Asus A7V KT133 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.
The A7V is essentially designed to support the Socket-A Duron and Enhanced Athlon processors. The actual differences between the earlier K7V and the A7V are of course, Socket-A support and UltraDMA/100. Being that the chipsets are identical to one another, many users may still experience abnormalities between their favorite GeForce based video card and the A7V. The Irongate, KX, and KT chipsets cannot run AGP 2X/4X with command and data in the same cycle, which is one of the functions featured in Nvidia's GeForce 256. With patience and experimentation, most of you will be able to use all the features of the video card and motherboard in all it's glory. The most distinguishing features of the A7V are most certainly the new Socket-A connector, UltraDMA/100, and AGP Pro support. While the latter of the two are not currently flexing their performance muscles, they are sure to keep even the most astute gamer happy and current for at least six months. To realize the full effects of UltraDMA/100 performance, we will have to wait for the UltraDMA/100 hard drives to arrive; which should be shortly. VIA's KT133 chipset, formally KZ133, now supports AMD's Duron and "Enhanced" Athlon's. Memories supported are SDRAM, (HSDRAM) or the newer and somewhat better performing NEC Virtual Channel memory. Whether this nominal performance increase provided by VChannel memory can be realized, is open for debate. I have found through repeated tests between Enhanced HSDRAM and NEC VChannel memory, that VCM provides a slight performance increase consistently when tested using synthetic benchmarks such as SisSoft Sandra's Memory Benchmark program. Accompanying the A7V is five PCI slots. The death of the ISA slot is most certainly dead and long overdue. Motherboard real estate is a valuable commodity and I find it disturbing that Asus would still continue to use said space for an AMR slot. Most may agree that we would rather see a sixth PCI slot. But, these are small issues that have nothing to do with the performance and stability of the A7V. Other amenities are the inclusion of seven USB Ports, and support for UltraDMA/66.
With all this goodness, there is still more that has created this shroud of excitement for the A7V, frequency multiple settings. Many websites have reported that Asus, in the eleventh hour, decided to remove this option to further prevent overclocking of AMD processors. Frequency Multiple settings are not available here because AMD Athlon processors have locked Frequency Multipliers. According to Asus, they will soon be releasing an A7V WITH said options to provide overclocking. And yes, the A7V will allow the change of the processor voltage as well as the adjustment of the processor multiplier! The first will be possible with jumpers, the latter will be achieved with dipswitches. Even if your one of those lucky (unlucky), souls who opted to be the first with the A7V, I have found that by simply increasing the front side bus, you should be able to squeeze at least another 100MHz out of your processor. Also, the Duron seems to be a little more overclock tolerant. There is one important aspect of this overclocking phenomenon, that needs to be addressed. Even if you procure an A7V with the frequency multiplier, you will need an "unlocked" processor for which AMD has openly stated are no longer being manufactured. If you were one of the few who opted for a Duron or Thunderbird early on during this excitement, you may very well have an unlocked processor. The processor we tested was one of the FIRST Socket-A 1GHz Thunderbirds available from the Dresden Facility in Germany. And yes, it's the bleu one with the copper interconnects. This gem came compliments of Sterling of Monarch Computer.
From an end-user perspective, Asus does an excellent job in the ergonomics department. Everything is package wonderfully, and the "warm fuzzes" are present. And again, I was pleasantly surprised to see a bright yellow, fantastically designed box. The packaging was second to none. Asus now includes a neat little Asus 1" sticker to apply to your case. Also enclosed is the Asus P2T-cable and Support CD. All cables are provided and as always, a very detailed manual. Also helpful, is a detailed glossary of all those BIOS features that some of us never really understood.
Enclosed is an official "poster" supporting Asus' flagship AMD motherboard:
(Click for Larger Image [poster])