At fist glance, the
K7TPro 266's BIOS may seem familiar...but take a closer
look. This is not the Award BIOS that
we're all so familiar with, it's a similar looking
BIOS from American Megatrends (AMI). The
K7TPro 266's BIOS is powerful, giving users
complete control over virtually every setting needed to
tweak a system for maximum performance.
Memory tweaks are available, and a very
complete set of overclocking options are
in the "Hardware Monitor" section of the BIOS,
allowing for adjustments of CPU multiplier, Front
Side Bus (Up to 164MHz in 1MHz increments) and voltage. You'll see a little
later that this board was definitely "Overclocker
Layout and Installation
As we usually do
when a new product lands in our labs, we gave the
MSI K7T266 Pro a thorough physical inspection.
We found many things that we liked, and only a few that
MSI mounted a passive
heatsink on the Northbridge. Normally we
would like to see a heatsink of this type mounted
using spring clips, with thermal paste used as the
TIM (Thermal Interface Material), but because the
KT266 runs very cool, this simple heatsink mounted
with thermal tape should do just fine. To
the left is a shot of the VT8233 Southbridge.
Via has also introduced a new feature known as
V-Link with this new chipset. Via's new
V-Link technology offers more bandwidth for
communications between the North and Southbridge.
The K7T266 Pro is
outfitted with an AGP Pro slot, five PCI slots and
a CNR slot. We prefer a six PCI slot
configuration, but with a RAID controller already
integrated onto the motherboard, and with on-board
USB 2.0 soon to follow, we can't really hold much
against MSI for their decision. Also notice
the secondary power connector to the right of the
AGP Pro slot. This connector will supply a clean,
constant source of power, so when new power hungry
video cards are released that utilize this type of
slot, K7T266 Pro owners will be prepared.
You'll also see the audio-in connectors mounted
just below the CNR slot. While we like that
these connectors are placed in an easy to reach,
out of the way location, we don't like their
placement at this far corner of the board.
With the connectors in this spot, you'll have to
drape your CD-Audio cable over your CPU and
expansion cards. If you strive for a clean
"spaghetti free" case, this doesn't help.
The external case
connectors are standard fare, with the usual array
of USB, serial and parallel connections available.
There is a lot to see in the middle picture.
Here we can see the IDE-RAID connectors as well as
the on-board buzzer, which eliminates the need for
a case speaker...one less wire to connect to the
motherboard...we like that. Also notice the
clean silk screening that illustrates the position
of the case connectors. If you don't have
the manual handy when mounting this board, you'll
appreciate these clear illustrations. To the
right you can see the connectors for the two
external USB connectors. Also visible is the
spot where a USB 2.0 controller will be mounted in
a later board revision.
connector is located in an excellent position, out
of the way off all components. The DIMM
slots are clearly labeled, and with the on-board
IDE connectors placed behind them (not below then
as with many other boards) there should be no
ribbon cables in a position that will hinder
airflow over your RAM. The slots are a
little too close to the AGP slot though, making it
next to impossible to remove memory without first
removing your video card. Another feature
worth noting is Diagnostic LEDs (D-LED). A
row of LEDs will light up to help you diagnose
system errors. Very usefull if you're having
a problem and aren't sure which piece of hardware
is the culprit.
There is ample room
around the CPU socket, allowing for the use of an
over-sized cooler. It was a little bit
tight, but we were able to fit our WBK-38 onto
this board without a problem. As you can see
above, the K7T266 Pro is equipped with some very
large capacitors. We've mentioned this
before, but we'll say it again...a clean, constant
flow of power is essential for a stable system.
We're happy to report that the K7T266 Pro is just
that...STABLE. We've been torturing this
board for over a week and it is rock solid.
of the board went without a hitch. The
K7T266 Pro is a standard ATX board. As long
as you use proper stand-offs and screws, you won't
have any problem. You'll have to take a few
extra steps when installing your Operating System
though. Installation of the Promise RAID
controller's drivers, on-board sound drivers
(optional), Via 4-in-1s and USB PC-to-PC drivers
(optional is required.
Time For Some