Shuttle AK35GTR KT266a motherboard review

Shuttle is a well known name in some circles, but hasn't really made a big name for itself in consumer motherboards. The latest in its long line of VIA based motherboards is the in-memorably named AK35GT-R, based on VIA's KT266a, seeing a lot of action recently.

First impressions

The AK35GT-R came in a silver packaging seeming not unique to the model, simply marked as "Spacewalker" as other Shuttle motherboards are. It took a trip to the website to actually find out the model number, this is probably due to the AK35 doesn't seem to be available to the public yet. As far as accessories go, the AK35GT-R must be unique, at least when compared to other manufacturer's offerings. It is the first motherboard I have come across to feature a carry bag. The nylon bag is emblazoned with Shuttle, the logo, and two URLs. The bag is just about big enough to carry the motherboard in its box, in case you need to, hmm, move the motherboard around. I'm sure it would rate very highly in the unnecessary accessory stakes. Honestly, for the cost to make an extra bag I'm sure Shuttle could have included something eminently more useful.

Other accessories are...sparse. In the box are the customary two extra USB ports, a couple of double wired IDE cables for use with UDMA/ATA up to 100 (the maximum the motherboard supports), a floppy cable, and a rather wasteful way to make the onboard sound six channel compatible. Whereas the previous KT266a board I was using (Soyo Dragon Plus) had multiple sound I/O connectors, the only one Shuttle saw fit to include on the AK35GT-R was just one 3.5mm jack for the LFE & Centre stereo channel. A very wasteful use of space. Still, at least it does enable Dolby Digital support, which is better than some of the competition.

The board itself is rather more liberal with expansion than most, comprising four DDR DIMM slots and six PCI slots. The AGP port, although not AGP Pro, does have a retaining mechanism for larger cards. At first I thought the slot was broken at the end, but the bit of plastic to the rear of the slot serves to secure the AGP card, more on this later.

The sixth PCI slot shares with the small obligatory CNR slot (that is rarely ever used). As mentioned before, to get six channel audio and the extra USB slots, backing spaces have to be used up. Shuttle could have easily integrated the LFE/Centre channel jack in with the USB ports, saving the need to use up backspace, or alternatively they could have followed Soyo, Asus and Creative's lead and used a front plate to serve for I/O.

Otherwise, the board was largely forgettable, with no special colouring. Most users shouldn't mind though, as in the majority of cases it spends nearly all of its lifetime out of sight.

The board of course came with a drivers CD and a manual. Both of them weren't final shipping versions though, the driver CD was a CDR with a pen scribbled "BAK35OA" marking it. The same could be said for the manual, although comprehensive, it was printed on A4 sheets held together by a paper clip, awkward to look through. It also had quite a few passages in it that were badly translated. Not quite on the scale off "All your base are belong to us", but "after upgrade, new memory value will be computed" sounds less than convincing. Having said this, I could still easily understand most of the manual. There was a separate manual, in the same A4 style as the main system manual, but marked "raid administrator". This, unsurprisingly, covered the onboard raid controller, and was as comprehensive (and unprofessional) as the main manual.

Obviously Shuttle didn't have these items ready-to-go yet but should have by the time they get the boards on stores, we didn't get any other related notes from them so we assume the motherboard itself was indeed final revision, no word about the BIOS either.

You can check out the complete technical specifications for AK35GT-R on the next page, if you want to bypass them, go directly to Page # 3.


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