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EPoX 8KHA+ Socket A Motherboard (KT266A) review

Epox's latest offering for AMD CPU owners has been built around the VIA KT266a chipset, this newer revision of the chipset is supposed to improve memory performance among other things, first of all here we have some key points for the chipset:

  • Enhanced Memory Controller with Performance Driven Design: Timings have been improved, resulting in faster transfers between the synchronized Front Side Bus and Memory Bus. Also, the new memory controller with Performance Driven Design can burst up to eight Quad Words of data per clock, up from four in previous designs. Data queues have also been deepened, allowing faster and access to buffered data.

  • V-MAP: The VIA Apollo KT266A is part of the family of VIA Modular Architecture Platforms (V-MAP). As a modular solution, the North and South bridge of VIA Apollo KT266A are completely pin compatible with current and future products.

  • High-Speed V-Link Hub Architecture: The VIA Apollo KT266A makes use of VIA's V-Link Hub Architecture, which provides a dedicated 266MB/s bus between the North and South bridge. Less advanced chipsets use the 132MB/s PCI bus as a link, which must be shared with all PCI peripherals.

  • 200/266MHz DDR Front Side Bus Support: Offering up to 2.1GB/s of bandwidth, the 266MHz system bus perfectly complements the high performance DDR memory subsystem and V-Link bus.

  • AGP4X/2X Support: Providing up to 1GB/s in graphics bandwidth with AGP4X technology.

This list contains two important things: the first would be that VIA has finally been able to improve the memory performance of the KT266 with several improvements to the memory controller. Unfortunately VIA is not giving out any more specific details. The other important feature of the KT266A is hidden behind 'V-MAP'. KT266A is fully pin-compatible with its predecessor KT266, which means that you in theory could just solder this chipset onto your current KT266 mainboard and thus get the improvements above...

Unfortunately you will, of course need to go out and buy a new mainboard but since it is pin-compatible with the KT266, motherboard makers can continue to use the PCBs (printed circuit boards) of the previous KT266 boards. This will ensure that prices can be kept relatively low and that shipment can be started very smoothly.

First Impressions

When looking at the actual mainboard you will notice that Epox has finally got rid of all jumpers but two: one of course, is the clear CMOS jumper, and the other one is used to select if you have a 100mhz DDR FSB processor (Duron or 200Mhz T-Bird) or the faster 133mhz version (T-Bird 266Mhz and all Athlon XP CPU's). A minor inconvenience with this jumper is that when you change its setting, the BIOS is automatically reset forcing you to reconfigure all your BIOS settings.

The mainboard is quite large, at 30, 5 x 24,5cm it is just at the limit of the ATX specification, make sure to measure your case so you know that this big boy can fit in there!

Something else most people surely won’t notice is that this board has more screw holes than most other mainboards has, a great thing since I’ve noticed many times when you put in a PCI card the whole mainboard tends to bend for example.

Epox has also put an “active” heatsink on the 8KHA+’s North Bridge in the form of a small heatsink with a sleeve bearing Cooler Master Fan on top of it. A nice move to keep the temperatures down, but the thermal paste could have been better applied, (see picture below). Though as the crazy overclocker I am, the HSF was later replaced by an all copper Titan TTC-CUV1AB cooler which was quieter, had better looks and offered better cooling. ;-)

You will also notice that the MOSFET's used to supply the mainboard with steady power are located on both sides of the board, three on the front and three on the back, smart move by Epox, which both spreads the heat out more efficiently and gives free room for other components. As a side note the MOSFET's can get up to 60°C, and the IC above them can do 70°C under full load, so you understand why it's a good idea to spread them out...

The ATX power connector delivering power to the MOSFET’s could have been better placed though, while reassuring it’s close to them (and thus offering steady and clean power), it’s not good having to run it above the processor heatsink and reduce its cooling capacity. Buy a few zip ties along with the mainboard to remedy this small inconvenience.

There are a total of three fan connectors of which two of them can be RPM monitored. The first two are right next to the ATX power connector; one for the CPU which can be monitored and the other for case out, the last one is at the bottom right of the mainboard.

The mainboard also features the four holes around the CPU socket required in some high-performance heatsinks like the Alpha 8045 and Swiftech’s MC462. I had no problems installing those heatsinks; there was enough room between the capacitors, though it was a tight fit… It should also be noted that the holes are of the smaller version, and thus you do not need to use the nylon shoulder washers included with the above two mentioned heatsinks.

 



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