AOpen has received more AnandTech Editor's Choice Awards than any other manufacturer in the past few years. There is no doubt that AOpen's products are made with high quality and stability in mind. It seems that AOpen always listens to user's comments when producing a new board, as often suggestions seem to be implemented in sequent products.

Being one of the most profitable motherboard manufacturers, AOpen does not stop there. They always try to improve themselves by releasing different varieties of a product. In our Motherboards in 2001 Preview: Part 1 review we learned that AOpen is ready to switch gears to a new line of products based on new chipsets, namely the Intel i850, AMD 760, and VIA Apollo Pro 266.

But before the new products come along, AOpen has decided to make one final move in the VIA KT133 arena by releasing yet another new KT133 based product, the AK73 Pro. Since AOpen products have a long history of high quality and great performance, we eagerly waited for the board to arrive at the lab, even though the AK73 Pro comes comparatively late. So what did AOpen do to assure that the AK73 Pro is still a good contender? Let's find out.

AOpen AK73 Pro

CPU Interface
Socket-A
Chipset
VIA KT133
Form Factor
ATX
Bus Speeds

100 / 102 / 104 / 106 / 107 / 108 / 109 / 110 / 111 / 112 / 113 / 114 / 115 / 116 / 118 / 120 MHz

Voltages Supported

Auto Detect 1.100 - 1.850 V (in 0.025V increments)

Memory Slots
3 168-pin DIMM Slots
Expansion Slots

1 AGP Slot
5 PCI Slots (5 full length)
1 AMR Slot
0 ISA Slots

On-board Audio
AD 1885 AC 97 CODEC
BIOS

Award Modular BIOS 6.00PGN

BIOS Revision
R 1.00

The Good

The AK73 Pro measures 12 by 9 inches, which is the average among most KT133 motherboards. The layout for the board is very clean, and AOpen did a very good job with the placement of different components. One problem arose when we noticed that a few capacitors are close to the CPU socket, so some users may have a problem installing some large heatsink and fan units, but users with moderately sized heatsinks should have no problem. The placement of the power supply connector is very appropriate, as the power supply cables do not block the CPU or the heatsink and fan unit. Moreover, the IDE connectors as well as the floppy connector are located right in front of the DIMM slots, so they will not affect the placement of any add-on cards.

As we have mentioned many times, even though implementation of the multiplier ratio settings is not part of the VIA KT133 chipset specifications, many users have considered this feature a standard for recent KT133 motherboards. One of the reasons is because overclocking AMD CPUs by changing the multipliers is far better than by changing the FSB speeds, since the KT133 chipset is currently unable to run the FSB at above 115MHz while maintaining stability in the vast majority of cases. On the other hand, it is not hard for users to unlock their processors for overclocking, and most AMD processors can sustain quite some overclocking. For more details, make sure you read our AMD Socket-A 133MHz FSB/DDR Overclocking Guide.

As a good listener to users' needs, the AK73 Pro includes the ability to modify the multiplier ratios. Changing the multiplier ratio is done through a set of 4 dipswitches where users can choose from sixteen settings between 5 and 12.5. The AK73 Pro also provides a set of FSB speed settings for users to modify from within the BIOS. The available values are 100 / 102 / 104 / 106 / 107 / 108 / 109 / 110 / 111 / 112 / 113 / 114 / 115 / 116 / 118 / 120 MHz. This should be enough for most users, but the lack of certain FSB speeds may hurt some user's potential for overclocking. Note that on the motherboard there is a jumper, which allows you to choose FSB speeds between 100MHz and 120MHz or between 124MHz to 166MHz. However, if you set the jumper for the 124MHz to 166MHz range, the system will not boot. AOpen has confirmed with us that this setting does not work on the AK73 Pro, and only the 100MHz 120MHz range is accessible. For KT133 motherboards, this is not a problem at all, but it does mean that AOpen will most likely stay with the same board design when they release the version of the board based on the VIA KT133A chipset. At that time, AOpen can simply enable the 124MHz to 166MHz range settings, and the motherboard will be able to support all AMD processors running 266 FSB.

To make this board even more complete for hardware enthusiasts, AOpen also allows users to tweak with the CPU core voltages as well as the I/O voltages. For the core voltage, users can choose from 1.100V to 1.850V in 0.025V increments, which should be more than enough to push the processors to the limit. The I/O voltage can range from 3.2V to 3.5V in 0.1V increments. Although we have yet to see evidence on whether the I/O voltage plays a role in overclocking, it is always nice to have them included, and will probably help to ensure stability of the system.

More Good

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