Abit KG7-RAID Socket A Motherboard Review


VIA Hell (?)

As you probably already know, VIA aren’t exactly reputed for their high quality products (Well, stable & uncompromising anyway), with their Chipsets having problems with running in AGP X4 mode, being most prominent in Motherboards that had issues with Soundcards crackling & other well documented issues. In the case of the KG7 RAID it uses the VIA686B Southbridge to provide standard IDE connectivity (With the RAID controller providing another 2 IDE Channels as well). This provides up to ATA 100 support for IDE devices, although there was some cause for concern with this Chipset & data corruption, as explained on VIA Hardware, although I’ll examine this more later.

Thankfully, rather than using a VIA Northbridge the KG7 RAID instead uses the AMD 761. The AMD-761 system controller features the AMD Athlon system bus, DDR-SDRAM system memory controller, accelerated graphics port (AGP4X) controller & peripheral component interconnect (PCI) bus controller. So how well do these co-exist?

Surprisingly well, indeed. In all my time using the KG7 RAID in Windows XP it behaved well using just the Drivers on the XP CD. I ended downloading a new XP compatible IDE Driver from VIA later, though. Unfortunately, while it worked just fine IDE devices were than detected as SCSI & upon uninstalling the VIA IDE Driver I had severe problems, with Device manager listing several devices that shouldn’t be there, e.g. Other than the Highpoint RAID controller, it also detected an SCSI one. As a result I ended up reformatting & reinstalling XP. Other than that early mishap (& never going near VIA Drivers again) the Motherboard worked quite perfectly.

For both, regular Desktop usage or 3D Gaming the system was quite stable. I could literally leave the PC on for hours & know it would still be running the same task as expected (Which I tried, looping a Quake 3 timedemo). As regards the data corruption mentioned earlier on, I also encountered no such problems (Copying large files from one partition to another, or from a CD to the Hard Drive while playing MP3s & such). The Creative Audigy Player I use similarly encountered no problems, or crackling as you may know it as ;).

Upon receiving & installing the Creative 3D Blaster Geforce 3 Titanium 200 I set about setting the AGP Transfer mode in the BIOS to AGP 4X & Enabled Fast writes support. Rather than encountering problems with this combination the AMD 761 Northbridge handled it all in its stride & I’ve encountered no problems in Games or other 3D applications. In fact the one time I had a problem was on the desktop when it auto-rebooted.

Other than this the VIA 686B Southbridge & AMD 761 Northbridge made a great combination. Later on I’ll examine the performance, but for now I can happily say that the VIA 686B & AMD 761 made a great combination.

On-board RAID

The KG7 RAID features a Highpoint Technologies HPT 370A controller, which can be used to provide connectivity for up to 4 extra IDE devices, or for providing RAID 0/1/0+1 functionality for Hard Drives. RAID is a technique used to configure multiple Hard drives for improved performance or data integrity as compared with single Hard Drive solutions. The HPT 370A Chipset present on the KG7 RAID supports 3 modes of operation. Which mode to use will b limited to a certain extent by the Hard drives you have. It is preferable though that you have identical Hard drives should you intend to setup a RAID configuration of any type. Here’s a quick run down of the different modes available;

RAID 0. Commonly known as Striping. 2 Hard drives are needed for this & all Data will be split evenly across both Hard drives, which in theory will result in twice the performance (Data can be simultaneously read/wrote on both Drives, rather than on only a single one). In the case of RAID 0 the Hard drive space available is limited to the smallest Hard drive available, e.g. were you using 4 Gigabyte & 10 Gigabyte ATA 100 Hard drives then for RAID purposes only 4 Gigabytes will be available. There is no data integrity in this mode, e.g. if one Hard drive breaks/fails then the other will not be usable in its current state either.

RAID 1. Commonly known as Mirroring. Whereas RAID 0 was a performance oriented mode, RAID 1 is a data integrity mode. Again 2 Hard drives are required. In this case, data is mirrored on both Hard Drives, which means that in the event of one Drive failing the other can be used without issue – no data will be lost. Again, the Hard drive space available is limited to the smallest Hard drive available, e.g. were you using 4 Gigabyte & 10 Gigabyte ATA 100 Hard drives then for RAID purposes only 4 Gigabytes will be available.

RAID 0 + 1. This combines the advantages of both RAID 0 & RAID 1, i.e. improved performance by Striping & data integrity via Mirroring. 4 Hard drives are required for this mode.

Unfortunately I only have a single ATA 100 Hard Drive & thus was unable to test out RAID functionality with the Motherboard. Although as you’ll see later on an ATA 100 RAID 0 array performed about 60% faster in SiSoft Sandra.


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