Board Layout: Epox 9NDA3+

Epox has never really used any stand-out colors on their boards in the past. The 9NDA3+ is another in the long line of ugly green Epox motherboards. You know that they are Epox from the motherboard color, but it is not a color that is particularly attractive in an open-case design. In fact, the green motherboard with red round cables looks a little bit like Christmas.



The basic layout of the Epox is generally excellent, with some standout elements and a few glaring layout faults.



The ATX 20-pin and the 4-pin 12V connector are the worst part of the Epox design. Both are located on the top upper left of the motherboard between the CPU socket and the IO ports. This location requires snaking the bulky 20-pin ATX connector over the CPU in many case designs, and it just isn't the best location for good airflow in most cases. A better location, particularly for the 20-pin ATX connector, would have been the upper right edge of the board.



The CPU socket is in the top center of the board. AGP and PCI slots are below the socket and memory is to the right of the CPU. There is plenty of room around the Socket 939, so just about any Heatsink/Fan should work fine.



The locations of the SATA connectors are a huge improvement over the locations on the nF3-250 Reference Board. Two SATA have been located between the AGP slot and the PCI slot 1. This is a much better location than above the AGP slot that we saw on the nVidia Reference board. Two additional SATA connectors are near the lower right edge of the board. The IDE connectors are in the preferred right-edge location, but they are located on lower right instead of upper right. This will be fine in most case designs, buit it could be an issue in a full tower case supporting upper bay hard drives Overall, the arrangement of SATA and IDE connectors will work well in most case designs.



The floppy connector is in a terrible location at the bottom right edge of the motherboard. In a full tower case you, will have to find a super long floppy cable to reach this location. Since many users no longer even use a floppy drive, this may not matter, but if a floppy drive is still part of your build, this location will be a challenge in some cases.



The Epox arrangement for the AGP and 5 PCI slots is the best that we have seen. Most users don't use the slot next to the VGA card for better cooling, so Epox made the AGP two slots wide. It means that the 5 PCI slots are completely usable with most video cards. Even double slot cards like nVidia's 6800 Ultra will be right at home in the 9NDA3+. There is also enough room between the chipset and AGP card to reach the AGP slot release on this board. However, the common "push to releas"" lever that works fine with most cards can be a real pain with very large top end cards like the nVidia 6800 Ultra.

The option headers are lined up at the bottom of the board in out-of-the-way locations. The only exception is the audio connectors, which are in a much more reasonable spot between the AGP and first PCI slot. So, if you need to use an audio cable with your optical drives, the mid-board location will work for most audio cables. Like the disappearing floppy, audio cables are rarely required any more, but if you need them, this location works very well.

Basic Features: Epox 9NDA3+ BIOS: Epox 9NDA3+
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  • morkys - Monday, December 20, 2004 - link

    Wednesday, 24 November 2004
    ECN 30824
    EP-9NDA3+
    9ND34B10.BIN
    6800h
    ** Solve USB device resume fail from S4 mode.
    ** Patch system cole booting fail (hang up at POST FF h)when FSB over clock on SATA PHY M/B.
    ** Support DDR400 for double banks DIMM.

    Has this improved anything for anyone?

    I was stoked to get this or the MSI Neo2 Plat but there's always problems with new stuff. There's always problems with most stuff, but I may just go socket 462 for now if Epox or MSI nForce3 isn't trouble free. I was thinking of the Gigabyte but the NXP is too expensive and the non- NXP is still troublesome for some people.

    ?
    Reply
  • staypuffmarshallowman - Thursday, December 09, 2004 - link

    I purcased this mobo a week ago and it is defective....sent back as RMA yesterday. I could not achieve any higher than 20Kbps internet connection over my dsl! Furthermore, i had several (10-20) different post codes and i haven't done any overclocking at all. While this is EXTREMELY frustrating, I am hoping my replacement board will be fine. I am really concerned about your findings with the 4 dimms running only at 333!!! Please let me know if they are able to fix this.

    I don't want to give up on epox yet. My last board or thiers rocked. But this experience has sent me close to the end of our relationship.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Thursday, October 28, 2004 - link

    Ned -
    I suspect you are working at 200 with 4 dimms because your 256MB are single-sided dimms. Those are usually no issue for any of the boards. Our standard 4-dimm memory test is with 4 512MB DS dimms or a total of 8 sides. That still is not working on the Epox which overrides the DDR400 and resets the speed to DDR320 with 4 DS dimms.

    Just to be sure I have just retested the same CPU and the same 4 dimms on 3 other 939 boards. All 3 handled DDR400 with 4 dimms just fine, as confirmed with CPU-Z and SiSoft Sandra.
    Reply
  • NedFlanders - Thursday, October 28, 2004 - link

    Mine board worked out of the box with four DIMMS and with the new BIOS too. I am using 4*256 Kingston HyperX. Even though BIOS says 200 it boots at 202 (RAM 404, FSB at 2020 mhz). I have confirmed the speed with CPUID & SAndra. I OC's it to 220 but just to try it. I'm not really into that. It worked fine.

    in addition to the parts i already mentioned,
    i have 6800GT, 2 WD120 (IDE0, IDE1) and a 450watt PSU, athlon 64 3200.

    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Thursday, October 28, 2004 - link

    I have tested with the new 10/26 and 10/28 BIOS and the issues still are not fixed. Results remain the same as reported in this review.

    Below is the email I sent to Epox:

    "I have retested the Epox 9NDA3+ with the new BIOS and the 4 dimm issue is NOT fixed. No matter what I set in BIOS with 4 dimms the system boots at DDR320 at 2T (The BIOS states on boot DDR400@166, but CPU-Z reports actual CPU speed as 160x2). I have tested with:

    4x512MB Corsair 3200XL v1.1
    4X512MB OCZ PC3200 Platinum Rev.2
    4X512MB G. Skill TCCD
    4X512MB Corsair CMX512-4400C25PT (DDR550)

    I also tested each of the 4 memories at SPD timings at DDR400 and at a forced 3-3-3-10 at DDR400, even though all 4 are rated at DDR400 2-2-2-5. Same results in both sets of tests. In addition the Epox still hangs on reboot more than 50% of the time. The PS is a OCZ PowerStream 520W. Memory Timings were checked with CPU-Z version 1.24 which is a free download at www.cpuid.com. Memory Speed was confirmed in SiSoft Sandra 2004.

    Do you have any further suggestions?"
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, October 27, 2004 - link

    Epox has just sent a revised BIOS dated 10/26 and called 9ND34A26 to correct the 4-dimm issue and reboot issues with the Epox. As I soon as I complete tests with the new BIOS I will post an update to the review. Reply
  • NedFlanders - Tuesday, October 26, 2004 - link

    my ep-9nda3+ is in. it overclocks well, cpu is cool and no problems with 4DIMMS at 200 Reply
  • ThePlagiarmaster - Tuesday, October 26, 2004 - link

    Wesley,

    If divx 5.1.1 is so optimized for Intel, why does hardocp show Intel losing by 20%?? You need to run tests with two different frontends. DVD2AVI for AMD and Xmpeg for Intel. Unless someone has a better suggestion for Intel (Xmpeg always caused them to win no matter what encoder was used). It's a small change and would give a MUCH more accurate picture of what we'd see in the realworld. Nobody comes home with a shiny new PC and runs they crappiest frontend they can find for their given cpu. Especially when they are both free for the taking.

    Did a bit more reading, it appears AutoGK is the only difference between your article and hardocp's usage. You should NOT be using this for AMD if it throws away a 20% victory and hands the lead to Intel. Nobody would do that at home. That big of a margin is akin to throwing away 3-4 cpu speed grades these days! I'd further say you shouldn't be using it for Intel either. It appears to slow them down compared to Xmpeg (who even link to Intel on their website).

    With all of these being free, why wouldn't the user want to pick the fastest for their chosen cpu? I see no reason why you couldn't run the same chapter with the same settings on each frontend for the different cpus. It's not like your adding a test, you're just changing a frontend for ONE of the tests. Right now, you're showing us a situation none of us would come home and run. We'd all take the faster route with different front ends for BOTH cpus.

    Divx 5.1.1 is NOT heavily optimized for Intel or they would win no matter the frontend. Using this codec and DVD2AVI as a frontend Intel loses by 20% (as shown at hardocp's article). Clearly it's more about the frontend in this case than the codec.
    Reply
  • thebluesgnr - Tuesday, October 26, 2004 - link

    I think this review is very well written. Only disagree with one thing:

    "The locations of the SATA connectors are a huge improvement over the locations on the nF3-250 Reference Board."

    I think this location is the opposite of that. On the reference board it's probably harder to install SATA drives, but this is something you do once or twice; the location used by EPoX makes it impossible to use the SATA ports with some graphics cards.
    Reply
  • Term - Tuesday, October 26, 2004 - link

    #26, are you 100% positive that Doom3 requires DX?

    If i remember correct I don't have DX installed and it runs just fine.
    Reply

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