System specs: Samsung PC2700 256mb / Maxtor 740 / GF4ti4200 / Fortissimo 3 Sound / Direct X8.1 / Via 443 / Nvidia 40.72 / Win98SE / 450W power /
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.
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 .
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 .