My first two reviews of ABIT products were of video cards. It’s a little humorous considering that ABIT is best known for their great motherboards. Well the ABIT review of today is actually about one of their motherboards and it’s a feature rich product that holds up really well as long as you’re not using a video card with a Radeon R300 chip.
The ABIT KD7-G
is an AMD board supports 200/266/333MHz FSB processors and sports the VIA KT400 and VT8235 chipsets. The AGP port supports modes of up to 8X for those cards that are just coming out now that are AGP 8X rated like ABIT’s own GF4 Ti4200 8X-OTES card. At 8X the peak bandwidth is 2.1 GB/s.
There are four memory slots on the board. For registered DDR 200/266, you can use all four sockets for a total of 3.5GB. If you have unregistered DDR 200/266, you can use three slots for a maximum of 3.0GB. If you want to take full advantage of the chipset, you can only put a maximum of 2 DDR 333/400 sticks for a maximum of 2GB of memory. It’s a little disappointing you can’t use all four slots if you have DDR333/400 ram. Two of the memory slots do sit quite close to the AGP port so it would be wise to fill those slots up first in case you want to add more later and don’t want to have to take your video card out to put them in.
Six PCI slots allow for a great deal of expansion and with the onboard devices that it has, you might not even have to use one at all. For the motherboard to have six PCI slots, the ABIT KD7-G
gives you plenty of room to put in extra cards. The AGP port features a lock for you to keep those cards in securely.
USB 2.0’s starting to become the norm and the KD7-G
gives you two rear ports and supplies one bracket for two more connections. If you have front connectors, the board has one more USB 2.0 connection pins for you to use. USB 2.0 is backwards compatible so you can be sure that all your old peripherals work along with any of the newer ones coming out.
A gigabit LAN port sits above the rear USB 2.0 connectors. That’s right, a gigabit LAN and not those puny 10/100 ports. The gigabit port provides 10/100/1000Mbps support giving you compatibility with most general networks while allowing you to take advantage of LANs with gigabit support. Gigabit hardware prices are dropping so it might not be too long before homes and business start outfitting their internal network with them.
Serial ATA is starting to show up on more boards and the KD7-G
has two serial ATA connectors. Some of the advantages of serial ATA are that the cables are a lot thinner, connectors are small, and a higher burst transfer rate. Cables can be thinner but longer also. The L connector shape allows you to easily plug it in without confusion as to which way it’s suppose to go. Like USB, serial ATA drives can be hot swappable. Since there isn’t many serial ATA hard drives currently available, ABIT was kind enough to include an IDE to serial ATA converter. The converter plugs into the IDE port of the hard drive and has one power connector. A split power cable connects the hard drive and the converter to a power source. Make sure to set the hard drive to master for it to be recognized. I accidentally had it on chip select and was pulling my hair wondering why it wasn’t working. After moving the jumper to master, the serial ata controller was able to recognize my Maxtor 120GIG 7200 drive. Setting the boot up device to serial ATA in the BIOS, I was able to successfully install and run the OS from the serial ATA connection. The KD7-G
allows for RAID 0 or RAID 1 with two hard drives connected to the serial ATA controller.
The traditional IDE and floppy connectors are still on the board. Even with the two serial ATA connectors, the board also has 2 Ultra DMA 33/66/100/133 IDE connectors.
The onboard sound is powered by RealTek’s AC’97 chipset and offers a center, front, rear, line in, and mic in connectors. For those with an optical connection like a receiver or the Z-680
speakers, the KD7-G
also has an S/PDIF connector for digital connections. The board won’t do Dolby Digital encoding on the fly but it can transmit Dolby Digital encoded signals from DVDs to a receiver on the digital connection so that you can experience surround sound movies. With the updated driver set you can change two of the ports on the board. I’ve been using the onboard sound lately and the quality is pretty good in games and movies.
Located on the right side of the board, the CPU socket is far enough out of the way of other components so you can easily insert or remove the CPU without having other components in the way. There are a few big capacitors that are in close proximity so you should be pretty carefully in that area. Other than that, I do like where it sits on the board. And there are cooler mounting holes around the socket for those who want to use some really intensive cooling units.
The power connector is also located out of the way and by itself. I’ve dealt with a few motherboards where the ATX connector was too close to the hard drive connectors or the CPU socket but the KD7-G
’s connector sits in a very good spot. Speaking of power connectors, there are five fan headers for you to use. That’s a lot of fan connectors and if you are an overclocker with the need for cooling, this board gives you the headers.
A fan sits on top of the KT400 chip to help keep things cool and running smooth. More and more boards are putting fans on the northbridge chip and ABIT has followed suite with one on theirs. This helps cool the chip and provides more stability from overheating crashes.
ABIT is well known for the great SoftMenu that helps in overclocking and this board is no exception. Various settings are easily accessible and you can try to push your CPU as fast as possible just by adjusting the settings in the BIOS. Your front side bus can be increased in increments of one megahertz. If you do so there’s also three options for the FSB/AGP/PCI ratio dividers to try and keep those peripherals working in their acceptable MHz range. There are also voltage settings for the CPU if you need to increase the power to it as you push for more speed. The SoftMenu helped put ABIT on the map early in their days and the SoftMenu III on the KD7-G
gives the user almost everything they could want when trying to overclock their system.
Putting the system together was pretty easy. I used one stick of Crucial PC2700 512MB ram, an AMD Athlon 2200+ XP cpu, and the ABIT Siluro GF4 Ti4200-8X OTES
video card after my failed attempts with the All-in-Wonder 9700 Pro
. More on that in a bit. After making all the connections, everything booted up on my first try. The manual is very helpful and labels all the connectors and jumpers nicely.
After doing a fresh install of Windows XP and installing the necessary updates and drivers I proceeded to run a few tests. When installing Windows XP, make sure you have a floppy drive connected as it will need the serial ATA drivers on the 3.5” floppy provided by ABIT if you have your primary hard drive connected this way. Since I hadn’t used my floppy drive in ages, I had taken it out and I was forced to reconnect it for installation purposes.
Now here’s where the ugliness of the KT400 chipset comes in with the Radeon card. I would get random lockups on tests without any warning. To make a long story short, there seems to be some problems with the Radeon cards and the AGP 3.0 specification on KT400 boards. NForce boards seem to be fine but when using any VIA drivers that have the AGP driver for 8X, lockups occur in 3D applications. I’ve contacted both ATi and ABIT and while I hope that there is a fix for it, but there have been too many posts on the subject to give me any hope. Some people suggested upping the AGP voltage but the BIOS was devoid of this option. If I didn’t install the VIA drivers, the machine ran flawlessly but many of the benchmarks were lower than expected. Some tests I did get through fine with the Radeon card but it was very sporadic as when the computer would lockup. So, I decided to stick in the ABIT Siluro Geforce4 Ti4200-8X OTES
to run most of the benches. With that card, the motherboard was stable and didn’t exhibit any problems with the VIA Hyperion drivers installed. Let’s start off with 3DMark 2001 SE
With all the controversy surrounding 3DMark03
, I’ve decided to use the older more accepted 3DMark 2001 SE
as the artificial benchmark test for this review. First I’ll post the scores I received with the All-in-Wonder Radeon 9700
. This test I was able to successfully run a few times before the inevitable crash with the Hyperion drivers installed. The tests were run under default conditions with no anti-aliasing enabled.
Now here are the scores for the ABIT Siluro GF4 Ti4200-8X OTES
For a real world game benchmark, here’s Unreal Tournament 2003
utility. They released a 2.0 version of their nice utility a few days ago so be sure to pick it up if you would want to run batch benchmarks with UT2K3
easily. It now gives a nice html format of your scores and you have better control as to what tests you want to run. A definite must use for those wanting to bench UT2K3
. The tests were done with the ABIT GF4 card.
The scores you see are the average frames per second I received when running the flybys.
The ABIT KD7-G
is certainly a feature rich board. Given with what ABIT has crammed on to this board it offers the enthusiast or overclocker a great deal to play with. I really liked the layout of the components and overall it ran well with the exception of the All-in-Wonder 9700 Pro
failure. But then again, there have been reports of other KT400 boards having the same problems as I did with the R300 chip. Hopefully there will be a fix for it sometime in the future. With my month’s use of the board, I found it to be very stable with my Geforce4 Ti4200 card. Those who are looking for a motherboard that’ll be ready for the future will be happy to see a gigabit LAN and serial ATA raid. You can pick up the board for around $140 at the time of this review's publishing