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Review: ASUS A7V880
Written by cadaveca   
Wednesday, 06 October 2004 13:33
Article Index
Review: ASUS A7V880
The board
Benchmarks
Overclocking and conclusion
All Pages

Cadaveca managed to get hold of an ASUS A7V880 motherboard, and put it through the paces. He even goes as far as removing the northbridge heatsink to check to see if there's anything under it. There was, and unsurprisingly it wasn't Artic Silver 5. After taking pictures of the board, he finally manages to fit it into a case, before running some benchmarks on it! Can the A7V880 steal the crown from the nForce2 based boards? Read on to find out more!

 

Review: Asus A7V880 

Introduction

It’s fairly well known in the overclocking world that for AMD’s Socket-A CPUs, nVidia's N-Force 2 Ultra 400 chipset is “King of the Hill.” Providing Dual-Channel memory access, lockable PCI and AGP buses, and nVidia's DASP lookahead make it the fastest, most customizable out there. VIA, being no slouch themselves in the past, and arguably producing the the fastest for P4 processors, has given us a new entry into the socket-A market, the KT880 chipset.

Being such a recent entry, there are currently few OEMs that have adopted this chipset, mainly MSI and ASUS. Having had much success with ASUS boards in the past, their ready availability, and somewhat decent price, I paid less than $80 US on the ASUS A7V880, including shipping and taxes, and this board can be found just about everywhere.

A7V880 box

First of all, I have to say that ASUS has not varied on box design for any of their models, so make sure you grab the right box! Inside that box, you will find the usual contents, 2 serial ATA cables, 2 IDE UDMA cables, 1 SATA power connector, 1 floppy cable, 1 back panel USB header, driver CD, and manuals. Pretty much standard fare, so we won’t pay much attention to that. Onboard, however, there includes a large array of built-in connectivity for just about every type of hardware currently on the market. As far as the main features of the board go, ASUS provide a list of major features (adapted from the ASUS site):

400MHz FSB Athlon XP CPU Support
Dual-Channel DDR400
AGP 8X Technology
AI NET (Gigabit LAN), with Virtual Cable Tester
RAID 0,1 for SATA hard disks
ASUS Wi-Fi slot for 802.11b or 802.11g connectivity
Serial ATA
S/PDIF out port on back I/O
6 Channel Audio & SoundMAX Digital Audio System, including Yamaha DLS by XG
Max. 8 USB2.0 ports
ASUS C.O.P. (CPU Overheating Protection)
ASUS Q-Fan Technology to adjust fan speed
C.P.R. (CPU Parameter Recall) to recover from bad overclocks
CrashFree BIOS 2, to allow BIOS auto-recovery
ASUS EZ Flash
ASUS Instant Music Lite
Trend Micro™ PC-cillin 2002 anti-virus software

 

There are two things that make this board stand out right away: the maximum of 8 USB ports (great for those with many peripheral devices), and Instant Music Lite. Instant music Lite allows you to use your PC as a CD player without turning on your system. Great if you plan on making a HTPC that doesn't run 24 by 7, but otherwise pretty useless. You need an LCD display to be able to take full advantage of this, and be able to play stuff conveniently from your HD. There are quite a few SFF machines that do this better, but you can’t really knock something they include for free.

The BIOS

Getting into the BIOS is pretty simple, and although the order takes some getting used to, each menu is well laid out. The only problem I encountered was being forced use the "+/-" keys to change values. Although this may not seem like much of a problem, with the A7V880, you have to hold down the “shift” key as well as pres the “+” key in order to make changes. I had thought that possibly this was because of the wireless keyboard that I use, but upon using a wired keyboard, I was only met with disappointment. It’s a minor issue though, and more first revisions of any board are prone to have problems. [Ed: This issue has been noted on AMI BIOS - it expects you to enter the correct characters as marked on the keyboard.]

The following screens show the more important bios screens. The main selections are in a line across the top, and you switch between the main, advanced, power, boot, and exit screens using the left/right arrows. The up/down arrows highlight the selections on the screen, which then have to be selected by using enter, which pops up a menu, or you can use the already mentioned +/- combo.

BIOS Image 1 BIOS Image 2
BIOS Image 3

The Advanced screen is where you'll spend most of you time, and includes options for the instant music setup, Northbridge / Southbridge configuration, and CPU setup. The chipset setup itself is broken into 2 parts:

BIOS Image 4

This is one of the things I like best about this board. Each menu contains pretty much everything you would expect it to!

BIOS Image 5BIOS Image 6

I won’t go too detailed into the options there, as the pictures give you a good idea. There are a lot of options, and even the most advanced power-user should be happy with what’s there, but the novice is best to stay away, or leave everything on auto. Of course, this can lead to compatibility issues, but I had no problems even setting up my HyperX memory on this board, although the SPD settings were at 2.5-3-3-8-2, which was a bit high for me, seeing how it’s rated to 2-3-2-6-1. Upon manually setting it properly, there have been absolutely no issues in that department.

CPU setup is as easy as can be. No jumpers are needed, however the bios only offers voltage up to a maximum of 1.85, in .05 increments, starting @ 1.65. Although this may seem quite low, it is not as much of an issue as you would think. Right now the most popular socket-A chips are mobiles, and the VID codes of a mobile translate 1.85 to 2.0v. This is recommended maximum voltage as rated by AMD. Should it NOT be enough, you can, through a jumper on the board, have access to much higher voltages. In talking to ASUS, I was told that this was largely because of the number of users that have fried chips selecting 2.0v in bios, and getting 2.5 or higher. Advanced users, should they need it, have the option to go that high, but that should not be done without extreme cooling, as you pretty much guaranteed your chip will become a toasty, gold-fingered Frisbee. I think that’s a good thing. The remaining screenshots show the rest of the bios, which, although is plentiful in options holds nothing that has not been done before.

Multiplier and FSB speed are also set easily form this menu, and eliminates the need for opening your case, which I’m sure almost all of us have done at some point. The is an included overclocking option, but because it just goes from default CPU settings up to a max 130% of those defaults, it’s not much use to mobile users.

BIOS Image 7BIOS Image 8
BIOS Image 9BIOS Image 10
BIOS Image 11BIOS Image 12



 

See also

None found.


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