Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/86



When Intel released the Pentium II on May 5th they already had a number of companies lined up to produce high quality and high performance motherboards. ASUS, with their close relationship to Intel, wasn't about to pass this opportunity up. The KN97-X is not only a very fast board, but it also has a superb combination of features complimented by rock hard stability. Although it only officially supports the 233 and 266MHz Pentium II processors, taking my 266 up to 300 was accomplished without a hitch. Unlike the earlier ASUS boards (T2P4, etc...) this one doesn't support any bus speeds greater than 66MHz even though there are two undocumented settings. Those two settings simply don't boot, however the lack of the 75 and 83.3MHz bus speed doesn't make this board a bad one. This is the 2nd fastest Pentium II board I have tested so far, taking a back seat to the Megatrends FX83-A which is simply an untamed monster.


Motherboard Specifications

Socket Style: Slot - 1
Chipset: i82440FX (NATOMA)
Cache: N/A (On Chip)
Form Factor: ATX
BUS Speeds: 60 / 66 MHz
Clock Multipliers: 2.5x / 3.0x / 3.5x / 4.0x / 4.5x / 5.0x / 5.5x
Voltages Supported: 1.5v - 3.5v (Auto Detect)
RAM Slots: 4 72pin SIMM Slots (EDO/FPM)
1 168pin DIMM Slot (EDO/FPM)
PCI/ISA Slots: 5 PCI Slots
3 ISA Slots (1 Shared / 3 Full Length)
BIOS: AWARD PnP BIOS
PCI EIDE Controller: Super I/O
2 EIDE Channels
1 FDD Channel
2 Serial /1 EPP

 


The Good

The first Pentium II board I ever got my hands on was the ASUS KN97-X, and I just need to say that it left a lasting impression on me. Like I mentioned before, the ASUS KN97-X is a very fast board. Under Windows NT and 95 it gives me some of the highest Winstone scores I have seen, taking a backseat only to the FX83-A. It is also the only Pentium II board I have seen that has a DIMM slot for EDO or FPM DRAM (no SDRAM support due to the limitations of the 440FX chipset). The layout of the board is near perfect, all cable connectors are out of the way of any secondary case fans, and the expansion slots are not obstructed by any component on the motherboard. The board itself is very elegantly designed which is common grounds for most of ASUS' motherboards as well as their peripherals. Even though it doesn't officially support the 300MHz Pentium II, the ASUS KN97-X works flawlessly at 300MHz. In my rigorous tests the KN97-X never crashed once, even during the heavy system burn in. The manual and CD-ROM that came packaged with the motherboard shows ASUS' attention to customer satisfaction. The manual is very beautifully organized and contains detailed step-by-step instructions for installing the motherboard, the Pentium II, and the massive heatsink. The manual also contains all the jumper settings and includes the settings for the higher clock multipliers (5.0x/5.5x/reserved). All of the jumpers are easily accessible on the motherboard due to the superb design from the user's perspective. The CD packaged with the board (yes it comes with a CD) contains v2.64 of the Intel Busmaster Drivers for this board, and although these are now outdated, they were included in the package for guaranteed flawless operation. In my experiences with the board, v2.85 of the Intel Busmaster Drivers works perfectly, however I've had nothing but trouble with the v3.00 drivers so I suggest staying away from them until Intel releases the new revision. The CD contains some artwork you might like, as well as the LAN-Desk manager which is very useful in Network configurations. Overall, the ASUS KN97-X is truly an excellent board, kudos to ASUS on a job well done.

The Bad

There are only a few cons that exist with the ASUS KN97-X motherboard, they are quite small but I need to mention them. The lack of 75 and 83.3MHz bus speeds is a con, but since there is only one board that satisfies this condition (FX83-A) I wouldn't really consider this a major con. The only real downside to this board I came across is its memory expansion capabilities. Although 64MB is enough for most people, whenever you have such a high performance processor as the Pentium II, memory often becomes a bottleneck. The KN97-X only supports a total of 384MB of system memory, due to its lack of SIMM slots (only 4 SIMM slots on the KN97-X when compared to 6 on the FX83-A and 8 on the Tyan Tahoe) so you are severely limited. If you want to use more than 64MB of RAM be sure to have some larger SIMMs on hand, since the 4 SIMM slots fill up quite quickly. Other than that, the KN97-X is an excellent board. One of my personal favorites.

 


IRQ Usage

The usage of IRQs is a very important factor when choosing and configuring any peripheral, including a motherboard. How the motherboard manages and uses IRQs is very important, and often causes conflicts with other peripherals. The KN97-X does not skimp in this area, the AWARD PnP BIOS included with the KN97-X allows the user to enable or disable the usage of IRQ12 for a PS/2 mouse if one is present. Also you can individually set the IRQs for each Legacy ISA card just in case some are present in your system. You have the option of manually setting an IRQ for your Video Card if you desire to do so. The KN97-X is truly a board for the tweaker, it allows you to configure each and every IRQ usage setting to the max. As with most boards, you can select which IRQ your Serial and Parallel Port(s) use which often comes in handy when you have devices such as modems, printers, and serial mice attached to your system. The board definitely does a great job of allow you to allocate IRQs in order prevent possible conflicts with other devices.

 


The Test

So, the KN97-X has dazzled you to the point at which you're about to head out and buy one. Lets take a quick look at this board's amazing performance as well as stability shall we?

Test Configuration

Processor(s): Intel Pentium II - 266 (512K)
BIOS Revision: Beta BIOS Revision
RAM: 2 - 32MB Micron 50ns EDO SIMMs
Hard Drive(s): Western Digital Caviar AC21600H (Win95)
Quantum XP34550W Ultra Wide SCSI 3 HDD (WinNT4)
Video Card: ATI 3D Xpression+ PC2TV (2MB SDRAM)
Matrox Millennium (2MB WRAM)
Busmaster EIDE Drivers: Intel v2.85
Video Card Drivers: ATI 4.02.2162
MGA Millennium 4.03.00.3410
OS: Windows 95 Service Release 2
Notes: Symbios 875 UW SCSI Card

Windows 95 Performance of the KN97-X

CPU Business Winstone 97 High End Winstone 97 SI95 2.0 CPU Mark 16/32
Intel Pentium II - 166 50.1 22.1 87.5 Not Run/Not Run
Intel Pentium II - 200 55.3 25.9 96.4 466/588
Intel Pentium II - 233 58.8 27.4 118.5 542/640

Intel Pentium II - 266

62.4

30.9

135.1

586/720

Intel Pentium II - 300

65.3

34.7

153.9

605/820

As you can see by the above chart, the ASUS KN97-X is truly an amazing board. It provides great competition for the Megatrends FX83-A while destroying the competition. The Windows 95 performance of the KN97-X also exploits the full power and potential of the Pentium II CPU. The KN97-X and the Pentium II are two partners that should always travel hand in hand.

Windows NT Performance of the KN97-X

CPU Bus. Winstone 97 HEnd Winstone 97
Pentium II - 233 78.6 Not Run
Pentium II - 266 83.4 Not Run
Pentium II - 300 85.6 Not Run

These Windows NT scores of the KN97-X are well above average. These scores rival those of AOpen's AX6F as well as ABIT's AN6 under Windows NT4. the KN97-X still doesn't touch the performance of the Megatrends FX83-A, but it comes VERY close. I'll try and post the High End Winstone 97 scores as soon as I can.

 


The Final Decision

Should you buy this board? Well if you crave speed, stability, and reliability then yes. This board is a little cheaper than the FX83-A (I got mine for $239) so if you don't really care much about the 75 and 83.3MHz bus speeds or have had great experiences with ASUS and don't want to change, go out and get the KN97-X.

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