Asus A7V333 Motherboard

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The Asus A7V333 Motherboard - Page 2

The Asus A7V333 KT333 Motherboard
Asus Perfects The VIA Flagship Athlon Line

By, Robert Maloney
August 13, 2002

Quality and Setup of the Asus A7V333
A whole lot going on under the hood

The A7V333 is chock full of connectors, chips, and yes, even jumpers for overclockers who want to set things up on the board rather than use the BIOS.  Sometimes this can be preferred because if a setting is incorrect, simply resetting the jumpers can provide a quick fix for a system that will no longer boot.

   

In the first corner of the board, we have the AGP slot and five PCI slots. Placed on the edge of the board just past the 5th PCI slot, are the CD and Aux-In audio connectors. Along the edge of the board are the connections for the Game Port and Smart Card reader, and the floppy drive connector lies just past the PCI slots.

On the AGP slot, you can notice a small, yellow warning sticker. This warning mentions that only AGP Pro (1.5V) cards are supported, and we needed to remove a safety tab before installing. Personally, I think the sticker should have sufficed, as it took me a few minutes to get the tab out of the AGP slot. I also would have liked to see a retention clip for the AGP card to prevent the card from creeping out, a problem which I encountered when first running some benchmarks. Although the GF4 card was in just enough to run Windows, whenver I launched a graphics intensive program such as Quake 3 Arena, the machine would simply lock up. It took some re-imaging of the system, and installing and reinstalling drivers before I realized that the back end of the card was sticking ever so slightly. Finally, just past the AGP slot were the firewire connection pins and extra fan headers.

In all three of the pictures you can see the light blue box of switches, which can be used to manually set the speed for the front side bus. While some overclockers may prefer to make manual adjustments, I would just as soon use the BIOS settings, as they include more fine-tuning options than what can be done here. You can also get a glance at the VT8233A Southbridge, connections for the switches, plus a number of jumpers. All total, there are more than 20 separate jumpers that can be used to enable or disable certain hardware components on the board. Again, I find it easier to use the settings in the BIOS rather than take out the manual and hunt down each jumper to disable a component.

Placed in the other corner you can also find the connectors for a Secure Digital memory card or Memory Stick reader, an additional USB 1.1 header for 2 more ports, and a header for Asus IPanel owners, which is an optional drive bay with front I/O ports and system LEDs.

   

On the other end of the board, you can see the CPU sockert, KT333 Northbridge, and three DDR DIMM slots, supporting up to 3GB of memory. The orientation of the CPU socket is such that the larger heatsinks can be installed without getting blocked by the power supply, a problem that I ran into with my MSI K7T266 Pro 2-RU motherboard. There also weren?t any nearby capacitors to interfere with the heatsink/fan as well. This was really good planning by Asus, and saves the user some frustration when installing the larger HSFs that Athlons require.

There is a large, passive heatsink over the Northbridge that is held down by two clips. It might have been nice to see a fan on the heatsink, but this will do for now. What seems to be common these days is the proximity of the 3 DIMM slots to the AGP slot. What this means is that to switch out the RAM, one has to remove the AGP card first. While this isn?t a huge problem, I still can?t see why manufacturers can?t move them just a bit further away from each other.

Finally we come upon the ATX connection and the IDE ports. The two closest to the power connection are standard IDE ports each supporting two Ultra DMA 133/100/66 devices. The other two are used for the Promise RAID array, and can be used to support up to 4 more drives if need be. Having the ATX and IDE drive connections all at the far end of the board is another good layout choice as it keeps all of the cables away from the CPU and HSF, allowing for better airflow. Hidden close to here is the speech controller, seen as the small DIP with the white sticker in the third picture. This is what controls the POST Reporter and can be enabled or disabled by the nearby jumper.

THE BIOS:

     

     

The BIOS for the A7V333 is a CPU enthusiast?s delight. The main screen is the usual fare where you can set the time, date, and define the drives. Clicking on Advanced brings up all of the settings for the CPU and RAM timings, as well as the voltage settings. A lot of these can be left to auto for now, but we?ll get back to them in just a few seconds. Scrolling down to the Chip Configuration option, it brings us to the individual CAS and RAS settings for the RAM, and AGP settings, such as the aperture size. Down further on this page were a number of settings such as ?S2K Strobe Control? and ?DQS Driving Strength?. While I am all for options in the BIOS to let me fine tune my machine, it would be nice if these are explained somewhere. The manual does nothing but a brief mention of the option and choices available, but fails to mention what they actually do. The final two options available are the Boot sequence, where you can alter the boot sequence for up to four choices, and the Hardware Monitor, which displays listings of the CPU and motherboard temperatures, the voltage lines coming in, and the fan speeds where applicable.

 

Back to the CPU and RAM timings, the BIOS lets you fine tune the FSB in +1 increments all the way up to 227MHz, which is by far more than necessary, but nice to have all the same. Alongside, you can see the breakdown of the PCI bus relative to the new FSB setting. There is also a full selection of CPU multipliers to choose from. We normally would prefer to use an ?unlocked? CPU for overclocking, so that we could adjust the multiplier instead of the bus speed, and therefore isolate and failed overclock speeds to either the CPU or motherboard. The AMD AthlonXP 1800+ CPU I used, however, was a retail version, so I had to settle for raising the bus speeds only, which could cause other components to interfere with the tests. I found that I could get to 143MHz by stepping up 1Mhz at a time and then testing the system by running benchmarks using Quake 3 and 3DMark. While I could get Windows to boot up correctly, Quake would crash back to the desktop, washing-out the screen colors in the process. 3DMark would not even launch at all, and eventually the system would just lock up. Given Asus? reputation for overclocking, I was hoping for better results than these.

Overclocking & Some Numbers

 
Tags:  Asus, Motherboard, board, A7, AR, V3

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