Like the ABIT KR7A RAID, this is a truly jumperless motherboard. Other than a clear CMOS jumper (which is necessary) and a CMOS write protect jumper (which is optional), you dont have to touch the board to tweak the daylights out of it. Everything, including the CPU voltage and multiplier, the memory timing, and even the FSB frequency, can be adjusted via the BIOS setup utility. That alone makes this board tweakers dream.
With six PCI slots, four DIMM sockets, a HighPoint HPT372 RAID controller, and an onboard C-Media 8738 5.1 audio chip, Shuttle did an incredibly efficient job of laying out this board. It could have been an overburdened crowded mess, but everything is easily reachable and theres room for whatever you want to stick in there, including a couple of full-length PCI boards. The only caveat we have with the layout is that our oversized heat sink actually made contact with the side of the northbridge cooler, but neither fan was impeded and the CPU stayed cool throughout our tests.
A major concern with the AK35GTR is its stability; motherboard forums are filled with threads of woes with crashes and other mishaps on earlier boards, especially when paired with Athlon XP processors.
Our battery of tests on the AK35GTR went with refreshing and relieving smoothness. In fact, the Shuttle the only board of the bunch that ran perfectly with the DRAM command rate set to 1T, with nary a crash or a lockup. It performed very well on all of our benchmarks, taking the top score in Business Winstone 2001 and remaining competitive through the rest of the tests.
RAID administration was trickier than on other boards, but with the help a bit of experimentation and the separate RAID manual we had it running smoothly after only a few trial runs.
The onboard sound chip deserves special mention. Its capable of very convincing 3D positional audio and, since the line-in jack doubles as a rear speaker out jack, it supports four-speaker gaming rigs like the Logitech Z560 and the Klipsch ProMedia 4.1. Testing only by ear, its definitely on par with the SoundBlaster Live! used in our test bed.
Shuttle knocked one out of the park with the AK35GTR. Between its excellent performance, its honest jumperless convenience, and Rock of Gibraltar stability, it should please even the most finicky of DIYers.
Price: $ 115
Pros: Truly jumperless; awesome performance; stable at optimal settings; good onboard audio
Cons: Large CPU coolers encroach upon the northbridge cooler