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Epox 8K9A1 [ KT400 chipset MB ]
This review was kindly made possible by :
November 21-2002
Matt Korhonen
System specs: Samsung PC2700 256mb / Maxtor 740 / GF4ti4200 / Fortissimo 3 Sound / Direct X8.1 / Via 443 / Nvidia 40.72 / Win98SE / 450W power /



Processor AMD Athlon™, Athlon™ XP, Duron™
Core Logic VIA Apollo KT400 Chipset + VIA VT8235
BIOS Award/Phoenix BIOS v6.0
Max. FSB 266MHz
Memory 3 x DDR SDRAM PC2700, 3GB max.
Form Factor ATX

Expansion Slots
AGP 1, 8x
PCI 5, 32-bit

PS/2 1 mouse, 1 keyboard.
Serial 2
Parallel 1
USB 4 onboard, 2 optional. USB 2.0
Network 1 x VIA Tahoe VIA VT6103 Physical Layer / Transceiver
Floppy 2 drives max.
IDE 2 x E/IDE Ultra DMA/133, 4 drives max.

Sound Realtek ALC201A full-duplex integrated sound

Special Features
Hardware Monitoring Function provided by Winbond
Keyboard Power On (KBPO)
Suspend To RAM (STR)
CPU clock settings are adjustable by BIOS
CPU multiplier settings are adjustable by BIOS
CPU V-core settings are adjustable by BIOS
AGP voltage settings are adjustable by BIOS
Memory voltage settings are adjustable by BIOS
Wake On Lan (WOL)

First impressions :

This is not the most feature packed motherboard out there , included in the box is the user manual , two IDE cables and the driver disk . Having said that this is also one of the easiest to install motherboards out there , being almost 3inches [ centimeters ] slimmer than the Epox 8k3a motherboard . For this review Im going to concentrate on the overclocking features of this board , and how it performs with a run of the mill XP2400 . Setting up the board was easy , and the user manual was very easy to use , something rather rare these days , for some strange reason , some manufacturers just have to make there user manuals hard to use , not so with this one . If you are the owner of a T-bred AMD then you will find your cpu unlocked on this board , and you wil be able to chose the multiplier and FSB you wish to run , as long as its within the capabilities of the cpu .

Having some fun :

With the KT400 chipset comes unlocked T-breds , so being able to chose what multiplier and FSB you wish to run is a huge bonus , using Sisoft Sandra 2002 IM going to show you the mem performance of my ram at 133/166/200/220FSB.

So starting with 133mhz FSB and the ram set to the fastest setting possible :

Not very impressive , esp considering that the Intel chipsets are virtually a full 50% better these days , so lets give 166FSB a try and see how we go :

Almost a 25% improvement , making 166FSB a seriously worth while option , and only available if you void your warranty by unlocking your CPU or buying a KT400 - Tbred combo . IM not going to stop here , next Im going to try 200mhz FSB :

Ive had to set my ram to Normal in the bios to get 200mhz FSB [ didnt have time to try more aggressive timings ] but even so , with such relaxed settings the score is still very good for mem bandwidth . I got 200mhz so easily , Im going to try 220mhz FSB :

My USB optical mouse stopped working at 220mhz FSB , but the ps2 kept on working , look at that mem bandwidth score , now that's not to bad at all , next I try for 225mhz FSB:

At 225mhz FSB Sandra refused to run , but I was able to do a screen capture to prove that this board did get to 225mhz FSB , AGP voltage was increased 2tenths , Voltage to ram - up 3tenths , no artifacts during boot , just a nice clean boot into windows .

So what was the point of this / A: The improvements made in increased FSB over the 8k3a / B: The need for 200mhz FSB as a default BIOS setting . In the last year the intel boards have slowly pulled ahead in the memory bandwidth stakes , in 2003 Intel is planning on releasing a new chipset that will seriously increase mem bandwidth and mem performance . Amd and Via have an opportunity to do the right thing by AMD users , simply by giving us 200mhz FSB as default with the release of the Via KT400A chipset . Even better would be 200mhz and 233mhz FSB as default bus speeds , this would seriously help close the gap that intel has made in the last year , and the performance gap Intel is hoping to make next year . I for one hope that AMD and VIA are not waiting for the hammer to bail them out from lagging system performance , cos if this is the case , it virtually means that its almost a waste of time updating your equipment at this time , since there may not be any real gains to be made against the Intel products.

Overclocking :

A good board for overclockers , up to 2 volts to the cpu , Voltage adjustment for the ram , as well the AGP card [ long time coming ] . This board showed excellent stability over 200mhz FSB , unfortunately I no longer have my good CPU / 2645mhz [xp2400] , so we will just have to bear it with this ordinary XP2400 . I just did not have time to do a full range of testing [ several full days to do ] and it would have been pointless with a ordinary CPU . So I have chosen 166FSB and I will simply be increasing the multiplier for increased MHZ and then running 3Dmark2001SE to test stability , and real world performance gains . Let me just say that my system was loaded / TV card / PCI modem / Sound Card / 2 x CD rw / 2 x HDD / nothing was left out .

Starting with 13 x 166FSB [ 2166mhz ] at default voltage , 3Dmark2001SE = 11791 3Dmarks

13.5 x 166FSB [ 2250mhz ] boots into windows at 1.75volts , to get a good stable 3Dmark2001SE return the Voltage had to be bumped up to 1.88volts returning around 12000 3Dmarks for several tests .

14 x 166FSB [ 2332mhz ] at 1.93volts returned 11601 3Dmarks , bumping up the voltage to 1.98volts gave me 11983 3Dmarks . So with the voltage maxed out we can see that increasing MHz does not directly relate to increased performance , in fact with this CPU we are starting to go backwards

Well as you can see there is hardly any point going past 2250mhz with this CPU , overclocking my GF4ti4200 to 300mhz core / 600mhz mem returned a nice 3Dmark2001SE score of 13392 3Dmarks . Benching this CPU at around 2.2ghz @ 133FSB returned a 3Dmark2001SE score of 11083 3Dmarks .

Conclusion :

Well the XP2400 is ordinary at best , but hopefully you have seen the improvements in performance from being able to chose a higher FSB , in fact 13 x 166 [ 2166mhz ] @ 1.65volts would be a ideal setting for this CPU on the Epox 8K9A1 motherboard . Time was again a limiting factor , and I could have played with this MB for days on end , ESP with a better CPU . Now for what I didn't like , no 200mhz as a default bus speed , not being able to set the ram speed to what you the user wants , ESP at default bus speeds . Being able to set your ram speed to 400/333/266mhz manually at any default bus speed would certainly help users extract the maximum possible performance from there system without going out of spec .

Here is what I would like to see in the KT400A chipset that comes out early in 2003 , / 200/233FSB default / ram settings manually set at any bus speed , from 133 to 233 , as well a minimum of 2 volts to the CPU / voltage adjustment to ram [ which we have ] and voltage adjustment to the graphics card [ also have now ] .

The KT400 chipset is unfortunately hampered by the lack of performance options , to really set it above the KT333 chipset , and especially hampered when compared to the current intel offerings . Without a really good stick of 400mhz DDR ram there is very little point in buying a KT400 board at the moment , and if AMD and VIA hang the XP cpu's out to dry until the Hammer comes out , then AMD XP cpu users are in for a disappointing start to 2003 .

The Epox 8K9A1 is certainly a value for money board , at $190 from MSY [ click the MSY Banner ] it is worth a serious look , so if your in the market for a new board , but if your looking to upgrade from a KT333 board , then I would say WAIT!, until the KT400A boards come out , they could prove to be the board to have , and then again , maybe not , in which case selling your AMD rig and going intel might just be the go . [ Im waiting to see what happens as VIA did not listen to AMD users after bringing out the KT333 chipset , thousands of AMD users screamed out aloud for 200mhz to be made a default bus speed for the KT400 chipset , VIA heard nothing , we are yelling even louder now + now we want 233FSB as a default bus speed / will VIA listen , will they make XP cpu's viable , or will upgrading be a waste of time for those looking for increased performance ]

The Epox 8K9A1 as the ASUS A7V8X is a step sideways , offering no real performance increases over the KT333 chipset , without a really good 400mhz DDR stick of ram , which are still not readily available from your local computer outlets . The thing the Epox has going for it is its price , at $190 its so close in price to the KT333 chipset motherboards that for those overclockers looking to build a new system , it would be hard not to give the Epox 8K9A1 a long hard look, esp with the exceptional stability this board showed over 200mhz FSB  . The KT400 is far less than it should have been , as far as chipsets go , and I give the Epox 8K9A1  8 out of 10 , a good solid performing board , that gave me no problems , here's hoping VIA pulls out the proverbial performance finger for the next offering .