Intel DX79SI & Core i7-3960X

..:: Sandy Bridge-E and X79 ::..

Ahh, it’s that time again. Several weeks after a product launch, when the string of products hit the channels and start to make their way into the loving arms of enthusiasts around the world. The Intel X79 chipset is the latest edition of this event, and we’ll be taking a look at it today in Intel’s DX79SI “Siler” motherboard. I can remember back several years when Intel motherboards were consistently written off as stable, but lackluster as best. They were the boring mid-size sedan to others’ high-end sports coupe. This point was hard to argue, but soon things began to change for the better. We started seeing motherboard products that allowed for ever increasing flexibility. Are they at the pinnacle of “tweakability”? No, that post is still reserved for other third party manufacturers. However, with the steady change of pace, we are seeing better and better products for enthusiasts coming out of the Intel labs. Today, we’ll examine the DX79SI “Siler” motherboard with the latest production BIOS and drivers to see just where Intel is headed this time.

I always like to give the manufacturers some time after product launch to work out a few bugs with BIOS updates, driver updates, etc. before conducting a full evaluation, and that holds true today. Both the DX79SI and Core i7-3960X have been on the market for roughly three months now, though during some of that time competing boards were still stocking up in the market. Now that we have several options available, we can use these as a rough comparison in value and features. To give you an idea of the performance of the DX79SI and Core i7-3960X pairing, we will pit these two against our ASUS SABERTOOTH X58 and Core i7-965X. This board and processor combo reached new performance levels when they were tested, and will serve as a baseline for comparison with the X79 platform.

Intel DH55TC

..:: Introduction ::..

With the recent launch of Intel’s Clarkdale processor with Intel HD Graphics integrated into the package, Intel has provided an innovative solution for the needs of the budget end consumer, and the multimedia crowd. Thanks to the capable integrated graphics, Clarkdale offers an excellent solution for a home theater system, or any multimedia system for that matter. To harness the power of these new chips, Intel has developed their media series motherboards with the varying chipset options geared towards the Core i3 / i5 / i7 solutions. Today, we’ll be taking a look at the DH55TC “Tom Cove” motherboard. This board offers a wealth of features, but with a market price in the $99 range, is it a better solution than competing boards? We’ll take a look at the performance of three processors on the DH55TC platform, and examine other market options in a price / feature comparison to find out. Before we delve into the board, let’s rewind back and take a quick look at the H55 Express features, and a quick refresher of Intel HD Graphics.

..:: H55 Express Chipset Features ::..

The Intel H55 Express Chipset has several features that are common amongst all of the i5 and i7 supporting chipsets. The H55 features the Direct Media Interface (DMI) between the processor and the PCH, as well as the Flexible Display Interface (FDI) for processors like the Core i5-661  The processor and FDI support both legacy analog VGA as well as all modern digital connections like HDMI and DVI. The H55 Express Chipset also adds support for an additional 6 PCI Express x1 (or other configuration like 3 x2, 1 x4 and 1 x2, etc.) lanes. It also supports Intel HD Audio, 6 Serial ATA ports, eSATA, a SPI bus for the Intel Management Engine, 10/100/1000 and/or GbE and the customary array of USB 2.0 ports. The block diagram above shows each of these in more detail.

..:: Intel HD Graphics Features ::..

With the new Intel HD Graphics enabled processors, we now have the graphics die on the processor package, greatly increasing the potential performance versus a discrete (G)MCH solution. The Intel HD Graphics solution is by no means meant for what we in the enthusiast community would call gaming. Sure it can handle many of the basics and older DX9 games, but anything beyond that and you’ll be needing a discrete solution. What Intel HD Graphics is meant for is the average Joe looking for support of the Aero features of Windows Vista / 7, Blu-Ray playback support, HD streaming media and movies, etc.

In comparison to the prior GMA 4500 Series, the new Intel HD Graphics processors offer Blu-Ray playback with premium audio and dual decode functionality, Deep Color and x.v.Color, 8×8 polyphase DVD upscaling versus 6×6, HD video sharpness, dynamic frequency adjustment for mobile processors and OpenGL 2.1 support. These newly added features offer a substantial upgrade over what is currently offered in desktop and mobile (G)MCHs and over what you will find in Atom based solutions. Intel HD Graphics offers all features needed to create a true home theater or media PC. Now that we’re familiar with the H55 Express and Intel HD Graphics, let’s take a better look at the DH55TC.

Intel DP55KG / Core i5 750 / Core i7 870

..:: Introduction ::..

In November 2008, Intel launched the Core i7 processor based on a new microarchitecture codenamed Nehalem. This long-awaited microarchitecture brought dominant performance for the Core i7 900 series, but with that performance came at a steep price relative to Intel’s own Core 2 processors. X58 motherboards with prices in the range of $300-$400 USD are far from uncommon. This was certainly a contributing factor to a core component of the market simply being priced out of Bloomfield and X58. Intel recognized this fact, and after some delay has released the Lynnfield Core i5 and i7 800 series processors, as well as a new mid-range chipset dubbed P55. The real question is, have Lynnfield and the P55 chipset come to the rescue of the mainstream market?

It’s well known now that the Lynnfield core has had some features removed, i.e. QPI Links, however Intel has also added features such as an integrated PCI Express 2.0 controller directly in the die. This feature of Lynnfield should help to negate some of the loss of the QPI. After all, one primary use of QPI was previously to link the processor to the X58 IOH. Now that the IOH has been integrated directly into the die, we’ll benefit from lower latencies.

Another change that comes with Lynnfield is the move to supporting only dual channel DDR3 vs. triple channel DDR3 offered by Bloomfield and the X58 chipset. How much of a difference will this truly make in the end? I would initially suspect that there will not be much performance degradation in the shift from dual channel to triple channel when it comes to real world applications. We’ll soon see if this does indeed turn out to be the case.

An astonishing feat of the Lynnfield core is that it turns out it is larger than Bloomfield, yet we’re still seeing these sell at a discounted rate from the Bloomfield processors.Couple this fact with relatively cheap P55 solutions in comparison to their X58 brethren and you have what could be an excellent and affordable solution.

Today, we’ll be taking our look at Intel’s own P55 motherboard, the DP55KG, codenamed “Kingsberg”. This board boasts some impressive features, and as you’ll soon see have an added extra component or two. It’s always fun to work with board that still have debug ports and all of the engineer leftovers. Before I delve into the performance of the board, let’s take a tour around the PCB to see just what Intel has to offer with the DP55KG.

Intel i925XE Chipset / 3.46GHz Pentium 4

..:: Introduction ::..

In the past few months, things have certainly changed direction in the Intel processor design houses. The latest change comes with Intel dropping the 4.0GHz version of the Pentium 4 in order to concentrate on Smithfield, their upcoming dual core processor for the desktop that is set to debut sometime in the mid to latter half of 2005. Certainly, it seems someone at Intel has seen the light and decided against advancing a processor design that has an achilles heel, it’s thermal characteristics.  

With the initial launch of the LGA 775 platforms and processors, there was a real lull in how fast the enthusiast crowd picked them up. At time of launch, there were few solid PCI-Express options, and those that were available were quite costly. There was a substantial amount of DDR-II that soon became available, and the prices seen were quite nice, though that wasn’t expected to last and it’s already making a rebound. Another problem was lack of any third arty cooling solutions. Basically, either you found an LGA 775 capable water block, or you were stuck with Intel’s standard cooler, which isn’t exactly a slouch, or something worse. As time has progressed, and more platforms and capable components have reached the market, the LGA 775 platforms have begun to garner more interest among upgrading Intel enthusiasts.

Another problem many had with the actually i925X and i915P/G platforms were their expensive premium. As we saw when these two platforms were launched, there’s only a minute difference in overall performance between the two. It certainly wasn’t enough to justify the extra costs for upgrading. As cheaper and better boards have hit the market, this too has helped business pick up for i925X and 915P/G motherboards. So, although things were slow at first as I expected, they’re beginning to pick up, and should really start to pick up when PCI-E graphics solutions become more the norm for upgrades over the several months to a year as AMD chipsets debut featuring support for PCI-E.

Today, we see the launch of Intel’s latest incarnation of i925X, the i925XE chipset. Now, as much as anyone would like to tell you, whether it be through marketing or salesmanship, i925XE is nothing more than a glorified i925X with added support for 1066MHz FSB Pentium 4’s, the first of which is also being launched today and you’ll see in action soon. The initial i925X chipset had a built in overclocking lock by our friends at Intel that made 1066MHz a nearly impossible feat even with motherboard manufacturers finding ways to circumvent the problem. Obviously, both these boards and processors will carry a heavy premium, but the real question is, as always, is it worth the extra cash? Well, before we try to answer this question for our adoring public, I’ll be re-hashing the info on the i925X and now i925XE chipsets, as well as covering the thermal specs for the 3.46GHz Extreme Edition CPU. If you already know all of these details, skip ahead to the benchmarks to find what you’re looking for.

 

 

..:: 3.46GHz EE – Thermal Design Power ::..

As we’ve seen time and time again over these past few processor releases from Intel, that three letter acronym that everyone in the computing industry dislikes, TDP, has been growing and growing. The newer “Prescott” cores have been the real culprits putting off tremendous amounts of heat. The older Northwood core Extreme Edition CPU’s have been much better, in our experiences, with keeping cool, but their time will soon come. This new 3.46GHz Extreme Edition CPU carries a TDP of 110.7W, a slight increase over the 3.40GHz EE. The Icc max for the 3.46GHz model is a cool 84.8A. To put these numbers in comparison to similar models, the 3.40EE boasts a TDP of 109.6W, while the 3.40E (550) and 3.60E (560) sport a TDP of 115.0W. The max current draw for the 3.40E and 3.60E processors is a massive 119 Amps, up 41 Amps from the 3.20 and below speed grades.

 

..:: Processor Physical Overview ::..

The processor itself is identical to the other LGA 775 processors we’ve seen to date, slightly larger than the Socket 478 Pentium 4’s featuring a slightly modified heatspreader. The heatspreader on the Socket 478 implementation goes to roughly 1mm from the edge of the package, and then drops down to the surface. On the LGA Pentium 4’s, the heatspreader goes out a similar distance, although the outer edge is lowered down to allow for the outer casing that holds the processor in place once it is mounted. On the bottom of the package, we find all 775 of the gold contacts, along with the various resistors, and capacitors that are surface mounted underneath the processor die. This package looks quite similar to the 478 solution, only larger and pin-less.

Intel i925X & i915P/G Chipsets

..:: Introduction ::..

They’re calling it the most important platform change in over a decade. They’re dishing out marketing lingo left and right, up and down, but is this new platform all they say it is? With the recent launch of Intel’s i915G, i915P, and i925X chipsets, Intel has brought advanced Serial ATA features, PCI Express, Advanced High-Def Audio, DDR-II, and more to the computing world. If you’ve taken a look at some of the initial reviews that have already hit the web over the past few days, you’ll know that so far, few have been all that impressed with the current performance benefits seen by these new technologies, as well as being disappointed with the lack of base for several core components that will be needed to upgrade to this new platform.

As a re-cap of our article published earlier in the week, Intel also released the new LGA 775 based Pentium 4’s along with the i925X and i915P/G chipsets. Intel’s new LGA, or Land Grid Array, 775 processor socket takes a step away from traditional implementations in that the package no longer features pins, rather the bottom of the LGA 775 processors only have small gold contacts. With the LGA package, Intel has moved the pins into the bottom portion of the processor socket, something that will make installation of the processor easier in that there is no need to watch for bent pins on the package…although it will make it more difficult as well. You no longer need to worry about bent or damaged pins on the processor, rather now you have to worry twice as much about bent pins within the processor socket itself. We’ve heard some horror stories about the frailty of these pins, and from working first hand with LGA 775 motherboards, I can say that these stories likely can be taken with more than a grain of salt. In order to properly install the processor, you need to vertically drop it in the socket. If you angle the processor too much, we have found a slight angle to be alright, you risk bending some of the tiny pins and then smiling with delight at your now useless motherboard.

LGA 775 isn’t all bad, in fact it comes along with quite a few positive aspects. The processor can now deal with a higher amount of current flowing into it due to and increased number of power pins. This helps take the incredible current load off of many of the other power pins, and can help lower the amount of leakage, and also reduce some heat. Heat has been the primary issue with Intel’s latest processors, especially Prescott. Herein lies yet another positive aspect of LGA 775. With the plastic retention mechanisms used on 478 platforms, as heatsinks began to grow in mass due to increased thermal requirements, the motherboards would begin to bow due to the mechanical stress placed upon them. The heaviest heatsinks where mounted through the motherboard, as this helped relieve and disperse some of the stress. With the LGA 775 socket, Intel has allowed for similar implementations to be used as a standard. Many found the 478 heatsinks to offer incredibly easy installation, and with this new socket, Intel has made this task even easier. But enough about the LGA processors, if you’d like more information, take a look at our initial review!

Now, before we delve into the depth of both the i925X and i915 series of chipsets, we’re going to dabble into the prospects that several of the new chipset features such as PCI-Express, DDR-II, Intel’s High-Def. Audio, and more. To start things off, we’re going to take a quick look at PCI-Express, the replacement for AGP that offers a substantially larger amount of available bandwidth.

Intel D875PBZ

..:: Introduction ::..

For several months, the Intel 845PE chipset was one of the highest performance chipsets available for the Pentium 4 processor, up until the more recent chipset releases. When the 845PE chipset debuted, it brought the much needed support for the DDR333 standard, and when placed in unison with the 533MHz FSB Pentium 4’s was hard to beat. This new DDR333 standard was necessary because Intel’s main competitors VIA and SiS had already placed products on the market offering support for DDR333, and sometimes even DDR400. Since the inception of the 845PE chipset, several new technologies have made headway into the mass market such as DDR400 SDRAM, and Serial ATA. The i875P Canterwood chipset brings forth support for Dual Channel DDR400, the new 800MHz Front Side Bus Pentium 4 Processors, Intel’s Performance Acceleration Technology (PAT), the AGP 8X Graphics Interface, a Dedicated Network Bus (DNB), Serial ATA, and more. Today we’ll be examining the i875P chipset, and the Intel D875PBZ motherboard, powered by the new 3.00GHz 800MHZ FSB Pentium 4 processor.

..:: Intel 875P Chipset ::..

The i875P chipset isn’t Intel’s first offering featuring some form of dual channel DDR. The E7205 “Granite Bay” chipset was the first out of the gates from Intel offering such support, but many motherboard manufacturers chose not to adopt the chipset due to the high cost and the relatively short shelf life between the time they could get their products onto the market, and when the new Canterwood and Springdale chipsets would debut. E7205 only allowed for dual channel DDR support up to DDR266 specs since the 533MHz FSB Pentium 4’s were limited to a maximum bandwidth of 4.3 GB/s, the same that the DDR266 solution would provide.

This is where the Canterwood chipset steps into the spotlight. Canterwood allows for dual channel DDR400, 333, and 266 (DDR266 support depends on the motherboard). In turn, the chipset supports both the older 533MHz FSB and the new 800MHz FSB Pentium 4 chips. The new bus speed allows for a maximum bandwidth between the MCH and processor of 6.4GB/s! In order to properly utilize the maximum amount of bandwidth between then MCH and processor, dual channel DDR400 is clearly the way to go since its theoretical maximum bandwidth is, of course, 6.4GB/s. There are of course, some basic requirements if you plan on running the board with a dual channel memory configuration. In order to maximize the system performance, and enable the PAT technology, you must have matched DIMM’s of identical density, DRAM technology, bus width, and an equal amount of memory banks. The memory does not however need to be of the same brand, timing specifications, or DDR speed. If you want to enable the PAT, you’ll need to be running an 800MHz Pentium 4, and dual channel DDR400. The i875P chipset also features improvements when it comes to the processor technology.

Canterwood was designed specifically for use with the latest Hyper-Threading enabled Pentium 4 processors. The chipset itself helps to administer and prioritize the various threads that are received from the processor during operation. Since Hyper-Threading will be available on future Pentium 4 chips, and since Intel will eventually be spreading Hyper-Threading support down the line, it is becoming more vital to further improve this technology and make it as effective as possible. We have seen the benefit that can come from the Hyper-Threading Technology, but there must also be software support from the industry in order to properly take advantage of the technology. For those whom may still be unfamiliar with Hyper-Threading, here’s some information. This technology effectively makes a single physical processor appear to be two, separate logical processors. Each of these two logical processors shares between them a set of physical execution resources such as caches, execution units, and branch predictors while there is a single copy of the architecture state for each of the logical processors. The “architecture state” consists of the various general purpose registers, controls registers, the APIC registers, and even some machine state registers.

With this technology, software can in effect schedule multiple threads to the two logical processors as they would if it were a multi-processor system with two physical processors. What does this mean when it comes to performance? Well, if the software can take advantage of both logical processors, it can in effect process multiple data threads at once, thereby improving the overall efficiency of the processor. Modern processors can theoretically processes several different instructions per clock, however due to inefficiencies in the pipeline and other nagging problems, the processors are unable to execute the amount of instructions per clock that they are theoretically able to handle. Intel’s Hyper-Threading Technology helps with this problem by making the processor run more efficiently and process more data at once.

The i875P chipset consist of two separate controller hubs, 82875P and 82801EB, as we are used to seeing. The 82875P is the Memory Controller Hub (MCH) that utilizes the latest Performance Acceleration Technology, and offers support for the 800MHz and 533MHz FSB processors. The 82875P also brings forth support for the latest 1.5V AGP 8X graphics adapters. The ICH5 82801EB I/O Hub has dual, independent Serial ATA controllers that provide 150MB/s data transfers between each of the connectors along with Intel’s new RAID Technology. The ICH5 I/O Hub also features support for up to eight high-speed USB 2.0 ports which are backwards compatible with USB 1.1 specifications. The ICH5 also features full support of surround sound audio with dual independent DMA audio engines, and an integrated LAN controller. One of the major features of the i875P chipset which we will be taking a look at next is Intel’s Dedicated Networking Bus, or DNB.

VIA VPSD P4PB 400

..:: Introduction ::..

In our first experiences with a VPSD motherboard, we were highly enthused with the plethora of features offered up by the board for the price, along with the performance and shear stability. VIA’s Platform Solutions Division is quickly moving up the ranks in the high performance market, and since it is a product of VIA, they are always first out with the latest chipset support. Our last look at a VPSD board was the P4X266A powered P4PA. Since then, VIA has released two new chipsets, one which never really made it into full production, that being the P4X333. Advances made by VIA allowed them to manufacturer a slightly newer version of the P4X333 offering features such as AGP 8X, and support for DDR400 RAM, along with several other features we will be taking a look at a little later. Today, we’ll be taking a good look at VIA’s own P4X400 offering, the P4PB 400. Can this board live up to the reputation of the P4PA? Let’s find out!

..:: Specifications ::..

Processor

  • Intel® Pentium® 4, Celeron® Processor
  • 533/400MHz Front Side Bus

Chipset

  • VIA Apollo P4X400 North Bridge
  • VT8235 South Bridge

Memory

  • 3 DDR333 DIMM sockets
  • Up to 3GB Memory

Expansion Slots

  • 1 AGP 8X/4X slot ( 1.5V Support )
  • 5 PCI slots
  • 1 CNR

Onboard IDE

  • 2 x ATA133/100 Connectors

Onboard Audio

  • VIA VT1616 6 Channel AC’97 CODEC

Onboard IEEE 1394

  • VIA VT6306 IEEE 1394 (Optional)

Onboard I/O

  • 2 USB 2.0/1.1 Connectors for 4 Additional Ports
  • 2 IEEE 1394 Ports (Optional)
  • 1 Audio pin-header for SPDIF (Optical & RCA), Rear, Sub/Center
  • CD Audio-in Connector
  • AUX-in Connector
  • Voice Modem Connector
  • IR Connector
  • Wake-on-LAN, Wake-on-Ring
  • CPU/Power/Sys FAN
  • 20-pin ATX Power, 4-pin ATX AUX 12V Power
  • 1 x Buzzer
  • 1 DIP Switch for 100/133/Auto FSB Setting
  • System Intrusion Connector
  • Smart Card Reader Connector

Onboard I/O

  • 1 PS2 mouse Port
  • 1 PS2 keyboard Port
  • 1 RJ 45 100/10Mb LAN Port
  • 2 USB 2.0/1.1 Ports
  • 2 Serial Ports
  • 1 Parallel Port
  • 3 Audio Jacks: line-out, line-in and mic-in
  • 1 Game/MIDI Port

BIOS

  • Award BIOS, STR, ACPI, WfM 2.0, DMI 2.0
  • 2/4Mbit Flash Memory

Form Factor

  • ATX (4 layers)
  • 30.5cm x 22.5cm

VIA VPSD P4PA-UL

..:: Introduction ::..

VIA’s recent introduction of their Platform Solutions Division, VPSD, was a move that had been in the planning stages for quite a long time. According to VIA, the purpose of VPSD is to help accelerate the rate at which the latest and greatest chipsets, along with other technologies can reach the market. VIA is well known for their “A” revision chipsets, all of which have brought incredible performance with them. One thing is for certain, VIA can make some high performance chipsets, but can they pump out some high performance motherboards too? Today we’ll be taking a look at the feature packed P4PA based off of VIA’s P4X266A chipset.

..:: Specifications ::..

Processor

  • Intel® Pentium® 4 Processor (478pin)
  • 533/400MHz Front Side Bus

Chipset

  • VIA Apollo P4X266A North Bridge
  • VT8233A South Bridge

Memory

  • 3 DDR266 DIMM sockets
  • Up to 3GB memory size

Expansion Slots

  • 1 AGP 4X slot (supports 1.5V and 3.3V AGP 1X/2X/4X cards)
  • 6 PCI slots
  • 1 CNR

Onboard LAN

  • Realtek RTL8100BL 10/100 Base-T Fast Ethernet Controller

Onboard Audio

  • VIA VT1612A AC’97 2 channel Codec

Onboard USB

  • VIA VT6202 USB 2.0

I/O

  • 2 USB ports (1 connector for 2 additional external USB ports)
  • 2 serial ports
  • 1 parallel port
  • 1 PS/2 mouse port
  • 1 PS/2 keyboard port
  • 1 game/MIDI port
  • 1 RJ-45 LAN Port
  • 3 audio jacks: line-out, line-in and mic-in

BIOS

  • Award BIOS
  • 2Mbit flash memory
  • System Monitoring & Management
  • CPU/system temperature monitoring
  • CPU voltage monitoring
  • CPU/chassis fan speed monitoring
  • Wake-on-LAN,Keyboard-Power-on, Timer-Power-on
  • System power management
  • AC power failure recovery

Onboard IDE

  • ATA/133/100/66
  • 2 IDE connectors

Form Factor

  • ATX (4 layers)
  • 30.5cm x 22.5cm

Soyo P4I875P DRAGON 2 Platinum Edition

..:: Introduction ::..

When a motherboard enthusiast hears a name like Soyo, the first thing that will pop into their mind will most likely be the “DRAGON” terminology and what it represents in a motherboard. Soyo’s DRAGON line has been around for a good amount of time now, and has grown on many users, especially their “Platinum” line of motherboards sporting a unique silver PCB, along with many other unique features. With the release of Intel’s i875P chipset, Soyo has stepped up to the plate and come up with their new DRAGON 2 line. We’ve seen the performance and other aspects of both the Intel D875PBZ and Gigabyte GA-8KNXP, now let’s see how the latest addition to the DRAGON line can do.

..:: Soyo P4I875P DRAGON 2 “Platinum Edition” Specifications ::..

Processor

  • Socket 478 for Intel® Pentium® 4 with HT Technology

Chipset

  • Northbridge – Intel® 82875P MCH
  • Southbridge – Intel® 82801ER ICH5
  • Intel® 82547EI Gigabit Ethernet Controller
  • Silicon Image Sil3112A chip
  • HighPoint HPT372 Controller Chip
  • VIA VT6306 IEEE1394 Chip
  • CMedia PCI Hardware Audio
  • Super I/O: ITE I/O IT8712F chip
  • 2MB Flash ROM

Memory

  • Type: Dual Channel DDR 400/333 ( PC3200/2700) ECC Support
  • 4x DIMM
  • Max Capacity: Up to 4GB

Internal I/O Connector

  • 1 x FDD
  • 4 x Serial ATA
  • 2 x UDMA ATA 133/100/66 Bus Master IDE
  • 2 x IEEE 1394
  • 2 x UDMA ATA 100/66 Bus Master IDE
  • 2 x USB 2.0 (4 ports by cable with rear USB bracket)
  • S/P DIF input/output (with rear bracket)
  • 3 x cooling fan pin headers

Expansion Slots

  • 1 x AGP 8x/4x AGP 2.0 Compliant
  • 5 x PCI (PCI 2.3 Compliant)

Rear Panel

  • PS/2 Keyboard / Mouse Connector
  • 4 x USB 2.0 ports
  • 2 x COM ports
  • 1 x RJ45 LAN port
  • Audio (1 x Line-in / 1 x Line-out / 1 x Mic) Connector

Soyo KT600 DRAGON Ultra PE

..:: Introduction ::..

One motherboard manufacturer that has yet to release any type of motherboard with an nForce2 chipset is Soyo Computer. As a result, Soyo is one of the only manufacturers to make their flagship motherboard for K7 processors based on the VIA KT600 chipset. Their result is dubbed the Soyo KT600 Dragon Ultra Platinum.

After we saw what Soyo’s i875P Dragon2 could offer for Intel users, it sure was exciting to hear that their latest K7 motherboard was going to land in our labs for a thorough review. Although the pre-release sample that Soyo sent us is not of the actual retail product, we’ve had the pleasure of torturing the board our test bench for over a month. The KT600 Platinum has showed us some things that we think other motherboard manufacturers should start to follow, as well as some to avoid. Let’s get started by taking a look at the specifications below.

..:: KT600 DRAGON Ultra Specifications ::..

Processor

  • Socket A for AMD Athlon XP/Athlon/Duron
  • 400/333/266/200MHz FSB

Chipset

  • VIA KT600 Northbridge
  • VIA VT8237 Southbridge
  • Broadcom BCM5705K Gigabit LAN
  • CMI 8738 6-channel Audio CODEC
  • 8x USB 2.0 ports (VT8237 built-in)
  • 3 x IEEE1394 FireWire ports (VIA VT6306)
  • Silicon Image Sil3112A RAID

Memory

  • 3 x DDR DIMM Sockets
  • Max. 3GB unbuffered PC3200/PC2700/PC2100/PC1600

Expansion Slots

  • 1 x AGP 8X
  • 5 x PCI
  • 2 x UDMA/133/100/66
  • 1 x FDD
  • 2 x SATA IDE/RAID (VT8237 built-in)
  • 2 x SATA IDE/RAID (Silicon Image Sil3112A)

Special Features

  • Anti-Burn Regulator (Thermal Shutdown Protection)/li>
  • Box with Front Panel CMOS Reset Button, Diagnostic LED, Card Reader

Back Panel I/O Ports

  • 1 x Parallel, 2 x Serial
  • 1 x PS/2 Keyboard, 1 x PS/2 Mouse
  • 1 x Audio I/O (Line In, Line Out, Mic In)
  • 1 x IEEE1394, 1 x RJ-45 Port
  • 4 x USB 2.0, 1 x RJ-45 Port

BIOS Feature

  • 2MB Phoenix-Award BIOS
  • CPU/AGP/DDR Voltage Adjustments
  • CPU/AGP/DDR/PCI Clock Adjustments