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Epox 8RDA+ [ Nforce2 chipset MB ]
This review was kindly made possible by :
December  14-2002
Matt Korhonen

From Nvidia:

NVIDIA nForce unleashes blistering system performance and Dolby® Digital 5.1 audio for today's most demanding users. Combine it with an NVIDIA-based performance graphics card, and you've got a PC for the most tricked-out performance and immersive gaming environments ever experienced on a desktop PC.
Unmatched system performance: NVIDIA nForce delivers blistering platform performance through patent-pending system technologies, a revolutionary memory architecture--including NVIDIA nForce2's DualDDR memory controllers--and high-bandwidth connectivity solutions.
Screaming graphics: Combine the system performance of NVIDIA nForce with the latest NVIDIA-based add-in card for ferocious 3D graphics power. The second-generation NVIDIA nForce--NVIDIA nForce2--architecture provides an AGP 8X graphics slot, so that users can upgrade to to the most powerful GPU solutions available.
NVIDIA SoundStorm™ cinematic quality 3D positional audio: NVIDIA SoundStorm, part of the NVIDIA nForce audio processing unit (APU) encodes audio in Dolby Digital 5.1 format for full surround sound effects, and processes up to 256 simultaneous audio streams to drive your home theater experience.
Ultimate connectivity: NVIDIA StreamThru™ technology combined with a chip-to-chip HyperTransport™ interface delivers the fastest and smoothest video and audio streaming. The NVIDIA nForce2 MCP-T also includes integrated DualNet Ethernet controllers, up to six USB 2.0 ports, Ultra ATA133 connections, and an IEEE-1394a/FireWire® port, providing the ultimate in networking and digital connectivity.

From Epox:

Processor AMD Athlon, Athlon XP, Duron
Core Logic nforce2 Platform Processor Chipset
BIOS Award/Phoenix BIOS v6.0
Max. FSB 333MHz
Memory 3 x DDR SDRAM PC3200, 3GB max.
Form Factor ATX

Expansion Slots
AGP 1, 8x
PCI 6, 32-bit

PS/2 1 mouse, 1 keyboard.
Serial 2
Parallel 1
USB 4 onboard, 2 optional. USB 2.0
Network 1 x Realtek RTL8201 PHY
Floppy 2 drives max.
IDE 2 x E/IDE Ultra DMA/133, 4 drives max.

Sound Realtek ALC650E 6-channel full-duplex integrated sound
Option IEEE1394 Firewire interface

Special Features
Hardware Monitoring Function provided by Winbond
Keyboard Power On (KBPO)
Suspend To RAM (STR)
CPU clock settings are adjustable by BIOS
CPU V-core settings are adjustable by BIOS
Memory voltage settings are adjustable by BIOS
AGP voltage settings are adjustable by BIOS
Wake On Lan (WOL)
P80P Diagnostic LED


First Look:

On opening the box , I found the Mainboard , User Manual , Floppy and Hard drive cable , Driver CD , USB 2 cable , Game port cable , and the IEEE 1394 2 port cable , there was unfortunately no SPD650 card . Installing the MB into my case was rather simple , and I was impressed by the simplicity of the user manual [very easy to understand] . The Nforce2 is an entirely new [not forgetting Nforce 1] platform , and getting to know it , took a while . One of the things to watch for is your cas timing in the bios , you can go faster but not slower , say if you go from cas 2.5 [your ram spec] to cas 3 , the system refuses to boot , go from cas 2.5 to 2 , no problems . So when increasing your FSB make sure that the cas timing has not backed off or no boot.

So other than a few new things to learn with this new board [chipset] , it actually turns out to be a very stable overclocking platform , my Xp1800T-bred requires less voltage on the 8RDA+ at 2ghz then on a KT400 MB [Epox 8K9A1]  , 1.7volts VS 1.725v on the 8K9A1 . For the record let me state that the 8RDA+ scored so close to the 8K9A1 with PC2700 Samsung ram that the actual Sandra and 3Dmark2001 benchmarks were almost identical . I have purchased Kingston PC3200 ram with Winbond modules since then , so unfortunately no direct comparison can be made , but if you check out the 8K9A1 review , you will see that even with PC3200 ram the 8RDA+ is not that far ahead , in the benchmark results .

Bios Features: [8RDA2C10]

Let me just say that if you flash to the new BIOS [8RDA2C10] the features in the bios will change , and you will need to reset the bios after flashing . If you have been using the VIA chipsets for the last few years as I have then you will find most of the new features under ADVANCED CHIPSET FEATURES , Starting with SYSTEM PERFORMANCE > you can chose optimal , aggressive - turbo , or expert . Chose Expert if you wish to manually set up the bios settings . CPU INTERFACE > optimal - aggressive , Ive tried both , and after countless benchmarks , found no difference in performance .[overclockers , if your cpu is not stable try optimal ] MEM FREQUENCY> you have SPD , 50% to 100% to 200% and AUTO , for some strange reason my system will not boot if the ram is set bellow 100% , currently running AUTO . MEM TIMINGS > optimal - aggressive - turbo and expert , chose expert if you want to manually set the ram timing . Personally running , T-Ras -4 , T-Rcd -2 , T-Rp -2 , and Cas Latency -2 , or 4-2-2-2 . Something AMD users may not be familiar with is CPU THERMAL THROTTLING > Disabled - 87% to 12.5% , this function is for cooling your cpu when 100% cpu usage is not needed . If your cpu runs on the hot side , then this function might be worth playing with , for now Ive left it disabled . Changing from Advanced Chipset Features , we go to the last option in the main menu POWER BIOS FEATURES > CPU Voltage Regulator [1.4volts to 2.2volts] , AGP Voltage Regulator [1.5v ,1.6v , 1.7v , 1.8v ] DIMM Voltage Regulator (RAM) [2.5v , 2.63v , 2.77v , 2.9v ]

Well that's it , those are the new features in the Nforce2 bios you are going to have to get used to , and let me tell you , thats a lot more than Im used to , tweaking a plenty .

System specs: Epox 8RDA+ , 2x256 Kinston DDR400 , XT1800T-bred @ 2ghz 1.7volts , GF4ti4200 [64meg] , onboard sound , Win 2000 and Win98SE , Maxtor 40gig 740 ATA133 7200rpm , Seagate 20gig ATA100 7200rpm original drivers from CD .

Sandra 2003 : Win2000

System is at 200FSB ram is 4-2-2-2 , cpu 10 x 200FSB @ 1.7volts , first we will try the CPU Arithmetic Bench :

Next the CPU Multi media Bench :

And finally the MEM Bandwidth Bench:

Those results are not too shabby at all for a overclocked XP1800 , and the mem bandwidth scores finally bring AMD users to a level playing field with our Intel foe [friends] . Next lets see what sort of performance hit we take at 166FSB with the Mem Bandwidth .[ ram will remain at 400mhz DDR , cpu will be 12 x 166FSB for 2ghz ]

That's a massive loss of mem bandwidth , even though the ram is still running at 400mhz [4-2-2-2] . This is why AMD cpu's need a MB with 200mhz FSB as a default bus speed , it doesn't take an Genius to realize that with the XP cpu's , higher bus speed is a must . Even AMD is lagging behind , with the XP2800/2700 built to run at 166FSB . To keep up with the mem bandwidth advantage that the Intel boards have , 200mhz FSB is a MUST .

3Dmark2001SE : Win 98SE

First we will run 3Dmark at 166FSB with the ram at 400mhz [4-2-2-2] and the cpu @ 2ghz . Whoa , changing the 3D settings from Best image Quality to Best performance some how corrupted the MB drivers ?????????? [ don't ask me ]. Took me a while to work out what happened , instead of having the Nvidia 40.72 drivers I reloaded the 29.42 drivers not knowing what had gone wrong . So with the 29.42 drivers in win 98SE I got 11540 3Dmarks @ 200FSB 400mhz Mem , changing to 166FSB and 333mhz Mem [ cpu 12 x 166 = 2ghz] returned a 3Dmark score of 11275 , next I tried 166fsb and 400mhz Mem to see what performance I would get with the Mem out of sync , 3Dmark score = 11019 3Dmarks .[Mem @ 4-2-2-2 for all tests ] . As can be seen from the results , keeping the Memory in sync with the rest of the system gives better performance , as does running higher FSB , with the cpu remaining at the same speed .[ You have to love unlocked cpu's ].



The Nforce2 is relatively new , and  has already gained a reasonable following from the performance [overclocking] community , and not without deserving such . The Epox 8RDA has proven to be a  stable platform at 200mhz , becoming slightly unstable at 215mhz FSB and maxing out at 220mhz FSB for me , and hopefully with further bios revisions , the board will become even more stable at higher FSB speeds . A very good board , with lots of room around the socket , 4 holes for those large heatsinks or water blocks , and the ability to run up to 3 sticks of 400mhz DDR ram , as opposed to only 1 on the KT400 boards .

Now for what I don't like , why give us a AGP lock and not a PCI lock ?[Epox] , If Nvidia was serious about performance , why not 200mhz FSB as default , the location of the IDE connectors , there to low on the board , even for medium tower cases .I don't like the fact you cant back of your Cas Latency bellow what the ram is rated for [ no boot ] , the voltage settings to the ram should have been in tenths [2.5 , 2.6 , 2.7 etc ] , for better control over the voltage to the ram .

I cant stress enough  the need for 200mhz FSB to be made a default bus speed , VIA should have given it to us on the KT400 , they didn't , so the only option is to go with the Nforce2 [other manufacturers are offering a PCI lock] which is a little more stable as a overclocking platform , and would seem to run rather happily at 200mhz FSB . I was impressed enough with the Epox 8RDA+ to put my money where my mouth is , and buy this board . How long I keep it depends on VIA and what they do to make the KT400A a true performance board .

I dare say that the Nforce3 may very well turn out to be a KT400A killer , for now the Nforce2 is only ever so slightly better than the KT400 , offering  more tweaking options in the BIOS , and from what Ive experienced , a slightly more stable platform for overclocking , and onboard audio that most people can live with [I like the onboard audio as its rather good]. I give the Epox 8RDA+ ,  8 out of 10 . Further Bios updates should help refine this MB into a serious overclocking tool , as did the bios updates for the 8K3A .



Ive tested 9 of these cpu's to date [ 4 brown week 41on my Epox 8K3A and 5 green on a 8K9A1 ] , all were unlocked on both boards , and all did 10.5 x 166FSB @ 1.48volts [1750mhz] All did 11 x 166FSB [1.83ghz] @ 1.6volts , 3 booted into windows at 12 x 166 @ 1.68volts , the other six posted at 1.68volts . [ All air cooled via Volcano 7+ ]

My XP1800T-bred came from the group of green ones , and runs stable at 10 x 200FSB @ 1.7volts on the 8RDA+ , Ive tried for 2100mhz but it seems to want too much voltage , the A-cores never did like going much over 2ghz in anyway . So if your looking for a good overclocking cpu at the moment , the XP1800T-bred is showing a lot of promise [ week 41 green is supposedly the best ]