Soyo K7V Dragon Plus Socket A motherboard review

Soyo aren't the first name that come into mind when considering the purchase of the new motherboard, largely because they involve themselves in the OEM section of the market a lot of the time. Soyo have been making motherboards for a long time, and have built up a reputation of being dependable, if nothing special.

Soyo's novelty named K7V Dragon Plus is one of the latest Via KT266a motherboards to come out, and superficially it would seem to be the most fully featured. The name is itself an acronym, with the initials for DDR, Raid, Audio, graphic, overclocking, network. Graphic is used liberally to describe the AGP port, and the Dragon Plus does not have integrated video. The Dragon Plus includes many more than features than my previous four Socket A boards, but does its performance live up to expectations? Let's find out...

First Impressions

Upon opening the classically oriental styled packaging I was greatly surprised as to the contents. The package contained:

  • Three double wired IDE cables (suitable for UDMA 66+ use)

  • A floppy cable

  • A spare ATX backing plate specifically for the Dragon Plus

  • The manual and driver CD

  • An extra CD with bonus software

  • A small bag with thermal compound (silicone) for heatsink use

  • An audio expansion card with two analogue, two digital and two coaxial ports

  • A "bonus" box containing a front bay expansion plate with USB ports and an SCR port

  • The motherboard itself

This goes a long way to being the most fully featured package around. Even my previous MSI K7T Pro2 RU with its ten USB ports and Smart Key didn't seem to cut it anymore.

MSI have followed the fashions of the moment with an unorthodox coloured PCB. In this case, the Dragon Plus is black with dark brown circuitry. Whilst rather more stylish than puke red as seen on the K7T Pro2 or purple/pink as seen on the K7VTA3, it will still be of little attraction to most users, or at least those who do not spend any time looking at the insides of their computer.

However, Soyo have not been totally inconsiderate to those who value the attraction of bright colours, and have included purple coloured PCI slots, five of them in all. I was told a while ago by a friendly source at OCZ Workshop that purple was the colour of the Samurai. I'm not too sure about this as a reason for Soyo using purple PCI slots, but it would fit into the general oriental image the Dragon Plus conjures. At least, the clashing colours will not effect the performance in any way (one hopes).

Unlike some other manufacturers, Soyo chose to put a small fan on the Northbridge chipset heatsink. A positive point for some (notably FSB overclockers), but those who value quiet would not be so happy to see its unnecessary inclusion. Presumably though it can be removed, and the motherboard operated without it, warranty willing.

Soyo have not been as generous with DIMM slots as Abit were with their KG7, including one less at three, but supporting up to 3 GB of DDR RAM, this really should not be an issue for most people.

You may have noticed with some curiosity earlier I listed an ATX backing plate as one of the contents of the package. The main reason for this, I suspect, is that not all ATX backing plates have an extra port space above the USB ports for an RJ45 connector. Of my two PCs, one had space in the ATX backing plate for an RJ45 port.

Soyo have been good enough to include a RAID controller from Promise. Similar to that used on Asus boards, the RAID chip detects devices during boot and can also function just as a separate Ultra 100 controller giving support for an additional four IDE devices.

The layout of the board seemed fairly similar to that of the K7T Pro2, and by this I was a little apprehensive about installing it. The absence of an AMR/CMI slot is noticed, but not mourned (most of you shouldn't be using one of these such cards).

The software that came with the Dragon Plus was in excess of expectations, including Norton AntiVirus 2001, Norton Ghost, Adobe ActiveShare, eWalla, Imagemore and trial versions of Intervideo WinDVD and Vcom AutoSave.


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