Motherboards

Around the Computer 2001 showroom we were still able to spot quite a few booths showing motherboard solutions, and to a certain extent this is an indication of what we can expect at the upcoming Computex in Taipei.

While ABIT didn’t have a booth at Computer 2001 since they are working hard for Computex, one of their distributors in Hong Kong, Trans Europe Computer Limited, was holding quite a large booth. Besides seeing a few new ABIT boards that some of you are already aware of, we were fortunate enough to meet with one of their Research and Development Product Managers. He was able to show us some upcoming products and answered some of our questions about current products.

AMD unveiled their new Athlon core with the Athlon 4 a couple weeks ago. While no benchmarks have been published yet, the question remains whether the new processor will work on current motherboards. We took this chance to ask ABIT if they have any information on this topic with respect to their popular KT7A-RAID. He told us that, so far, their testing has been quite positive and that the Athlon 4 chips they have in hand are working properly on the KT7A-RAID.

When asked if this is because the KT7A-RAID has a very wide range of CPU core voltages (from 1.100 – 1.850 in 0.025V increments), we got a somewhat surprising response. While voltage values available on the board could be an issue, the most important piece of the puzzle is the necessary circuitry for detecting the chip correctly. They said that the circuitry on their current KT7A-RAID is already capable of detecting the Palomino core and that's the main reason why the chip will work on their board, but possibly not on others.

This is quite surprising since we previously thought that voltage would be the most important factor for getting the Palomino to work on a KT133A. However, if the correct circuitry is really what is needed for this to happen, it could be bad news for those KT133A users whose boards happen to not have this circuitry since no BIOS update can fix that. We have yet to see how other manufacturers will address this issue, though, and we'll be doing our own testing in the lab soon enough.

Besides the Palomino issue, we were able to see some new ABIT boards during the show, including long waited DDR solutions from ABIT.


ABIT KG7-RAID

The first DDR board we came across was the KG7-RAID, using the AMD 761 North Bridge and the VIA 686B South Bridge. This board has already passed all the required pre-production testing and will be available at the end of June or early July. Besides the six PCI slots and the IDE RAID controller, the most impressive feature of the board are the four DDR DIMM slots. So far all the other AMD 760 motherboards we have seen in the market only have two such slots. They claim to have spent much time to ensure that the timing on the memory slots is done properly and will remain stable with 4 DIMM's installed.


ABIT KR7-RAID

The second new board ABIT showed us was the KR7-RAID, which uses the new VIA KT266 chipset, something that we will be seeing a lot of at Computex. The KR7-RAID will be available a little later than the KG7-RAID. Like the KG7-RAID, ABIT also includes four DDR DIMM slots for added flexibility in memory configuration and expansion in addition to the usual six PCI slots and an IDE RAID controller.


ABIT VR6-RAID

The last board that ABIT showed us was their new VR6-RAID. It is a Socket-370 board using the VIA Apollo Pro266 chipset. On this board, ABIT only includes three DDR DIMM slots, but the board still features six PCI slots and onboard IDE RAID.

Although we didn't get to see it, ABIT announced the ST6R based on the Intel i815EP chipset. ABIT has already released a few boards using the i815E chipset, including the SA6R, and will release the ST6R shortly after Computex.

Another board that has generated much interest recently is the KT7E, which was also on display at Computer 2001. When asked, ABIT said that they would not include an IDE RAID controller on the KT7E since they want to use the board to capture more of the value market, so the RAID controller will not be an option to further reduce the cost.

ABIT will also be displaying two new boards at Computex, both for the Pentium 4. The first one is the TH7-II, which still uses Intel's i850 chipset, but this time around is for the new Socket-478 Pentium 4, based on the Northwood core, instead of the current Socket 423 chips. Its older brother, the TH7, which uses the Socket-423, is already in our lab and will be reviewed shortly.

The other new Pentium 4 board from ABIT is the BL7, also for Socket-478 chips, but this time using the still unannounced Intel i845 chipset, codenamed Brookdale. The i845 chipset will bring PC133 memory support to the Pentium 4 platform, allowing cheaper systems to be built with that processor.

The TH7-II has five PCI slot while the BL7 will have six. Both boards will include an integrated IDE RAID controller and be available in the third quarter to go along with the release of the Socket-478 Pentium 4's.


Last of all ABIT showed us their roadmap for the remainder of the year, pretty much summing up the new boards we have introduced here.

After noticing the few DDR boards in the show, we couldn't help but ask ABIT why they are rather late with DDR platforms. Their answer is that they have been working on the development of these boards for quite some time already and that the only reason they haven't been released until now is that they were not comfortable with the state of the DDR market.

Upon the release of DDR chipsets, ABIT realized that boards using SDRAM could survive in the market for quite a while until the price of DDR memory came down to match SDRAM. As most of you remember, when DDR boards were first released, DDR memory was double that of PC133 memory, while the performance gain was only marginal in most cases. That's why ABIT decided to push back the release of their DDR boards for a couple months. Further, this also give them more time to develop solid boards with better performance - possibly one of the reasons they've got four DDR DIMM slots and most manufacturers only have two.

LCD Monitors Motherboards, continued

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