Examining the board
On the package you can see a Formula 1 racing bolide, which is quite symbolic. If you look closer at the board you will see it has nothing unnecessary. No integrated sound, no clips for AGP (Formula 1 cars have no radio-recorders or soft leather seat either :)).
The textolite is yellow which is traditional for Abit.
Abit obviously staked on the functional capabilities of the board, not on unnecessary improvements.
The first that proves it is the socket.
On the board, next to the cooler's mount is a plastic strip to prevent the board from damages which can occur during installation of the cooler. The socket is located almost on the edge of the board which makes difficult to affix the cooler if the board is already inside. And it's almost impossible to install large coolers. For example: the Termaltake Volcano 7 was first mounted onto the board (not without difficulty :) and only after that the board was taken in. But all latest Abit's boards have a similar design. Well, it seems that Abit has found an optimal design for its boards.
Remember also that it's impossible to install most of coolers without a screwdriver. In this case the fact that the socket is located on the edge may be an advantage, because the screwdriver might jump off :).
Next to the socket is a power connector the position of which is quite convenient.
The only small drawback is that there are two fan connectors between the power connector and the socket. The board sports 5 (!) connectors for additional fans in all. One of them, however, is meant for the CPU's cooler, another for the fan on the chipset. So, the board provides enough support for additional cooling. But it will be quite difficult to estimate effectiveness of cooling, because apart from the processor there is a video card and a high-speed hard drive which also heat much; unfortunately, an external thermo sensor is not supported. By the way Abit was among the first who integrated it in the mainboard, but later the company refused it. Today only the Soltek SL-75DRV2 boards come with an external thermo sensor.
The north bridge contains a fan (without a turn sensor), which is typical of an overclocker-friendly board.
There is a thermo grease layer between the bridge and the heatsink (most boards use thermo glue), that is why such cooling system gets A. The fan works noiselessly, though any cooler works so for the first couple of weeks. And only after that low-quality fans start producing noise.
The AGP slot supports both 1.5V and 3.3V video cards. As I already mentioned, there are no clips to fix the card in the slot (no traces of an AGP Pro at all). Note that such clips can bring troubles if you have a quality case and you have to replace video cards quite often.
The mounted video card locks clips on the DIMM slots, which creates problems during installation/deinstallation of the memory modules.
By the way, there are 4 DIMMs on the KR7A board. Among all its competitors, only the Shuttle AK31 rev 3.1 has 4 slots, others have only 3. It isn't important for an average user - 3 or 4 memory slots. But it is very important for assembling workstations. Unfortunately, I couldn't test stability of operation when memory is installed in all of 4 slots. I just can say that there were no problems with the 256 MBytes+2x128 MBytes configuration.
The board can take 3 GBytes RAM in all (or 4 GBytes if register memory modules are used).
The expandability is excellent - there are 6 PCI slots. Besides, there is a version with an integrated RAID controller. Realizing that far not all users overclock processors Abit made a decision to produce boards with the RAID controller and without it on one PCB. As a RAID controller they use the HighPoint HPT372 chip. It supports hard drives with the new interface ATA-133. Note that hard drives supporting this standard are already available on the market (for example, Maxtor). This is what the KR7A board differs in from the Epox or Soltek ones. However, the real performance boost of the disc subsystem is not great when the new standard is used.
A large photo of the Abit KR7A-RAID is given at the end of the review.
I have already said that the board lacks for integrated sound. It has no slots for riser-cards either.
The IDE connectors are located under the DIMM slots, no problems related with connection of the cables occurred.
The rear panel looks usual. But there's no either a game port or nd audio-outs because of the lacking integrated sound.
Well, it's good that the rear panel doesn't look like that of the Abit BL7 :)
The I/O system is based on the Winbond W83697HF chip.
Next to it is the BIOS chip.
The IDE connectors have the optimal position, unlike the FDD one. The latter is put into the corner of the board and the cable will stretch along the whole case. Besides, there are quite high cases where drives are put too close to the upper panel. In this case the cable can turn out to be short. Well, this seems to be the only disadvantage of the design.
There is a single jumper - CCMOS (next to the battery). The following figure clearly shows how the components are laid out on the board.
Connectors for the additional USB ports are, as usual, on the board's edge, next to the PCI6.
As you can see, seats meant for the RAID controller and additional IDE connectors are free. Take a look also at the Abit AC2001 chip,
which is to support the POST code diagnostic indicator. The latter is lacking on the board. There is only space for it next to the LEDs. It seems that this is a 7-segment indicator, like on the Abit BL7 board. Unfortunately, contrary to the BL7, there are no Power and Reset buttons. However, you can get a separate ABIT Postman (DB-20) which must to be inserted instead of one of the expansion cards and connected to the SMB1 (near the south bridge).
There is one more interesting thing to mention. The board has 3 color LEDs. The red one blinks when you press the Power or the Reset button. The green one goes on when the computer is turned on, and the yellow one is on when the system is in the stand-by mode and the memory/PCI are powered. So, we have the board with the traffic lights: red, yellow, green - go! :))).
The system monitoring of this board, as compared with the boards with the VT82C686 south bridge, can monitor voltage -12V and -5V. Other features are standard.
A little on the BIOS. It is based on the Award BIOS v6.00PG .
Obviously, there is SoftMenu III item for installation of parameters of the processor's operation.
Besides, it's interesting to take a look at the memory settings.
(for the more detailed information on the memory settings see "Overclocking & Stability")
Page 3 - Overclocking & Stability
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