What screamed out to me immediately upon taking the board in my hands was the orb style active chipset cooler.
It's always nice to see active cooling on your chipset, and the snazzy polished aluminum orb that ABIT sat on it was sharp to say the least.
I was generally pleased with the component layout of the board...
The ATX power connector was right at the top where we like it, with 6 PCI slots and 4 DDR slots there was plenty of room for expandability. When you consider that there is onboard LAN, sound, and USB 2.0, the 6 PCI's may actually be overkill, but better too much than too little right?
Lately we've been seeing some manufacturers get away from the four heat sink mounting holes around the CPU on AMD motherboards, not this one. The four holes most commonly used to mount water blocks and the larger style (Swiftech comes to mind) heat sinks, are right there for ya to use. The one thing you'll notice about them is that they don't have the ground protection around the holes so don't forget the nylon washers!
The thing that surprised me a a bit to see though I'd heard of it, was the 4 pin power connection on the motherboard, the same jack that has generically been called the "P4 connector) since the release of the Pentium4 processor and their special power requirements.
The connector is actually called the "ATX2" connector, and it clearly states in the manual that connecting to it is "not required", meaning that if you don't have a newer style ATX power supply that you don't need to run out and buy one. So why is it there you ask? According to ABIT:
"It is because that the current Power Supply Units apply to P4 specification requirement. ABIT constantly utilized this option on AT7-MAX2 and KD7 boards that could provide stable 12V voltage. It has no effects if the power supply you used on board did not match the requirements. It would be worked normally on AT7-MAX2 and KD7 boards."
So basically their logic is that it can't hurt to have and additional source for a clean 12v path to the power supply. In talking to several KD7 series users I have run across some that claim it actually assisted them in stability to utilize it, during the testing for this review we honestly didn't notice a difference one way or the other. The location of the connector was just as inconvenient as it is on all the P4 motherboards we've seen, but props to ABIT for utilizing every resource available.
The board comes with 5 fan headers, which for cooling junkies is always a plus. To say 5 is a bit misleading as they power the chipset active cooler with one of them effectively leaving it unavailable for the end user, but that still leaves a full 4 3-pin fan connectors for our use. Two next to the memory slot for CPU cooling, one above the AGP slot for video card cooling, and one at the bottom right for that traditional intake fan power.
Features Break Down:
ABIT has included a few pretty cool features on the KD7 series motherboards that I wanted to mention in this review. I won't go on and on about most of them, but there is a few that definitely warranted mentioning.
5 Bit Frequency ID
This is a feature aimed directly at the overclocker. Here's a quote from an ABIT release..
"By ABIT 5-bit FID Override technology, users can get variety of CPU over-clocking sets. For example, if user gets a AMD Athlon XP 2400+ CPU by 133MHz (FSB)x15(Multiplier)= 2000MHz(CPU/DDR=133/166), that means user only can adjust the FSB to get an over-clocking performance without 5-bits FID override technology.
Otherwise he can adjust the frequency through 5-bits FID override by 166MHz x12=2000MHz (CPU/DDR=166/166) or 100MHz x20=2000MHz (CPU/DDR=100/100)to gain a best performance platform. "
Broken down this basically means that they've not only given the ability to have the CPU for all intent and purpose "unlocked", but that they've given us a boat load of multiplier settings to play with. We've messed with this quite a bit and sure enough, the AthlonXP 2600+ that we've been testing with will run at any multiplier x FSB setting we can throw at it to come up with the 2100Mhz. (of course we've played more than that but you'll have to wait until the overclocking section to find out about it!). This feature absolutely rocks and gives me a flat out warm and fuzzy about ABIT and their dominance of the performance motherboard market.
3 Phase Power Solution
This is another option taking aim at the performance user. To again use ABIT's own example...
* Why do we need 3-Phase power? You can see the table. When we get a AMD Athlon XP 2700+ on our M/B, we need 68.3W Thermal Power (Vcc voltage=1.65V, Processor Current=41.4A).
* Itís original status, if you are a power user and you want enjoy overclocking function, you must need more Vcc voltage (maybe 1.75V), that means you must arise the system thermal power up to 72.5W (1.75V x 41.4A=72.45W). It seems over 2-phase power (under 50W)
* So ABITís 3-Phase power will apply more stable power for CPU and overclocking function
The bottom line here being cleaner, more stabile, more efficient power to your CPU when you need it most, and that's when you're overclocking your system and pushing the envelope. Is this a mandatory feature? Not really. I can say though that there are other manufacturers already following ABIT in their footsteps and releasing similar technology, so you be the judge.
More features ,bios, benchmarks, overclocking, and conclusion coming up.....
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