Before we get to
installing the P4X400 DRAGON Ultra, let's take a tour
around the board and see if Soyo put as much thought
into the layout as they did into the aesthetics...
Quality and Setup of the Soyo P4X400 DRAGON
Looks and Substance...
There are a lot of things
to like with regards to the P4X400 DRAGON's layout.
This board is equipped with 5 purple PCI slots, and an
AGP Pro slot, which should offer plenty of expansion
possibilities considering all of the on-board features
already included (Realtek 10/100 LAN, C-Media 6
Channel Audio and High-Point 372 IDE RAID). The
I/O backplane is similar to many other motherboards,
with the exception of the on-board LAN connector,
which is becoming increasingly popular. At the
lower right corner of the board, you can see the color
coded USB 2.0 connectors, and the case headers, which
are all clearly labeled. The silver PCB, besides
looking really cool, makes reading the silk-screened
labels extremely easy. All of the drive
connectors, and the ATX power connector are mounted
parallel to the edge of the board, just behind the
three DIMMs slots. The only hitches were the
placement of the ATX12V power connector, and the
standard Molex connector located next to the AGP Pro
slot. We would have liked to have seen them in a
cluster at the edge of the board rather than their
The Northbridge was
actively cooled by a chrome, finned aluminum heatsink
/ fan combo, which is something we always like to see.
Unfortunately, when we removed the cooler, we found
that Soyo installed a tiny square of thermal tape to
act as the TIM (Thermal Interface Material) between
the heatsink and core. A smooth, even
application of thermal paste would have been a much
There is ample room around
the CPU socket for oversized coolers, and the board is
equipped with a three-phase power circuit in the
voltage regulator module (VRM), which should be
adequate for 3GHz+ Pentium 4s. An interesting
find was the "X" shaped aluminum plate mounted
underneath the CPU socket. If you've even seen a
board warp after installing a cooler on a P4, you know
that reinforcing the socket is a great idea.
Kudos to Soyo going the extra mile, we hope other
manufactures will follow suit...
The BIOS installed on the
Soyo P4X400 DRAGON Ultra Platinum is a Phoenix / Award
derivative, similar to most of the motherboards
currently shipping. Soyo's BIOS programmers
definitely turned things up a notch in the feature
department though. The P4X400 DRAGON's BIOS was
very complete, giving user's the ability to enable or
disable all of the on-board components and offering a
host of overclocking options...
The "Soyo Combo Feature"
is reminiscent of Abit's SoftMenu III. From
within the Soyo Combo Feature menu, you'll find all of
the overclocking utilities, RAM timing controls and
toggles for some of the on-board components.
From within the P4X400 DRAGON's BIOS, user's can
adjust the Front Side Bus (FSB) from 133MHz to 165MHz,
in 1MHz increments. VCore, DDR and AGP voltages
can also be altered. The VCore can be raised up
to 1.85v, in .025v increments. Available AGP
voltages range from 1.5v to 1.8v, and available DDR
voltages range from 2.5v to 2.8v. User's can
also manually select either DDR266, DDR333 or DDR400
memory speeds. About the only overclocking
feature missing is the ability to lock the AGP and PCI
BUS speeds. With all of these options, you'd
think the P4X400 DRAGON would be an overclocker's
dream, but we didn't have to much luck.
We used a P4 2.8GHz,
that had previously overclocked to a stable 3.15GHz
to test the P4X400 DRAGON's overclocking prowess.
Unfortunately, even with the VCore maxed at 1.85v, the
maximum stable overclock we were able to obtain was
2.98GHz. We then tested three different sticks
of RAM (GEiL PC3500P, Corsair PC3200C2 and Kingston
DDR400), but were never able to stabilize the system
at anything over 2.98GHz (21x142MHz). While
we're on the subject of RAM, we'll bring up the next
gripe we had with the P4X400 DRAGON. We could
not run the memory at DDR400 speeds with any of the
DIMMs we had in the lab. With the GEiL and
Corsair modules, the system would not even POST when
set to DDR400, and with the Kingston module, the
system would constantly reset after POSTing.