| Quality and Setup of the Shuttle AK35GTR Motherboard
Once out of the package, it was clear that this board was shaping up to be a winner. One of the first things to catch my eye was the excellent placement of the IDE connections. In previous RAID boards, the IDE connectors were placed just behind the DIMM slots, which created issues with smaller cases. More specifically, we've seen with other model motherboards where the IDE cables would get sandwiched against the hard drive frame, a situation that could invite problems such as vibrations or shorting. With its current design, the IDE cables are in a position where they share breathing space with the forward case fan. Keeping this in mind, the designers were careful to position the RAID IDE connectors perpendicular with the front of the case so they create little obstruction of the airflow.
The mother board comes equipped with an on-board High Point 372 IDE RAID Controller capable of ATA/133. This allows the hard drives to transfer a peak burst rate of 133MB per second with an ATA/133 capable drive. The single IDE connectors are also capable of the same ATA 100 standard, supporting a total of 2 drives per channel.
The AK35GTR comes with four 184-pin DIMM slots supporting up to 4GB of DDR SDRAM. We found the CPU socket to have an ample amount of room around it which allows for an oversized cooler without it interfering with surrounding components. Four holes are also added to the board which can be used to mount an oversized cooling package such as the Alpha 8045 with an 80MM fan. This should prove quite useful for the potential over clocker who dreams of pushing their new motherboard to its limits. The power connector placement is also mounted in such a way as we found it easy to route the power wires of our test machine clear of the heat sink and fan assembly.
The northbridge of the KT266A chipset came equipped with a heat sink and fan to help keep things cool under heavy load. We were particularly impressed to find that the cooler package was mounted with two spring clips allowing for easy removal in case the user wanted to apply some high quality thermal grease. When we removed the cooler, we were please to find that some form of thermal grease was used and was evenly distributed across the top of the chip.
The rear of the board look the same as virtually any other KT266A board on the market. Along with 2 PS/2, 2 USB, 2 Serial and one Parallel port, the motherboard offers on-board audio powered by a C-Media C3DX chip. This particular audio processor supports Direct 3D and Aurreal's A3D standard and is capable of out putting to 5.1 speakers as well as HRTF-3D positional audio in 6 speaker mode. Extra ports are included on the board for a CD-ROM audio connection and the audio cable provide in the packaging to allow for the use of a subwoofer.
Clearly the AK35GTR is a complete and balanced motherboard that is loaded with a plethora of great features. Next we'll take a look at the brainpower behind this creation and see what brings this board to life.
The BIOS of the Shuttle AK35GTR:
Like most other KT266A motherboards, the AK35GTR comes equipped with its own version of the Award 6.0 BIOS. This version is set up quite nicely with an excellent assortment of advanced settings. This was particularly evident with the DRAM Clock/Driving Control and Frequency Voltage screens, where the most options were available for balancing a systems performance. In the Frequency Voltage screen, the CPU clock setting topped out at 200MHz. while the CPU Ratio Select had a maximum setting of 15X. Although these are not the highest settings we've seen on an over clock friendly motherboard, they were more than adequate to get the job done effectively. If you were to install an 800MHz. processor into the AK35GTR, for example, and set the two settings to their maximum, if the processor could run it would be at 3000MHz. (3GHz.) (Please don't try this!) What these settings offer is the ability to find the "sweet-spot" that the board will run at while overclocked. We'll get into this a little later where you'll see just how good of an overcloker the AK35GTR can be.
As with most of the other KT266A based motherboards we've reviewed, the AK35GTR offers a PC Health Status screen. The screen displays the information being outputted by the Winbond Hardware Monitor chip mounted on the board near the PCI slots. I specifically like the CPU Temperature Warning and Shutdown Temperature settings that help keep the novice and expert over clocker out of trouble. Whether the chip exceeds acceptable temperatures from overclocking the system too high or due to a cpu fan failure, there is a good chance the system will shutdown before any serious damage occurs to the processor. On that note, let's take a look and see what happened when we started to turn up settings on this system.
Overclocking, Sandra 2002, Quake 3 and More!