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| Quality and Setup of the ABIT SR7-8X Motherboard |
| Looking Good... |
The ABIT SR7-8X Motherboard:
The SR7-8X may appear rather ordinary at first glance, but once we got up close and personal, we found it to be quite a capable motherboard. The board comes standard with 5 PCI slots, offering plenty of room for expansion, although 6 is always preferable. However, with the LAN and Audio integrated into the board, the likelihood that one would miss the sixth slot would be minimal. We were pleased to see that not only did the AGP slot have a hinged retention clip to keep the video card firmly seated, Abit was able to position the AGP and DIMM slots so the video card would not prohibit easy installation and upgrading of the system memory. It is important to note that the SR7-8X supports up to AGP 8X to accommodate the latest features of the newest video cards on the market today.
The SR7-8X comes equipped with integrated AC97 compliant 2-channel audio that should suffice for the average user. If high end audio is something you desire, it would be best to either get a motherboard with 6-Channel audio or pick up a quality audio card instead. The system comes with 2 USB ports off the back of the board and four more can be made available with a D-Bracket connected to the USB headers on the motherboard. The one thing that is different than other systems this reviewer has seen is that all of the USB ports on the board are capable of USB 2. Typically we've seen the ports divided, where the onboard would be USB 1.1 compliant and the USB 2.0 could be accessed with additional hardware connected to a header on the board.
There are an ample combination of MOSFETS, coils and capacitors located around the power supply connectors to help regulate and stabilize the current being supplied to the system. We were not thrilled with the positioning of the ATX power supply connectors on the SR7-8X. With the large stock cooling included with our Pentium 4 and the ATX and ATX1 connector placement being at the furthest reaches of the power supply cable, it was difficult to route the cables so that they would not hinder proper airflow across the chip. We were able to do it, but we still feel that the layout was less than ideal.
The system board comes with a total of three DIMM slots capable of a maximum 2GBs of PC2700 system memory or 3GBs of PC2100 (Up to 1GB per slot). We were happy to see the IDE connectors placed in a manner that made it easy to keep the ribbon cables tidy and out of the airflow path. The floppy connector lies in the vicinity where some system cases would have a lower intake fan, yet it is positioned perpendicular to the airflow, minimizing any impact it may have. The Northbridge came with a heat sink held in place with retention pins. When removed, we found a thin, even layer of thermal grease applied to the chipset that covered the chip completely...a nice touch. The system also came with 3 fan headers for CPU cooling and two additional fans, however we feel that 4 headers should be the minimum with any system. The unit has a power LED mounted on the board to remind the user that power is being supplied to the system. The LED was positioned close to the BIOS battery and reset jumper, making it difficult to miss when one goes in to clear the BIOS.
Speaking of the BIOS, lets see what ties all this goodness together.
One of the key components that sets Abit apart from the rest of the motherboard manufacturers is its BIOS. Abit has a reputation for giving the user the most choices for configuring, optimizing and overclocking a system. When it comes to the BIOS, it's difficult to think of another manufacturer that comes close to what Abit has to offer. The SR7-8X carries on that tradition with a BIOS that has more options than most users could ever wish for.
The majority of key settings can be accessed from one location, the SoftMenu III Setup screen. Within this screen the FSB can be adjusted ranging from 100-200MHz., while the CPU/FSB/DRAM/AGP/PCI Ratio can be adjusted in a wide variety to reach the optimal setup for the system. Through this ratio setting, the memory can be configured to run at conservative settings as well as 166 and 200MHz. (333 and 400MHz. DDR). The AGP and PCI settings can be handled by the CPU/FSB/DRAM/AGP/PCI Ratio or it can be locked at the speed of your choice, independent of the ratio setting. The AGP clock can be set from 66-100MHz. in increments of 1 MHz. VCore and Vddr voltage can also be adjusted from within the SoftMenu III Setup screen.
The next most versatile screen was the Advanced DRAM Control window. The system is equipped to set a number of advanced memory settings that help to maximize system performance, whether at default speeds or while overclocking. There are 5 preset Timing Setting Modes to configure the memory settings in a single click. The settings range from Safe, Normal, Fast, Turbo and Ultra. If you prefer to key in each value on your own, this can be set form Manual and each setting can be set at your discretion.
Overclocking and Sandra 2002 Pro