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Epox 8K3A+ vs. FIC AN17 KT333 motherboard shootout

While this article was first thought as a FIC AN17 mainboard review, the Epox 8K3A+ was thrown in later for comparison so this could be a more useful and comprehensive piece of material. Both of the aforementioned motherboards have been built around the KT333 Northbridge chipset, while certainly not the latest DDR-400 supporting chipset from VIA, KT333 motherboards will start seeing more mainstream action for that same reason, hence a lower price is expected for these products.

Going onto further detail on how these two motherboards compare, both boards use the same Southbridge chipset, the VT8233A, which doesnít support USB 2.0 or integrated LAN. Like in most motherboards released nowadays at least some kind of integrated audio codec is included; the FIC board uses the ALC201A and Epox uses the ALC650, though I wonít go into detail with these due to the fact that a power user will only disable them anyway to use higher-end counterparts.

         
FIC and Epox KT333 products (respectively).

Both boards offer RAID, the FIC mainboard does so using an integrated Promise PDC20265R controller which unfortunately is limited in stripe size to only 64k. The Highpoint HPT372 controller on the Epox mobo however does not have this limitation and is thus more useful for a high-end system configuration... (As a side note the overall stripe size which is said to be the best is 512k, however this highly depends on how you are going to use your system i.e. a file server vs. gaming rig is indeed a big difference...)

And it is now that we are starting to see at which user base these boards are aimed. Whereas the Epox mainboard has got rid of all unnecessary expansion-ports and offers full 6x PCI slots and the mandatory AGP 4x slot; FIC instead has tried to grab some OEM market including an AMR slot, and thus offering 5 PCI slots and the AGP slot.

Both mainboards offer three PC2700 166Mhz DDR slots (effectively 333Mhz), taking full advantage of KT333 chipset capabilities; looking and comparing mobo layout we notice a lot of similarities; just like its predecessor the 8K3A+, the Epox mobo has its power connector below the MOSFET transistors, delivering power cleanly; it's not good having to run the cable above your CPU cooler and reduce itís airflow obviously, so my recommendation will yet again be to buy a few zip-ties along with the board, the FIC AN17 also has it's ATX power connector located in this area.

The placement of IDE connectors have been better thought on the FIC board than on the Epox however, placed further up so itís better for airflow; the placement of the RAID IDE connectors is the same on both though, right at the bottom of the board making it difficult to reach for a hard drive mounted high up in a case. In the other hand we will probably just have to get used to this, it would seem impossible to place RAID connectors higher due to trace length constraints, so, rounded IDE cables are my best advice to remedy the problem of airflow in this instance.

     
A closer look to Epox's mobo.

It is also a shame that both mainboards only offer USB v1.1 compatibility, and only two external and two internal USB ports, most other mainboards in this class offer at least a couple more ports, if not, 2.0 ports. The rest of I/O ports on the boards are the usual; the mouse and keyboard PS/2 connector, two serial COM ports, a parallel port and a game/midi port plus the audio ports...

If we take a look at power delivery we will right away notice that Epox has an advantage, FIC namely only offer four MOSFET transistors to deliver power to the CPU whereas Epox offers six which are also placed on both sides of the board just like it's predecessor to give more room for other components and spread out the heat they produce. The Epox also has more capacitors in this region, which should allow a more steady supply of power to the mainboard, and its components.



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