Checking Out Six New AMD Motherboards - Page 4

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