The lone ALi MAGiK1 board in our roundup stands out from the group for more than just its chipset. It proved to be the least reliable board of the bunch, and it appears to suffer from bandwidth problems, at least according to some of our tests.
The board itself is tiny and very cluttered. It features five PCI slots, three of which could house full length boards. Although the chipset supports both DDR and SDRAM, this board only provides three DDR DIMM slots--and theyre practically on top of the CPU socket. The onboard audio consists only of vanilla AC97 CODEC for software controlled sound--and its very low quality.
The documentation is as thin as the board. Youll need it, though, because for one thing, the case wiring pinouts arent labeled on the PCB. Neither are the three DIP switches, which you must use if you wish to manually adjust CPU multiplier and core voltage. A jumper toggles the FSB frequency. One of the DIP switches, labeled FJ1, doesnt appear to be in the manual at all.
For its part, the BIOS is mainly generic but I couldnt find an option to disable the onboard audio CODEC. Maybe thats what that mystery DIP switch is for…
In action, the K7ADA was hot and cold (and were not talking about core temperature). It hung up when running the 3DMark2001 and 3D Winbench 2001 low-level benchmarks, but it did a terrific job with the game benchmarks. And real-world gaming went smoothly. We ran a few current graphics-intensive titles like Tom Clancys Ghost Recon, Max Payne, and Red Faction, and the board didnt falter.
The K7ADA did startlingly well in some of the processor tests, like our 3D Studio Max and Lightwave rendering benchmarks. However, it coughed up blood over some of the bandwidth tests--particularly SiSoft Sandras SSE memory benchmark. We looked for BIOS and driver updates that might have helped its performance, but the software included with the board was more recent than anything online.
With its erratic scores, its pathetic documentation, and its reliance on jumpers and DIP switches for serious tweaking, wed be hard pressed to recommend the Soyo K7ADA to anyone. Its price is nice, and gamers on a serious budget might find solace with that--but although our real-world gameplay didnt result in crashes, its inability to cope with 3DMark2001 and GameGauge would cause us to shy away from even that perk.
Pros: Inexpensive; commendable game performance
Cons: Inconsistent benchmarks; terrible documentation; tweaking requires DIP switch manipulation