Gigabyte GA-7VM KX133 Motherboard Review
Good and Bad
This content was originally featured on Amdmb.com and has been converted to PC Perspective's website. Some color changes and flaws may appear.
I know you have all read this before hundreds of times, but the features of the KX133 chipset from VIA Technologies are the backbone of the motherboard. The 4x AGP slot and PC133 memory support are courtesy of the VIA 371 Northbridge. The PCI slots and ISA slot configuration, as well as the UDMA/66 support is supplied by the VIA 686A South bridge. If want to know more about these features and their highs and lows on the KX133 chipset, check out this page.
The GA-7VM is a micro-ATX board, which is made for either the OEM computer manufacturers or retail customers who have small cases. There is of course drawbacks to the size: you only get 1 AGP slot, 3 PCI slots and a single AMR slot. With the inclusion of the AMR slot and the standard AC’97 audio codec on-board, the GA-7VM offers lots of options to those users who need a low cost Athlon system solution.
A breath of fresh air for these mATX cases, Gigabyte has placed the ATX power supply on the left side of the Slot-A port. This leaves the entire space between the slot and the first SDRAM slot for the addition of large cooling fans to the Athlon processor. Anyone who has tried to overclock an Athlon, especially on a micro-ATX case, knows what a pain it is it have the ATX power supply interfere with the placement of the fan, and Gigabyte solved it.
As mentioned earlier, the KX133 chipset allows the GA-7VM to accept both PC100 and PC133 memory AND VC100 and VC133 memory (virtual channel). Though we have seen no real use for the newer Virtual Channel memory, it backwards compatible for anyone who has already purchased it.
The VIA 686A controller allows you to connect some ATA-66 devices up to the system on one of the IDE ports. The only reason I bring this up is to point out that it has only a single ATA66 port on board, where as more recently produced boards have two or four ATA66 IDE ports. This just shows the age of this first generation of KX133 based motherboards and why you may consider looking for a different Slot-A board or one of the soon to be released Socket-A boards.
I also wanted to be sure to stress that if you have the available room in your case, to not even consider a micro-ATX motherboard. The extra 2-3 PCI slots and 1 ISA slot are invaluable to your system’s lifetime usage. The more room you have for expansion, the longer you are going to extend the use of your motherboard and components. Without a single ISA slot on the GA-7VM if you have any legacy devices you will be forced to use the on-board versions or upgrade to a PCI counterpart.
I will never understand why Gigabyte seems to think that software settings are not the correct way to go. Just as with the GA-7VX, the 7VM uses dip-switches for CPU and memory speed settings. This is just an extra hindrance to anyone who is constantly changing their clock speed, meaning the overclocker. In addition, the switches are in a horrible placement on the board, the upper-right corner, near the memory slots. This makes reaching and changing the settings more of a hassle than if the jumpers were on the bottom right corner near the LED connectors.