site for this reviewer. This is by far the most complete and "tweakable" BIOS we've seen with any of the KT333 based boards that we've reviewed to date. Between their trademark "Soft Menu III" and an exceptional DRAM Clock Drive Control screen, the hardcore enthusiast should be quite pleased with what ABIT has to offer. When we first accessed the Soft Menu III, we found the screen to be very thorough. Not only does the BIOS detect the processor by model (AthlonXP 1800+), it also provides information and adjustments for such items as the multiplier, CPU FSB, and core voltage to name a few.
One of the more uncommon settings we found in the Soft Menu III screen was an item called 'Enhance for Benchmark." Simply put, enabling this setting can "improve your processor and system performance." Aside from the description in the owners manual, that is all we can tell you about it the "Enhance for Benchmark" setting until we get more information from ABIT.
When we accessed the DRAM Clock/Driving Control window, we found an excellent selection of settings to really hone the memory performance of the KX7-333R. Aside from the DRAM timing settings commonly found in a KT333 BIOS, ABIT has added some advanced settings to streamline memory performance while helping to maintain a good degree of stability. Another one of the "enhance" settings we found available was the "Enhance DRAM Performance" option. The name is pretty self-explanatory, although we hope to have more details for you in the near future.
If you are one of those users who is constantly trying to increase the performance of their rig, this board should be right for you. The ABIT KX7-333R has more than enough advanced settings to pique the interest of even the most savvy enthusiast, keeping him occupied for quite some time. One thing we should mention, however, is that although these settings would obviously have some effect on the overall systems performance, we left these items at their default settings, disabled. The reason we did this was to keep a level playing field during the benchmarking phase of this review. It would hardly seem fair to compare the performance of the ABIT KX7-333R motherboard to a reference system that didn't have the same options available. We're fairly confident that some increased gains could be achieved by manipulating multiple variations of these settings. Unfortunately, this would not only require additional time to complete the review, it would also make for an exceptionally long piece with enough benchmark scores to put one to sleep. On the other hand, we are quite interested in these settings and would like to gather some more details about them for a possible follow-up piece demonstrating some of the advantages of these options.
With that said, why don't we go ahead and get things started with a little overclocking...shall we?
Sandra 2002 Pro