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| Quality and Setup of the Soyo KT333 Dragon Ultra Motherboard |
| Looking Good... |
The Soyo KT333 Dragon Ultra Motherboard:
When we first took the KT333 Dragon Ultra out of the package, its quality immediately got our attention. This board looks like a decent amount of thought went into its layout and appearance. With its black PCB and multi-colored components, the Dragon Ultra stands out among the rest, as a board that aims to be different. Let's take a closer look and see what this encouraging new board has to offer.
The Soyo KT333 Dragon Ultra comes with a clean layout, offering a lot of different features in a compact design. The board comes with 3 DIMMS which can support up to 3 GB of DDR RAM. There is a hefty amount of capacitors in close proximity to the Socket and the ATX power connector, a good sign that this board should have decent stability. Two standard IDE connectors are located just behind the DIMMS, while two more are located near the Southbridge for the High-Point RAID controller. The system comes with a High-Point HPT372 chip, giving the motherboard full ATA133 capability on all channels. Two USB 2.0 compatible headers are mounted on the edge of the board. Unlike most other boards on the market, Soyo has placed green contoured sockets over the headers, which help assure that the cabling is plugged in properly.
The motherboard comes equipped with 1 AGP and 5 PCI slots. Although we always like to see the maximum amount of slots possible, this is a very minor issue, especially if the on-board audio is utilized. Once the expansion audio adapter is installed, one slot would have to be sacrificed anyway, so the lack of a 6th slot seems to be a logical decision. Adjacent to the AGP slot is an ATX12V connector for providing addition power to an AGP Pro card. Overall, the board's layout and features look pretty good. Nevertheless, we soon found a number of items that did trouble us.
For starters, we found that the capacitors located next to the CPU socket were a bit close for comfort. Using a GlobalWin FOP38 HSF, we felt a little cramped when trying to mount the retention clip. If a larger HSF is planned, we suspect that the capacitors could pose a problem. It was also disappointing to see that there was no retention device on the AGP slot, a must in this Tech Writer's opinion. Lastly, we were very surprised to find the complete lack of any thermal tape, grease or pad between the Northbridge and active cooling package. This should have very little affect on the performance of the board under normal conditions. However, if the effort is going to be made to offer a cooling solution for the Northbridge, that could help when overclocking, then it should be done right. This is one of those small details that can really take away from an otherwise impressive product.
The back panel connectors are evenly laid out and look very similar to a majority of motherboard on the market, the integrated RJ-45 LAN connector being the only variation. Aside from the RJ-45, 2 PS2, 2 USB 2.0, 2 Serial and 1 LPT connectors are mounted of the back of the board. A joystick connector and on-board audio connectors are also provided for using the on-board audio processors basic features.
The Phoenix - AwardBIOS v6.00PG:
When it comes to the BIOS of the Soyo KT333 Dragon Ultra, this board comes well-equipped. Soyo has customized the Phoenix Award BIOS, implementing their popular "Soyo COMBO Feature." This screen has incorporated all of the critical settings most commonly adjusted into one screen. Essentially, when the system is first booted, the Optimized Defaults could be loaded and then the rest of the board could be tweaked from within the COMBO screen.
The system bus speed can be adjusted in 1MHz. increments ranging from 133MHz. to 255MHz. The CPU multiplier can be set from 6x - 14x, while the DRAM clock can be set for 133MHz. (266MHz. DDR), 166MHz. (333MHz. DDR), or By SPD. The CPU Core Voltage adjustments range from 1.100V - 1.850V and the DDR(2.5) Voltage can be set for 2.6, 2.7, or 2.8V. The AGP(1.5) Voltage can also be adjusted from either 1.6, 1.7, or 1.8V. When we accessed the Advance Tune-Up Settings to configure the finer settings of the memory, we did notice one difference with the Soyo KT333 Dragon Ultra that we had not noticed with other KT333 motherboards. The Active to Precharge (Tras) setting can be adjusted to either 6T or 7T, while virtually any other board we've seen in the past has a 5T/6T setting. We'll cover the performance of the system a little later on and see if the memory scores are impeded by the more conservative choices.
The PC Monitor screen is where all of the critical system voltages and temperatures can be monitored to insure that everything is running properly. There is a setting available to shutdown the system if the CPU fan malfunctions, but there is no high temperature setting available. The high temperature setting is something we like to see in an overclockable motherboard, helping to prevent the novice from doing any damage to their system. The fan setting is useful, however, some users may find it to be a nuisance if they have a cooler that recommends connecting it to the power supply rather than a fan-header on the board.
In general, we found the BIOS of the Soyo KT333 Dragon Ultra to be quite robust with its features. Needless to say, we are eager to get cranking and see what this motherboard could do on the track. So let's get started!
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