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| Chaintech 7VJL Layout |
| Did I Mention Lots of Gold? |
The 7VJL is an average sized board, measuring 12" x 9." Given the space afforded, Chaintech did a very neat job of laying out each component. Seven 2200 microfarad electrolytic capacitors surround the Socket 462 interface, leaving plenty of room to install a heat sink. We also noticed that Chaintech implemented a three-phase power solution, indicated by the six MOSFET transistors mounted on the board. As AMD increases the frequency (and consequently power dissipation) of the Athlon XP, the robust power circuitry should ensure that the 7VJL remains reliable. Chaintech placed the ATX power connector on the upper right-hand portion of the board as to avoid obstructing airflow around the processor.
Most of the KT333 boards that have come through the lab utilize active cooling to ensure the North Bridge doesn't overheat. ABIT's KX7-333 and MSI's KT3 Ultra-ARU are two examples. Chaintech deviates from the heat sink/fan combination and includes an oversized, golden heat sink covered with a gaudy ring. The overall effect seems to be the same - the 7VJL was stable throughout testing. Even still, it would have at least been reassuring to see thermal paste between the heat sink and KT333 North Bridge.
Three 184-pin memory slots allow for up to 3GB of DDR memory in either PC1600, 2100, or 2700 flavors, depending on the budget. Of course, the memory slots are also colored an obligatory yellow to match the copious amount of gold.
In the midst of several "extras," the 7VJL doesn't include an onboard ATA-133 RAID controller. Many other high-end boards do, in fact, include RAID capabilities, so it is a little surprising that Chaintech wouldn't follow suit. Nevertheless, the VIA 8235 South Bridge accommodates up to four IDE devices conforming to the ATA-133 standard. USB 2.0 has also been added to the new South Bridge for up to 480Mbps of data transfer.
The back panel houses traditional PS/2 connectors for the mouse and keyboard along with two serial ports and a parallel printer port. VIA's VT6103 physical layer device delivers 10/100 Ethernet capabilities through the RJ-45 connector on the back panel. The C-Media CMI8738 audio processor drives the three analog outputs found on the back of the board. Two USB 2.0-compatible ports round off the motherboard's rear, which of course is blatantly gold.
The BIOS of the 7VJL Motherboard:
Chaintech is targeting enthusiasts with the 7VJL and has equipped the motherboard with a suitable BIOS to adjust a myriad of settings. In fact, an entire property sheet is dedicated to front side bus frequencies and voltages. With an Athlon XP installed, the board permits bus settings between 133 and 250MHz, in 1MHz increments. If DDR memory is inhibiting overclocking, voltage can be increased from 2.5v to 2.65, 2.8 or 2.95v. Similarly, the same voltages can be applied to the chipset itself. If the AGP device is at fault, voltages are adjustable from 1.5v to 1.65, 1.8 or 1.95v. Finally, processor voltage settings are available from 1.775 to 2v in .025v increments.
The most common memory settings are available for those who enjoy fine-tuning. Alternatively, select 'SPD' to allow the RAM module's Serial Presence Detect to automatically choose the settings. Integrated hardware monitoring keeps track of power supply voltages, two fan speeds and the processor temperature through a thermal diode. For some reason, few manufacturers have taken advantage of the diode built into the Athlon XP, including Chaintech.
There isn't much left to desire from the 7VJL's Award BIOS, however, it would be nice to see documented PCI and AGP dividers, especially in light of rumors that AMD will be manufacturing 333MHz front side bus processors. Performance enthusiasts will certainly want to explore the extra performance provided by increased bandwidth (which means the KT333 chipset would need to be overclocked).
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| Overclocking the 7VJL Motherboard |
| Front Side Bus Overclocking |
With so many voltage and memory BIOS settings, it takes a while to get the 7VJL tuned. The most aggressive way to overclock an Athlon is to unlock the processor, lower the chip's multiplier (via another BIOS setting) and increase the front side bus frequency. More commonly, though, front side bus settings alone are changed. You can imagine that overclocking becomes more difficult as the multiplier increases and each extra megahertz applied to the bus raises the final frequency by 11, 12, 13 or more megahertz. Our Athlon XP 2100+, with it's 13x multiplier, runs at 1.73GHz in stock form. Increasing the FSB to 140MHz yielded 1.82GHz, nearly 100 extra megahertz.
Sandra 2002 demonstrates a respectable gain after overclocking. However, during an actual "real world" performance benchmark, like Quake III, you'll only see a more modest 2.6 frame per second increase. Crank the resolution from 640x480 to 1024x768 and that difference will disappear.
If you'd prefer not to get your hands dirty in the BIOS, Chaintech offers its own Windows-based overclocking utility as well.
Sandra 2002, Quake III and 3D Mark 2001 SE