ASUS SK8V Motherboard
Think K8V Deluxe with a different socket
Armed with the
knowledge that AMD's Socket 940 interface won't be around
long, you might find it curious that ASUS decided to
manufacture more than one corresponding motherboard.
The SK8N, which emerged alongside the Athlon 64 FX-51 is
capable enough, after all. However, as it turned out,
VIA's K8T800 chipset is more feature-complete than the
nForce3 Pro, fully lending itself to the enthusiast market.
The K8V Deluxe was the first incarnation of ASUS' K8T800
implementation, but it is intended exclusively for Socket
754 processors. ASUS simply adapted the design of its
K8V Deluxe to accommodate a complicated 940-pin interface
and dual-channel memory bus to yield the SK8V.
Of course, the
board's 940-pin socket is its most visible feature,
supporting Athlon 64 FX and Opteron 100 series processors.
The heatsink retention mechanism used to conjoin processor
and cooling solution comes pre-installed, easing setup
immensely. In fact, even though the Athlon 64 FX is
complicated and its complementary heatsink heavy, the two
can be put together without any tools. There are four
184-pin memory slots right next to the processor interface.
Each one is color-coded to avoid confusion pertaining to
dual-channel operation. Unfortunately, the board's
instruction manual isn't quite as clear, mentioning the
registered module requirement only once in passing. Thus,
remember to purchase a pair of registered DDR400
modules if you're looking to extract the highest level of
performance from an Athlon 64 FX platform.
the K8V Deluxe for dual-channel operation, ASUS was forced
to move the power connector from the board's right side to
its top, where the 12V auxiliary power receptacle formerly
resided. Fortunately, both power connectors are still
oriented to avoid obstructing airflow around the processor.
The K8T800 North Bridge is covered by a small, passive
heatsink. But because it isn't responsible for memory
traffic, it merely runs warm to the touch.
Nevertheless, ASUS applies thermal grease between the
heatsink and North Bridge to facilitate efficient heat
VT8237 South Bridge doesn't require any sort of cooling, as
it doesn't generate much heat at all. VIA's South
Bridge technology is actually part of what sets the K8T800
apart from its primary competition. Complete with
integrated Serial ATA support, provisions for an advanced
audio subsystem, and plenty of peripheral connectivity, it
allows ASUS to enable more integrated features without
having to pay for discrete components. Eight USB 2.0
ports are natively supported and exposed through four
onboard and four external connectors. Further, the
South Bridge features a pair of Serial ATA connectors that
feature RAID 0 and RAID 1 support. ASUS bundles two
data cables and a power extension in the SK8V packaging.
chipset's integrated feature set, ASUS adds Gigabit
Ethernet, its own interpretation of onboard audio, a
Firewire controller, and additional Serial ATA connectivity.
The 3COM/Marvell 10/100/1000 controller is more than
sufficient for home users. It sits on the PCI bus,
meaning it shares bandwidth with the other devices
communicating through the North Bridge and suggests the
potential for light congestion over VIA's V-Link path, but
it's a highly unlikely scenario no matter how many
peripherals you've connected.
there is only one chip in the Athlon 64 FX family and five
potential candidates in the Opteron lineup, the SK8V's box
cover proclaims, "Feel the true power of AMD Athlon 64 FX."
Clearly, ASUS is gunning for gamers with the SK8V.
Considering the number of options for high-quality onboard
audio introduced by VIA's VT8237 South Bridge, it's a shame
that manufacturers continue to employ shoddy sound circuits
while advertising their six-channel onboard audio solutions.
The SK8V boasts an ADI1985 AC'97 codec with six-channel
output, yet it suffers a distracting hiss. We used
Sennheiser's MX 500 earbuds to test; undoubtedly, a more
high-end headphone or speaker system would amplify the
distortion. Count on buying a discrete sound card if
you opt for the SK8V.
Firewire controller supports a pair of IEEE 1394 ports, one
of which is on the board's back panel, while another is
available through an included header. Alternatively,
you can connect the designated pins to a front-panel
connector if your case sports an I/O cluster for easy
Promise PDC20378 controller contributes two Serial ATA ports
beyond those offered by VIA's VT8237 South Bridge, along
with a single ATA/133 connector. Enabling RAID 0 or 1
support is easy enough through the two Serial ATA
connectors; however, setting up a RAID 0+1 array demands a
pair of SATA drives and two PATA drives plugged into the
In order to
further differentiate the SK8V from its competitors, ASUS
includes several proprietary features on top of the standard
hardware package. The ASUS Wi-Fi slot is one example,
providing support for an add-in 802.11b card (available for
about $25 online). It supports 802.11g as well, so
when ASUS unveils an updated version of the card, it can
purportedly be swapped in without issue. "AI NET", another
one of ASUS' touted add-ins, is a marketing term for the
3COM Gigabit Ethernet controller and its accompanying
software package that can detect cable faults, similar to a
Fluke 620 LAN CableMeter. Similarly, the "AI AUDIO"
feature intelligently detects devices plugged into the 1/8"
motherboards like the SK8V beg for a flexible BIOS to help
unleash maximum performance. And while ASUS comes up
strong with its AMI implementation, the platform itself
isn't necessarily receptive to enthusiastic manipulation.
Of course, it includes all of the standard switches for
enabling and disabling onboard devices, not to mention AGP
and HyperTransport configuration screens. There
are a limited number of options for improving memory
performance, though registered memory modules are best left
to run at their programmed timings. ASUS does include
an option for enabling three levels of Turbo performance,
but none seemed to boot properly.
monitoring screen keeps tabs on two temperatures, two fan
speeds, and four voltage settings, in addition to enabling
ASUS' Q-Fan feature.
Though it doesn't offer a
wide range of overclocking options, the SK8V features
fundamental BIOS tweaks like system frequencies up to 300MHz
in 1MHz increments. It also has minor voltage
adjustments, including a 150mV VCORE offset, up to 2.8V DDR
voltage, 1.7V AGP voltage, and 2.6V V-Link voltage.
Both the VIA and Promise
Serial ATA BIOS configurations were easy to set up as well.
They are also both thoroughly documented in the instruction
manual, so if you have any problems, check there first.
Overclocking the SK8V
The Athlon 64 FX
is supposed to be AMD's ode to overclocking, complete with
an unlocked clock multiplier (there isn't much risk of
unsanctioned remarking on a limited edition, $700+
processor, now, is there?). Unfortunately, the first run of
review samples were shipped with locked multipliers, and it
isn't possible to overclock them by any means other than
conventional system bus manipulation. With that being
said, Socket 940 motherboards don't respond well to bus
advancements, as they concurrently alter the operating
frequency of the HyperTransport and memory buses.
Using a 209MHz
bus frequency and maximized voltages, we were able to hit
2.3GHz with our Athlon 64 FX-51. Because the sample
came from AMD prior to the processor's launch, it wouldn't
accept clock multiplier adjustments, making it impossible to
gauge the platform's overclocking alacrity. We've hit
2.4GHz with the same processor using ASUS' SK8N, though, so
expect a retail Athlon 64 FX-51 to hit a similar range using
a 13x multiplier.
increase in operating frequency yielded less than two
percent additional performance in the Unreal Tournament 2003
Demo and a little more than two percent in 3D Mark03's
Sandra 2004 and SysMark 2004