When the board arrived, I could hardly wait to power it up and have a look at its features and drool over its performance. My existing Pentium III system utilised an Apollo Pro 266 chipset, also from VIA. I thought to myself "What would happen if I tried to switch the motherboard over?" Well, Windows XP Professional seemed to handle the job effortlessly. Until I started getting random crashes which became more and more frequent.
After slapping myself around the head and reformatting (which I should have done anyway), Windows XP went on without a problem. But the crashing started again. After exhausting all my options, I gave up and returned to the Windows 2000 Professional platform that I respect very well due to its stability. Installed Windows 2000, loaded all my usual applications, and no crashing! In fact, I am yet to have a single crash from this motherboard running Windows 2000 - most impressive!
Shuttle's AV40R, by and large, is a thoughtfully designed board. The only real complaint is the positioning of the floppy drive connector, down near the RAID ports. This can result in a bit of clutter at the bottom of the case, and when a hot-running Pentium 4 is present this is not desired. The other IDE connectors are well placed with plenty of room surrounding them. Shuttle has used the board space superbly, with a minimum of free PCB.
The P4X266 chipset dominates the board, and is cooled by a small cooling fan. This was an area of concern because after 5 minutes of operation, the fan failed. Fortunately I had a spare one lying around, which I replaced it with. The VT8233 Southbridge is used, which is rather well respected due to its solid performance and lack of "bugs" (ala 686B issue). The newer P4X266A chipset uses the VT8233A Southbridge which incorporates the new Ultra ATA/133 standard. With ATA/133 hard drives on the horizon, this is a good move by VIA.
As well as the standard 4-pin Auxiliary 12v power connector, the AV40R must also have a 6-pin connector plugged in as well; otherwise it will fail to boot. Not all power supplies have this, so be careful when choosing a Pentium 4 compatible unit. The board came with the Socket 478 retaining bracket, which is used to firmly hold the heatsink in place. The 3 DDR SDRAM slots are free of obstructions, and it is very easy to upgrade memory on the AV40R.
There are only 5 PCI slots, which is a bit of a pity as many people can find enough peripherals to fill 6 slots. The onboard Promise FastTrak 100 "Lite" goes somewhat to compensating for this. I tried changing my RAID-0 array over from the old motherboard to the AV40R, and it was detected flawlessly.