Athlon64 Motherboard TripleThreat

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The Athlon64 TripleThreat - Page 3




 

By Jeff Bouton
October 26, 2003

Specifications & Features of the Shuttle AN50R
Tapping into the power of the HyperPath

Processor Support:
AMD Athlon 64 Socket 754 CPU

Chipset:
Nvidia nForce3 150 North Bridge with HyperTransport Technology Support

FSB:
CPU up to 1600MHz FSB

Memory:
(3) 184-pin Single-Channel DDR 200/266/333/400 DIMM slots, max 3GB

AGP:
AGP V3.0 4X/8X with 533MHz high bandwidth mode set

Audio:
6-Channel

Bios:
Award PnP BIOS stored in 4MB Flash Memory

Form Factor:
ATX Form Factor (305x245 mm)

IDE:
ATA 100/133

Serial ATA:
Silicon Image 3112 2 ports

RAID:
Silicon Image 3112 Serial ATA Raid (0,1)
Firewire 400:
VIA 6306 built-in 3 ports

Networking:
Gigabit LAN

PCI:
(5) 32-bit slots

Back Panel I/O:
1x Serial Port
1x Parallel Port
1x PS/2 Keyboard Port
1x PS/2 Mouse Port
1x Firewire 400 Port
4x USB 2.0 Ports
1x SPDIF-out Port
1x Line-in
1x Line-out
1x Mic


Onboard I/O:
1 Floppy
1 Set of 2x5-pin Front Panel USB Headers
2 Sets of Firewire 400 header
IRDA Header
Front Audio Header
SPDIF-In Header
Center / Bass Header
Clear CMOS Jumper
Shuttle-Type Front Panel Header


The Shuttle AN50R Motherboard:

The AN50R is built around nVidia's nForce3 150 Chipset and packs a fair amount of features.  The system is put together on a sharp looking blue PCB, but lacks some of the contrast of the two previous boards.  The board's layout is very nice overall, each component keeping its distance from its neighbors as to not get in the way.  The IDE and Floppy connections are neatly lined up on the back edge of the board, adjacent to the 3 DIMM slots.   The chipset supports a total of 3GBs of DDR400 RAM.  The nForce 3 consolidates the Northbridge and Southbridge into a single chip.  This streamlined process takes a complete component out of the mix and should have a positive effect on overall latency, since data has fewer physical components to travel through.

Next to the IDE/Floppy connectors is the ATX power connector, which is in an ideal location to avoid its wires becoming an issue with the CPU cooler's airflow.  The case connections on the opposite side of the board are clearly labeled so you won't need to be fumbling with a User's Manual to get the system connected properly.  All of the boards headers are conveniently lined up at the edge of the board and are colored and labeled in a way that make them easily distinguishable from each other.  The board is equipped with one USB 2.0 header followed by two SATA ports that are powered by a Silcon Image 3112A Chipset, supporting Raid 0 & Raid 1.  Above that, integrated audio CD_IN and S/PDIF headers are located, followed by two IEEE1394 and remaining audio headers utilized by the additional expansion brackets (not included).  This is unfortunate since this hardware is needed to take full advantage of the system's 6 channel on-board audio, which is powered by a RealTek ALC650 codec.

As we move to the rear of the board, we find all of the on-board component's inputs/outputs.  Along with legacy support for PS/2 and Serial/LPT connections, Shuttle added an optical output for the on-board audio where the second Serial port would normally be.  To the right of that lies a standard FireWire port followed by duplicate headers comprised of 2 USB 2.0 ports topped by one RJ-45 Gb LAN port.  As we move to the right, the onboard audio ports provide standard Line-In, Line-Out and Microphone connections.  Clearly there is plenty of room next to the standard audio ports to include a second array of ports for the full use of the audio capabilities, but instead Shuttle opted to rely on a header and expansion bracket for center channel and subwoofer support.


The BIOS:

As far as the BIOS is concerned, Shuttle has equipped the AN50R quite nicely.  We were particularly impressed with the Advanced Chipset Features page which offered an excellent collection of settings for overclocking coupled with the Frequency/Voltage Control page.  The CPU Overclock setting was a bit more realistic than the other two boards with a range from 200-250MHz.  An individual AGP setting was also available that let us adjust the setting from 66-100MHz.  The PC Health Status screen gave us a clear, detailed look at the status of all of the system's voltages, temperatures and fan speeds.  If desired the system can be configured to shutdown if the temperature of the CPU increases beyond a certain level.  The setting can range from 60°, 65° to 70° C.

The Memory Configuration page gives access to a Max Memclock setting which allows for the system memory to be locked at 100, 133, 166 and 200MHz (Pre-DDR).  The Frequency/Voltage Control page contained the various voltage settings for each of the system's main components.

The CPU Voltage setting tops out at an ample 1.7v and the RAM can be configured for 2.7v, 2.8v & 2.9v.  The AGP can be set for voltages ranging from 1.6, 1.7 and 1.8v while the Chipset can be set from 1.7v, 1.8 & 1.9v.  Based on what we've seen, the nForce 3 system is well equipped for performance tweaking.  As we've seen with the previous two boards, our Athlon 64's limits are fairly predictable.  Let's take a look and see if the chipset makes a difference.
 

Overclocking with the Shuttle AN50R
Performance and Stability - a great combination

When it came to overclocking the AN50R, our experience was a little different than the previous two boards.  While we were able to reach the same heights with CPU speed, this system needed a little more tinkering than the others.  To start off, we could not hit these speeds without dropping the memory down to DDR333 and increasing the voltage to 2.8v.  Once we did this, the system ran fine.  Even with the decrease in memory bandwidth, we found the performance to be equivalent to that of the other two boards with several gaming tests, but they were CPU dependant tests.  Nonetheless, the results were good and no major errors were encountered.

CPU @ 2GHz
CPU OVERCLOCKED @ 2.18GHz

Now that we have a good idea what each product has to offer, we'll focus on performance testing to see how the three stack up.  Keep in mind that even though the Athlon 64 supports 64-Bit computing, the 64-Bit version of Windows XP is not yet available to the public, so all tests are run at 32-Bit
.


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