By Joel Durham Jr.  |  Posted 2002-01-29 Print this article Print

A few years ago, half the world learned how to overclock with an ABIT BX6 motherboard (or its splendid follow-up, the BX6 2.0) and an Intel Celeron 300A processor. ABIT unleashed upon the tech world its SoftMenu, a component of the BIOS setup utility that allowed even staunch amateurs to tinker with their boards FSB and multiplier settings, and subsequently it became a champion of DIYers everywhere.

SoftMenu III

Cut to the present. In the KR7A and other recent ABIT boards, the SoftMenu is up to version III now--and its no less useful than it was on the BX6 series. The only jumper on the board is the clear CMOS block.

The board features a well-engineered and convenient layout. It has six PCI slots and four DIMM sockets, is hampered only by the CPU sockets close proximity to the edge of the board. That can make it tricky to remove and replace a CPU cooler without hauling the whole board out of the case. Two of the PCI slots allow for full-length cards--or five do if you dont take advantage of the HighPoint HPT372 RAID controller.

Setting up RAID on this board will be tough for neophytes, mainly due to the poor documentation. The RAID section of the manual is a six-page afterthought, and contains such insightful advice as "For detail RAID introduce and concept, you can found it on our WEB site...or you can search the concerning information on the internet. We do not description it on this manual. (sic)" In other words, techies only need apply.

Otherwise, the KR7A RAID is a solid board, especially for performance tweakers and overclockers. SoftMenu III lets you change voltages, FSB frequencies, and multipliers to your hearts content without ever having to open the case.

Best of all, the board cleans up in our Windows 2000 benchmarks. It scores top or near-top honors in every Win2K run except the SPECViewPerf MedMCAD test. It was equally competitive in the majority of our gaming tests, and paired with a powerful processor (like the Athlon XP 1800+) this board is a great chassis for a gaming speed demon.

The only things missing from this board are extras. At its price, wed hope for onboard audio or at least a LAN adapter. What you get is a no-frills RAID board with very low-frills documentation. But its not aimed at the value-conscious: this ABIT board is for hardcore tweakers. And, as is the usual case with an ABIT board, were delighted with what it has to offer.

Price: $125-175
Pros: Great performance; SoftMenu III rocks; well-laid out board
Cons: Pricey; lousy documentation
Score: 8/10

Joel Durham Jr. has loved computers, technology, and gaming since he was a kid, first enjoying the wonders of the Atari 2600 and later indulging in the fabulous graphics of the Commodore 64. His lust for all things technical drove him to eventually seek employment: he landed a job at Computer Concepts, a Rochester-based PC consulting and repair firm, where the company president took Joel on as his apprentice. Within a year, Joel was running the service shop, installing networks for clients, and building systems with glee.

A writer at heart, Joel longed for the glory of seeing his words in print, so in 1997 he left his shop to take a job as PC Gamer's first Technical Editor. After leaving that post to flee the ridiculous cost of living in northern California, Joel worked mostly as a freelance tech writer, taking a year-long break from the mercenary life to telecommute to CNET as the Senior Technical Editor of the now-sadly-defunct Gamecenter. Residing in Upstate New York with his family, Joel repeatedly flung himself at ExtremeTech (which often used his freelance services over the years) until he convinced them to hire him.


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