MSI layout their KT333 flagship like any other of their other boards - a 1/5/1 (AGP/PCI/Riser) configuration. This allows for acceptable upgradeability, however, a sixth PCI slot would have been the way to go over the riser, in my opinion.
Something which made me curious was the use of CNR slots over ACR slots -- VIA introduced the ACR standard and it is 100% compatible with VT8233 and VT8233A southbridges. However, 99% of boards with riser slots with VIA, ALi or SiS chipsets use Intel's CNR over ACR, just food for thought.
Brains, we need brains
The brains of the outfit is VIA's new KT333 chipset. This new chipset delivers DDR-333 support to the already popular KT266A memory controller, thus increasing the popularity of VIA's Athlon chipsets, even though the increase in performance over its older brother is questionable. As for cooling, MSI have gone all out on cooling the northbridge with a special heat-pipe designed cooler, this effectively removes more heat than standard flat aluminum heatsinks.
Having noticed the northbridge is the CD revision, this board is most probably an early sample. CD chips are virtually identical to CE revisions, just that the overclocking on CE has been more finely tuned. CD were for engineering sample boards and are being phased out.
A Promise is a Promise
OK, so I am not the best at pun's but MSI are the best at giving you what you need and want. Adding to the official support for ATA-133 by the VIA southbridge, MSI has added RAID capabilities via the Promise RAID controller chip. In the BIOS, you can either set this chip for RAID or plain ATA-133 mode, making it an excellent choice for those looking at a RAID solution.
USB 2.0 - a reliable controller
MSI have been adding USB 2.0 controllers to their boards for quite a while now, and the KT3 Ultra is no exception to this tradition. Mounted to the bottom of the board is NEC's new revision USB 2.0 controller. This new controller resolves some compatibility issues that were had with older 1.1 revision USB devices (mainly Intel Webcam's). This controller, when combined with NEC's new drivers, gives a 100% stable USB experience - I am personally fond of the NEC controller over the VIA controller for this very reason.
Like most MSI boards, the KT3 Ultra ARU is aimed at the hardcore market, which came packed with features for overclocking your processor. You have FSB, Multiplier, Vcore, Vdimm and Vagp settings all available to you for the best overclocking experience.
When you enter the AMI BIOS, you will find a sub menu labeled "Hardware Monitor Setup" - In this area you will find the hardware monitor and overclocking options.
First off you have the FSB settings. You can adjust the FSB from 100Mhz up to 200Mhz, in 1Mhz increments - a must for serious overclocking. Next you have your multiplier. If your L1 bridges are locked this option comes up as "LOCKED", go figure. But, if your processor is unlocked, you are able to change the multiplier from 6x up to 15x.
Vcore is the next item on the list. Standard changes are available, you can change voltage from 1.1v up to 1.85v in 0.025v increments. This allows you to also take advantage of the new T-bread class Athlon, definitely a distinct advantage.
Next you have Vdimm settings. This one doesn't give you as much of a range as I would have liked, but given the board and its memory controller, you do end with the same results in any case. You can only set the Vdimm from 2.5v up to 2.8v in 0.1v increments.
Vagp only has three settings for each mode. In AGP 4x mode, the voltage settings available are 1.5v, 1.6v and 1.7v and in AGP 2x mode the voltage settings available are 3.3v, 3.4v and 3.5v. Still enough for overclocking but higher FSB's require more voltage to stabilize the video bus when it's overclocked.