The ASUS A7V266 uses a 1/5/1 (AGP/PCI/Riser) layout configuration. While the KT266 chipset does support up to 6 PCI slots, ASUS has elected to drop one in place of the new ACR slot.
The ACR slot is located right at the bottom of the board, looking something like a PCI slot in reverse. This new riser design makes way for cost effective solutions such as Audio, Modem, Network Cards, 5.1 sound systems, extra USB controllers and xDSL modem connections. In all, this could be the most versatile software slot available.
While using the CPU power to drive the devices on the ACR slot (which has always been a big no-no here at TweakTown), we have recently had a new look at the software driven systems. Why? With CPU's increasing in speed and more power than is needed, these devices don't impact the system as bad as they have done in the past.
Driving the A7V266 is the KT266 (VT8366/VT8233) chipset combo. The KT266 is VIA's first DDR platform chipset for the AMD Athlon/Duron line of CPU and recently has been officially given the Seal of Approval for the AMD Morgan and Palomino (both XP and MP) processors.
While most of the KT133A and KT266 chipset based boards have an active cooling setup, the board supplied to us only had the small green passive coolers that we see on older style BX boards.
The A7V266, like most of ASUS' new line of motherboards, is equipped with the AGP 4x/Pro universal slot. This AGP Pro uses 2 extra bays, 1x20pin at the front and 1x18pin bay at the back. These extra bays are to provide extra power for those hungry video cards, but how many AGP Pro video cards have we seen lately? I have counted a big "0". While there are none now, who is to say that the Quatro from nVIDIA won't support this new bus?
Along with the AGP Pro, the A7V266 supports 3 DDR DIMM slots for up to 3GB PC1600/PC2100 DDR SDRAM memory. The KT266 series of motherboard has been plagued with low memory scores for DDR systems. In fact, AMD's 760 and SiS's 735 totally outperformed all of the current KT266 line of chipset. let's see if that has changed with this motherboard.
C-Media 5.1 Sound
While having the AC'97 Audio built into the VIA southbridge, the ASUS A7V266 is equipped with the C-Media 6 channel audio processor. This gives the ASUS A7V266 the ultimate advantage for the high end multimedia user. Full 5.1 channel sound for DVD playback, and being hardware controlled as well, means very little strain put onto the CPU when processing the audio. While it's still no SB Live, its much better than any AC'97 audio.
Located next to the chip is a set of jumpers to control the bass/center setup. Since there is no standard for setting the bass/center enviroment (IE... if it goes to the back pin or front pin for a 3.5mm stereo jack), ASUS has given you the option to set it manually. With only the 3 audio jacks on the standard ATX sound connector, the rear speakers plug into the blue line in and the center and sub channel's share the mic port.
What have we here??? Looks like ASUS has more than one model of A7V266. Room has been left on the PCB to fit the Promise Fast Track 100 Lite IDE RAID controller and IDE ports. The location of the ports are in the upper right corner of the board; very good placement for the RAID controller. Well within reach of the 3.5" bays and 5.25" bays.
Athlon or Athlon XP
The A7V266 is one of the first boards to officially support AMD Athlon XP and MP processors (or Palomino as most of us call them). ASUS has provided a jumper block in order to set your CPU from Thunderbird core to Palomino core.
Like most of ASUS' newer boards, the A7V266 is indeed equipped with overclocking features. Vcore, Vdimm, Multiplier and FSB are all adjustable in BIOS or by switches; but all of this couldn't really get our system stable. We managed to get our system to 145Mhz FSB, but most of our other KT266 boards have done 150 to 155. But no matter what we tried above 145 just became too unstable.