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Soltek K8AN-RL (NVIDIA nForce3 Pro 150) Mainboard

February 16, 2004



Keeping to its strategy used for the K8T800 chipset Soltek offers a couple of new nForce3 based boards with a modest set of components and functions for Athlon 64 so that it can be possible to build an inexpensive and efficient system based on low-end models. Like the K8T800 based solution (Soltek K8AV2-RL) this one has a unique design with the 90 degrees turned processor socket and memory slots. 




The unusual board design makes it easy to assemble the board. However, the IDE RAID and FDD connectors located behind the PCI slots can make it difficult to install long extension cards into two last slots, and a CD-In cable can stretch along the whole PC case. Also, it can be difficult to reach some jumpers when the board is already installed. Not all functions are indicated on the PCB. The 3-phase switching voltage regulator incorporates 8 capacitors of 3300 uF and 4 of 1500uF. There are also voltage regulators of the AGP bus (1 capacitor of 1000 uF) and of the memory (6 of 1000 uF). 

Although this is a top model in its line, there is space for unsoldered connectors (a unit for additional audio connectors and S/PDIF). The second, last, model in the line - K8AN - is based on the same PCB, but it lacks an IDE/SATA RAID controller (though one SATA port is provided) and a LAN controller. The board measures 305x220 mm (narrow ATX, 7 fastening screws, the front edge might hang loose). System monitoring is supported by Winbond W83627HF-AW. It controls: 

  • processor, battery voltages, +3.3, ±5, ±12 V +5 V Standby; 
  • rotation speed of 3 fans; 
  • Temperature of CPU (built-in sensor) and board (built-in sensor). 

Ports & connectors onboard

  • CPU socket (Socket 754); 
  • 2 slots for DDR SDRAM DIMM (up to 2 GB DDR200/266/333/400); 
  • AGP slot (with a retention clip); 
  • 5 PCI slots; 
  • Power supply connectors: standard ATX and 4-pin 12V; 
  • FDD; 
  • 2 IDE (Parallel ATA) - on chipset; 
  • 1 SATA (Serial ATA) - at the expense of IDE-SATA bridge; 
  • 1 IDE and 2 SATA - at the expense of an additional controller; connected devices can be arranged into RAID JBOD, 0, 1 or 0+1; 
  • 1 connector for a bracket with 2 additional USB (2.0) ports; 
  • Connector for audio-out from CD/DVD drive; 
  • WOL (Wake-On-LAN) port; 
  • Connector for a standard IrDA module; 
  • Connector for a bracket with additional audio-outs; 
  • 3 connectors for fans (2 with with rotation control). 

Rear panel (left to right, units)




  • PS/2 mouse and keyboard;
  • 2 USB (2.0);
  • 1 LPT, 2 COM;
  • 2 USB (2.0) and 1 RJ-45 (Fast Ethernet);
  • 3 audio ports (Mic-In, Line-In, Front).

Accessories




  • Package of the standard design;
  • Documentation: user manual and software description in English, brief installation guide in 9 languages; 
  • Cables: 2 Serial ATA (with PCPlug-SATA adapter), 1 ATA66/100/133 (in purple cambric) and FDD (purple); 
  • Diskette with drivers for SATA/IDE RAID; 
  • 2 software CDs: 
    • drivers; 
    • Adobe Acrobat Reader; 
    • DirectX 8.1a; 
    • PC-cillin 2002; 
    • VirtualDrive 7; 
    • RestoreIT! 3 Lite; 
    • PartitionMagic 6.0 SE; 
    • DriveImage 4.0. 

Integrated controllers

  • audio controller based on the Avance Logic ALC650 AC'97 codec; 5.1 audio system, front audio I/Os supported; 
  • Network controller based on chipset and ICS 1893AF PHY controller, 10/100 Mbit/s (Fast Ethernet) supported; 
  • SATA/IDE RAID, based on Promise PDC20378 chip, supports RAID JBOD, 0, 1 and 0+1, 2 SATA and 1 ATA133 connectors; 
  • IDE-SATA bridge, on Marvel 88i8030-TBC chip, 1 SATA device supported. 

When we tried to estimate integrated audio quality it turned out that the board had no signal on its output. We tried different driver versions but it was of no help. That is why remember to check if the board works correctly before paying money for it, though it's probably a problem of this particular sample. 

Settings


jumpers and switches Jumper to clear up the CMOS  
Jumper for starting up/shutting down PC with keyboard/mouse  
Jumper for enabling/disabling RAID controller  
BIOS based on Phoenix AwardBIOS 6.00PG Setup of memory timings -  
Setup of memory frequency + 100, 133, 166, 200 MHz
HT bus setup + LDT Speed, Downstream LDT Bus Width
Setup of AGP bus +  
Setup of PCI bus -  
AGP/PCI frequency setup + AGP(PCIx2) = 66-100 MHz in 1MHz steps
PCI IRQ manual assignment -  
FSB frequency setup + 200-250 MHz in 1MHz steps
CPU clock ratio -  
CPU voltage control + 0.8-1.55 V in 0.025V steps
DIMM voltage control + 2.6, 2.7, 2.8 V
HT bus voltage control -  
NB voltage control + 1.6, 1.7, 1.8, 1.9 V
AGP voltage control + 1.5, 1.6, 1.7, 1.8 V

We used the BIOS N1RL as the latest available version. 

Performance

According to the preliminary testing this model demonstrates the highest performance level among all other boards based on this chipset. But even in the most memory-hungry applications its speed advantage is not great, and in other tests it doesn't exceed even 2%, that is why its advantage is not that grave argument. 
 

Benchmark Gigabyte K8NNXP Shuttle AN50R Soltek K8AN-RL
Memory read speed (CacheBurst32), MB/s 2856 2841 2914
Memory write speed (CacheBurst32), MB/s 1298 1173 1209
7-Zip archiving, min:sec 7:53 8:13 7:48
MPEG4 (DivX) encoding, min:sec 30:19 30:27 30:10
Return to Castle Wolfenstein (Fast@800x600x32), fps 229 228 231
Return to Castle Wolfenstein (Normal@1024x768x32), fps 213 212 215
 
 

Dmitry Mayorov (destrax@ixbt.com)


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