Soyo's SYCK8 Dragon Plus Motherboard

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Soyo's SY-CK8 Dragon Plus Motherboard
A New Enthusiast Board for the Athlon 64

By: Jeff Bouton
January 29, 2004

The Soyo SY-CK8 Dragon Plus Motherboard
A Lot To Offer

The Board:

It is clear from looking at the packaging that this board is not targeted to the high-end enthusiast, but rather the more practical user that wants all the performance and none of the extraneous extras found with higher end models.  With the SY-CK8, performance and features are the main concerns here, along with some good looks.

The overall layout of the SY-CK8 was clean and well planned.  We didn't find a lot of component placement issues commonly reported with other boards, which was refreshing.  We really liked the positioning of the ATX power connector, allowing the cabling from the power supply to steer clear of the CPU.  The supplemental power to the CPU is nestled amongst the capacitors at the rear of the socket, also not having an effect on the CPU cooler's airflow.  3 DIMM slots are provided to accommodate up to 2GBs of DDR 266/333/400 memory. 

The board does come with a fair collection of hard drive options, including 2 SATA and 2 IDE connections.   The RAID controller is powered by the nforce3 150 chipset and supports both RAID 0 and RAID 1.  The Chipset is positioned close to the PCI slots and has a hefty heat sink attached for added heat dissipation.  This should aid in system stability, especially when overclocking the SY-CK8.

The board is equipped with an AGP 8X slot as well as 6 PCI slots for plenty of expandability.  Built with the nForce 3 150 at its core, the SY-CK8 offers up a fair amount of onboard components as well.  An additional USB header is provided to expand upon the boards 4 ports at the rear of the board.  The rear connections have a more traditional appearance, offering 2 serial and 1 LPT port, items considered legacy options that are starting to disappear from a lot of newer motherboards.  There are also the standard 2 PS/2 connections for mouse and keyboard as well at the aforementioned 4 USB ports.  Lastly we find the onboard 10/100 Ethernet port and Audio connectors.  One of the most obvious disadvantage to hamper the SY-CK8 is the inclusion of integrated 10/100 Ethernet.  Most motherboards today have moved to Gigabit as a standard item on their boards, yet the SY-CK8 doesn't offer a second controller capable of this.  While they can't do much about the integrated Ethernet whose speed is dictated by the chipset, Soyo could have opted to add a second controller to the board with Gigabit support.  With the focus being to offer a competitive and affordable Athlon 64 motherboard, it doesn't surprise us that 10/100 was included, but Gigabit would have been a nice touch.

The Bios:

Working behind the scenes to make sure all of the motherboard's components play nicely is the popular Phoenix/AwardBIOS.  While this motherboard is more conservative on the outside compared to higher-end models, underneath we found a capable BIOS menu system with a lot of the advanced features.  From a performance stand point, the board offers a good selection of options to maximize system performance whether running at stock speeds or while overclocked.

For example, the DRAM timings can be configured to run By SPD, where the board gets the settings from a programmed control chip on the RAM, or manually, allowing for custom settings of the CAS timings, memclock and more.  To aid users in overclocking their system, the Soyo Combo Feature holds the key to those options.  This is where the system clock generator can be adjusted, ranging from 200MHz to an optimistic 250MHz.  We also found the VCORE setting which allowed adjustments from .775v to 1.70v in .025 increments.  The DRAM could be set from 2.6, 2.7, 2.8 and 2.9v and the AGP voltage ranged from 1.5, 1.6, 1.7v and 1.8v.  The one thing you will notice is there is no control setting to adjust the "theoretical" multiplier.  AMD has taken a firm stance on this, locking all of their processor from the Athlon XP series up to the Athlon 64.  Only the Athlon 64 FX's multiplier setting will be adjustable from here on in.

Overclocking the Soyo SY-CK8 Dragon Plus Motherboard
Turning Up the MHz.

I think by now it is clear to everyone that overclocking the current batch of Athlon 64s is not a terribly exiting experience.  Typical results ran from a mere 10 to 20MHz increase of the clock generator at most.  But that isn't to say it isn't worth the effort, you just need to aim low and take baby steps.  With the SY-CK8, we managed to get up to a stable 216MHz, taking our 2GHz Athlon 64 3200+ up to 2.21GHz.  That's not all that bad, adding a 7.5% increase overall.  We managed to reach this without any voltage adjustments whatsoever, although there was minor flakiness once we booted into Windows.  To help stabilize the system we increased the voltage to our memory to 2.8v and gave a kick to the CPU as well, running it at 1.7v.  With that set, we had no trouble running our benchmarks as you will see in a moment.  Interestingly enough, 217MHz was very unstable, not even allowing us to boot into Windows.

Time For Sandra & Futuremark's Finest


Tags:  Motherboard, dragon, K8, board, AG, AR, K

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