The K7V-RM borrows the same 686A South Bridge that the K7M and K7M-RM used and in doing so, ASUS helps to reduce the manufacturing costs of the K7V-RM even more. The 686A South Bridge, for those of you that aren't familiar with it helps to reduce the number of chips needed on a motherboard's PCB by integrating many of the functions of commonly external chips into a single chip south bridge solution. For more information about the 686A, take a look at our in-depth discussion of its benefits in our KX133 review. The bottom line here is that the 686A saves PCB space and in doing so cuts costs for ASUS, easily making the K7V-RM a sub-$100 motherboard solution.

Because of the board's microATX form factor, the expansion is very limited on the K7V-RM. Featuring only three PCI slots and a single AMR slot in addition to the AGP Pro slot we just talked about, the K7V-RM is far from a flexible solution. One good thing about the K7V-RM's expansion is that ASUS decided to place the AMR slot at the far end of the motherboard, so it can be included without sacrificing any PCI slots which are already quite limited on the motherboard.

And what microATX board would be complete without the obligatory AC'97 codec support to drive the on-board audio as well as the AMR slot? The K7V-RM features the Crystal Logic CrystalClear SoundFusion CS4299 AC'97 codec that provides the CPU driven sound on-board. Luckily the sound can be disabled from within the AWARD BIOS setup but for system integrators, the software audio option makes for an easy way to include audio support for their low-cost systems. In terms of quality and performance, most AnandTech readers won't be too flattered by the integrated codec and will opt to use one of the three PCI slots for their own PCI sound card, but if this board is going to be the base for a second system then the integrated sound could save you a few bucks.

For those of you that need more expansion slots, the K7V should boast about 5 PCI slots in addition to an AGP Pro slot.

Until AMD introduces their 426-pin Socket-A interface for the future Athlon processors, all motherboard manufacturers will be producing Slot-A based motherboard designs. This obviously includes the K7V-RM whose cramped layout still finds room to house the 242-pin interface connector. Around the Slot-A connector we find a number of 1500uF, 680uF and even an oversized 4700uF capacitor that help keep a clean and reliable signal supplied to the power hungry Athlon processor.

The K7M was the first Athlon motherboard to offer any real options for the overclocker because it featured support for FSB settings between the default 100MHz and the current unofficial limit of the Athlon motherboard designs, 110MHz. While some users managed to hit above 110MHz, for the most part you can consider 110MHz to be the realistic maximum overclocked FSB setting on any current Athlon platform. The K7V-RM manages to offer quite a few useful FSB settings in its list of 12 frequencies selectable from within the board's BIOS setup. Those settings are: 90 / 92 / 95 / 97 / 100 / 101 / 103 / 105 / 107 / 110 / 112 and 115MHz.

The BIOS setup also allows you to set the DRAM to CPU frequency ratio as either 3:3 or 4:3, thus allowing you to run your memory at 133MHz while your FSB runs at 100MHz. In addition to FSB selection, the AWARD Medallion BIOS of the K7V-RM lets you manually adjust the core voltage of your CPU, making the board even more flexible for overclockers. Both the FSB selection and core voltage selection can be accomplished through jumpers and dip switches located on the motherboard itself.

As we mentioned before, the 686A South Bridge features integrated hardware monitoring functions, which are luckily supported by more than one third party hardware monitoring application.

The K7V-RM ships with the usual high quality ASUS manual as well as a helpful CD that contains all of the necessary drivers and utilities to get your system up and running reliably. Nothing but the best, which is what we've come to expect from a company like ASUS. Speaking of which, the K7V-RM was actually a very stable solution in our tests. This conclusion was also apparently shared by the folks at AMD who certified the K7V-RM for 1GHz operation making this board one of the first to be fully certified by AMD for use with the 1GHz Athlon. AMD even began using the K7V-RM in their evaluation systems they send out to reviewers which is replacing the AMD 750 based Gigabyte GA-7IX that used to hold that position.

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