Abit KG7-RAID Motherboard Review

Admin - 2007-02-21 20:51:03 in Motherboards
Category: Motherboards
Reviewed by: Admin   
Reviewed on: 
Abit
GF City Computers
Price: $157 USD

Introduction:



It's finally here, the KG7-RAID! Abit once again, hits a home run with their KG7-RAID. Featuring their incredible SoftMenuIII BIOS! This board is so awesome, allowing for very small adjustments of the FSB usually in increments of 1-2 MHz. This is a must have for the serious overclocker because of the multiple variations between CPUs. With six PCI slots, AGP 4X, Four 184-pin DIMM sockets support up to 4 GB PC1600/PC2100 DDR SDRAM, four UDMA100 controllers allowing up to 8 Ultra DMA 33/66/100( RAID 0 /1/0+1), what's not to like? This board is top-of-the-line , best of the best, far more superior than any other board on the market!

What is DDR?
The basic idea behind DDR SDRAM is that you take a normal SDRAM module and redesign it to be able to send data on the rising and falling edge of each clock. Instead of running the SDRAM twice as fast, which is an exceedingly difficult task, you enable it to send data twice as fast, a less difficult task, thereby providing about twice the theoretical maximum memory bandwidth.

DDR1600, runs at 100MHz DDR, with the equivalent of 200MHz of bandwidth. On a 64-bit wide memory bus, the standard for today's SDRAM desktop systems, DDR1600 provides a theoretical peak of 1600MBps of memory bandwidth, hence the name DDR1600.

DDR2100, runs at 133MHz DDR, with the equivalent of 266MHz of bandwidth. On a 64-bit wide memory bus, DDR2100 provides a theoretical peak of about 2100MBps of memory bandwidth, hence the name DDR2100.

The AMD 761 chipset



The AMD 761 chipset is AMD's very own DDR chipset for the AMD Athlon family of processors. The chipset consist of the AMD 761 called the North Bridge and the VIA 686B which is the South Bridge. The AMD 761 wasn't the first DDR-capable north bridge to support Athlon CPUs--that honor goes to the Acer Labs M1647 ALiMAGiK. However, the 761 currently offers the best performance of any Athlon DDR north bridge.

The 761 isn't particularly flexible about memory configurations. Most users buy unbuffered DIMMs, and the 761 is capable of supporting only two unbuffered DIMMs. However, this inflexibility is mitigated by the fact that you can add memory modules one at a time, and the two modules may be different sizes, though they must be the same type (either unbuffered or registered). Maximum memory supported is 4GB.

Specifications:



-CPU
  • Support AMD Athlon/Duron 700MHz ~ 1.33GHz or future Socket A Processors based on 200/266 MHz(100MHz/133MHz Double Data Rate)
    -Chipset
  • AMD761/VIA 686B
    -Memory
  • Four 184-pin DIMM sockets support up to 4 GB PC1600/PC2100 DDR SDRAM module
    -Bios
  • SoftMenu™III Technology
    -Functions
  • Four channels of Bus Master IDE Ports supporting up to 8 Ultra DMA 33/66/100( RAID 0 /1/0+1)
    -Miscellaneous
  • 1 AGP slot, 6 PCI slots
    -Ultra DMA 100/RAID
  • High Point HTP370 IDE Controller

    What you get

    Here is a list of things that you received in the box:

  • KG7-RAID motherboard duh..
  • A nice User manual
  • 2 extra USB ports
  • 1 Floppy cable
  • 2 ATA100 IDE cables

    If you have alot of USB devices, like me, you can make alot of use of the 2 extra USB ports that Abit provides. It's really easy to install, just place it in an emtpy bay slot in the back of your computer, and plug the wire into the USB header that is located on the motherboard. (Refer to page 2-11 of your manual).

    Closer Look:



    -The Board

    Overall the board has a very nice layout, supporting a regular AGP slot, 6 PCI slots, 4 memory banks, and on-board raid. Thankfully there is no AMR/CNR slot, I think companies have realized that those are a complete waste.

    One of the most talked about things of the KG7-RAID is the four memory slots avaliable. On most DDR board you will find 2 and sometimes 3 memory banks, and yet on the KG7-RAID you get four. The everyday user won't get much use out of the extra memory bank, however hardcore gamers and power users will. The 184-pin DIMM sockets support up to 4 GB of PC1600/PC2100 DDR SDRAM modules.

    You can install 4 sticks of registered DDR ram, or 2 sticks of unregistered DDR ram. So if you want to install 4 sticks of ram, make sure you buy registered ram. Also, stick with the same brand name if your going to install four sticks of memory. I highly recommend Kingston or Crucial DDR memory.



    The KG7-RAID comes with, yeah you guessed it, a RAID controller. What is RAID? Well, RAID stands for redundant array of independent disks and is a way of storing the same data in different places (thus, redundantly) on multiple hard disks. A RAID appears to the operating system to be a single logical hard disk. There are alot of different RAID configurations, I will only cover the most popular.

  • RAID-0. This technique has striping but no redundancy of data. It offers the best performance but no fault-tolerance

  • RAID-1. This type is also known as disk mirroring and consists of at least two drives that duplicate the storage of data. There is no striping. Read performance is improved since either disk can be read at the same time. Write performance is the same as for single disk storage. RAID-1 provides the best performance and the best fault-tolerance in a multi-user system.


    The RAID on the KG7-RAID motherboard is powered by the HighPoint HPT370 chip. This supports the RAID level 0, 1 and 1/0 - thus Striping, Mirroring and both together. A nice side effect results from the Onboard IDE RAID solution: Altogether eight IDE devices can be attached (IDE and IDE RAID collected).



    -The Bios

    Just saying "SoftMenu III" makes me grin :) I don't know where to start, there are so MANY great features in the SoftMenu III bios.

    This is the first section of the bios. In this section you will find CPU multiplier, FSB setting, the new FSB CPU:SDRAM:PCI rate feature, Speed error hold, Vcore voltage, I/O voltage and finally the DDR memory voltage. The FSB rate allows you to change the memory and PCI bus speeds, and allows you to change one and not the other. Let me give you an example. Let's say I set my FSB to 133Mhz and use a 4:4:1 setting. The CPU will run at 132Mhz why? Because 33x4= 132Mhz, the memory would run at 132mhz also, and PCI bus would run at 33mhz because 33x1= 33mhz :)

    I really love this feature, because I was always afraid to set my FSB to high, because it would also set the PCI bus high, therefore running all your other peripherals at a high bus speed. That could damage your hardware, make your system unstable, ect.. but with this FSB rate feature you can make it so that your PCI bus stay's at a low bus speed while running your CPU and memory at a higher FSB.

    One more thing in this section that I'd like to say, is that Abit has addded a feature so that you can change the voltage of your DDR memory. This is great when you are overclocking, because the more your overclock the more the power it needs :) That's where this voltage feature comes in.

    The Advance chipset section of the bios.. is not all that "Advance" it's pretty straight forward. The main interest on this screen would be the 20 memory options! Abit gives you 6 default options and they are: Manual (Only use this if you know what you are doing), Auto (I recommend this unless you have read Paul's KG7 FAQ and understand what each option does), Normal, Fast, Turbo, and the all mighty Ultra! I could run all of the settings except the Ultra one. I'm not sure if it was a fluke on Abit's part or not, but my Kingston 512MB 2.5CAS memory wouldn't run at Turbo even if I wasn't overclocking my CPU. I guess until I get some CAS 2 memory I won't be using that option.

    This is the Advance bios section. You really shouldn't ever need to change anything in here, if you were to, you might have to change the bootup device order, or something along that nature. I always like to turn on the Virus warning feature. What this feature does is, if software or a virus tries to access the boot sector or the parition table the BIOS will warn you that a boot virus is attempting to access your hard disk. Another thing, scroll down and make sure the Delay for IDE Initial setting is set to 0. If you set it to a number like 5, then on boot the bios will wait for 5 secs to detect all of your IDE devices. If it's set to 0 it won't wait at all. Therfore it makes your bootup faster. However, if you have older IDE devices, that are slow you might want to leave it at 5 or 3.

    The PC health screen, a vital tool for any overclocker. On this screen you will find the temps of your system and your CPU, both in fehrithe and in celcius. You will also find the fan speeds of your CPU fan and your power fan, in RPM's. Last but not least, you will find the voltages of your CPU (Vcore), your 3.3v power, 5v power, and 12v power.



    The rest of the sections are pretty basic. They include Power Managment, PnP / PCI Configuration (In here you can change Irq's and stuff), and the Intergrated Pheripherals (This includes Serial ports, USB ports, and Paralell).

    Installation:



    Once I got the motherboard installed, windows asked for my video drivers, and that was about it.. I then surfed on over to Abit.com to see if there was any new bios available, and there wasn't. Next I loaded up Motherboard Monitor to check out the temp of my CPU. My CPU was about 41°c idle. That was alot hotter than my CPU was running on my KT7A-RAID. However, T-bird's don't have a thermist built inside. Therefore you are getting the temperature readings for the little thermometer under the CPU on your motherboard (see picture).



    However, I still believed my CPU was running hotter than before, so I figured I would use the old WPCRSET and WPCREDIT trick :) I'm not going to take credit for this, because this trick was first seen at sites like athlonoc.com and overclockers.com. Anyway, this bios tweak/hack I'm doing is only to be performed on AMD 761 chipsets. If you don't know if you have this chipset DON'T DO THIS. This tweak can bring your cpu idle temps down from 8°c to as much as 18°c.

    Now, once you open these files they should popup a MS-DOS window and extract the files to whatever directory you have these two files in. Open up WPCREDIT and you should see something like this:



    Next, move the blinking block (with your arrow keys or your mouse) until it says Offset 62 at the bottom. Now, click on the two digit number where it says HEX, and change it to B7.



    Next, go to offset 5A and change the hex to 20. Lastly, go to offset 72 and change the hex to 04. Now, your CPU temps should start to fall, if down correctly. You would have to do this hack/tweak everytime you rebooted your computer if it wasn't for WPCRSET. You must first "install" WPCRSET by running the file: INSTDD.EXE. Once you have installed it, you must reboot your computer so that the virtual device driver will load. Once you have rebooted, run WPCRSET. Now, click on the Add button and a window should popup. Where it says Register type in 62 and where it says Data put in B7 and then click the OK button.



    Now, you should see the entry in your Register Setting List. Now all you have to do is click the radio tab that says Start, at the top. This makes WPCRSET run everytime windows loads. That's it, your all done! Remember this only brings your idle temps down, and not your full load temps. It brought my idle CPU temps down to 27°c and my full load is about 42°c. I can play winamp, surf the web, run icq and irc and the CPU temps will stay around 29°c. However, once I load up Seti@home or Quake 3 it rises fast :)

    Benchmarks

    Below is the test rig I used:

  • 1.4Ghz T-bird
  • KG7-RAID motherboard :)
  • 512MB PC-2100 CAS2 Kingston Memory
  • Win2k SP2

    Sisoft Sandra Tests
    -SiSoft Memory Benchmark


    -SiSoft CPU Benchmark


    -SiSoft CPU Multimedia Benchmark


    -Performance Test Benchmark


    Conclusion:



    I highly recommend this board, and would recommend this board to anyone seeking for a high performance, highly overclockable, DDR motherboard. The bios offers tons of tweaks you can apply, surf on over to Paul's KG7 FAQ, to get more details on all of the tweaks you can do with this bios.

    About the only thing I didn't like about the motherboard was the capacitors that are around the CPU socket.



    On my KT7A-RAID and KT7-RAID there isn't a capacitor right infront of the heatsink clip, so there was only 4 capacitors on it, when the KG7-RAID has 5. This makes it alot harder to install heatsink, because of the capacitor being in the way of the heatsink clip. On the other hand, there tons of stuff I love about this motherboard! Like, four memory banks for DDR, onboard RAID, the best overclockers BIOS, and I love the layout of the board. Check out how neat you can make your IDE cables:


    Because of where the RAID IDE sockets are and the Floppy socket, you can run your IDE/floppy cables under the motherboard or motherboard tray, then on up to your IDE devices.

    Pros:

    Cons: