| || |
| Quality and Setup of the Shuttle AK35GT2/R Motherboard |
| Looks Familiar... |
The layout of the AK35GT2/R is virtually identical to its predecessor, the AK35GTR, which we reviewed back in February. Back then we covered a lot of the physical aspects of the board, but we'll still touch on some of the more common features here. Unless we were to pull the heat sink off of the Northbridge of the two motherboards, exposing the different chipsets, it's almost impossible to tell the two apart. The only major change on the surface is the lack of active cooling on the chipset. This time around, the Northbridge comes with a standard heat sink and nothing more. We're curious to see if the use of an ordinary heat sink will play a major role when it comes to overclocking this board. Back when we reviewed the original KT266A model, the system overclocked exceptionally well with its active cooling. We'll get to overclocking in a moment.
The layout of the board also remains unchanged, with intelligent component placement and ample elbow room between the major parts. Shuttle allowed for adding an oversized heat sink to the CPU, leaving an excellent amount of free space around the socket, Although it isn't a major strike against it, the AGP slot is positioned a bit too close to the DIMM slots, requiring the removal of the video card if the RAM needs to be removed. The retention clips can open slightly, but full clearance is most desirable. The AK35GT2/R comes with 6 PCI and 1 AGP slot which allows for maximum expandability. In fact, I find it difficult to think of enough components to fill all of the slots. The ATX power connector isn't in our favorite location, yet, it does favor the edge of the board enough that the ATX power cables won't drape over the CPU. An ample amount of capacitors and coils are located in close proximity to the CPU socket and DIMMS to insure that steady current is provided to these critical components.
The ATX connectors are the standard fare seen on so many motherboards these days. The AK35GT2/R comes with 2 PS/2, 2 USB, and 2 Serial ports as well as a parallel port, game-port and audio connectors. The systems supports 5.1 speakers as well as CD3X positional audio, in 6 CH speaker mode, thanks to the on-board C-Media CM8738 codec. One of the major highlights of the system is the inclusion of the High Point HPT372 RAID controller chip that supports ATA133. Although it isn't a standard yet, I think it is safe to assume that ATA133 will grow in popularity and it is good to know that if you purchase the AK35GT2/R, it will be able to grow with you.
Although this isn't one of those flashy motherboards with the high end price tags, it has a lot of the key components that make it a real contender in the performance market. When we get to the benchmarking section, not only will we compare the AK35GT2/R to a KT266A motherboard, we'll run it against a competitors top-of-the-line KT333 motherboard and see if the Shuttle board can hold its own. But first, let's take a look at the BIOS and see what ties all this goodness together.
The BIOS of the Shuttle AK35GT2/R Motherboard:
Like its older brother, the AK35GT2/R come with the popular Award BIOS v6.00. This a well equipped model of the well-known chip, offering an excellent arrangement of performance settings. In particular, I'd like to focus on some of the features that really let the user tweak their system for the best possible performance. To start off, the BIOS allows for bus speeds from 100MHz. up to 200MHz in 1MHz. increments., a range that is more than adequate for overclocking a system. For you folks running unlocked processors, you'll find that the BIOS Multiplier can be set from 5X to 14X and the CPU core voltage setting ranges from +0.025V ~ +0.20V topping out at 1.85V. The DDR voltage control can bet set for 2.5, 2.6 & 2.7V.
As usual, we're pleased to find the "CPU Warning Temperature" and "Shutdown Temperature" settings under the PC Health Status Screen. All of us here are big fans of overclocking our rigs, squeezing them for everything they are worth. Nonetheless, it kills us when a reader writes in that they damaged their board or cooked their CPU. Enabling these settings can only help in insuring that the less experienced overclocker stays out of too much trouble. The screen also provides insight on how voltage is being supplied to each key component as well as monitoring system temperatures and fan speeds.
The HH Test Machine, Overclocking & Sandra 2002 Pro