(Editor Note: All images in this review and future reviews are able to be enlarged, just click on each image a new window will popup with the enlarged image.)
Layout wise Albatron has used a 1/6/1 (AGP/PCI/Riser) design that most hardcore motherboard vendors have been using. This board doesn't have very much in the way of external features like RAID, USB2.0 or Firewire; this is something that could be worked into future boards. While the board does lack the extras, it allows for you to install up to six PCI cards, so if you have external cards for USB 2.0 and Firewire, you'll have plenty of space.
The KX400+ runs the 6-Channel AC'97 Audio via the Realtek 6ch controller. I would have liked to see a better audio solution built into the KX400+ such as C-Media 6ch hardware sound controller as this provides ten times the audio power and capabilities of the AC'97 Codec.
KT333 powers it all
VIA's KT333 chipset is at the heart of the motherboard. This chipset is without a doubt the best AMD solution at the time of this article. Supporting DDR-333 memory, ATA-133 and 266MHz FSB with super performance, Albatron has made a wise choice using VIA over SiS or ALi in this department. The board is equipped with 3 DIMMs for up to 3GB of memory. Albatron has made claims that their KX400+ motherboard has memory dividers for 400MHz memory operations, making it the first AMD board to officially support DDR-400 memory. Upon inspection, the memory dividers in BIOS only allow for 333MHz operations. Albatron have stated that a new BIOS is in the works that fixes this problem. However, we do find it a bit disturbing that Albatron state it offers DDR-400 support but when you get it home that DDR-400 memory can only do DDR-333 out of the box. This is a must fix.
Two BIOS' are better than one
We have seen this option before from Gigabyte and AOpen. Dual-BIOS technologies. The theory behind this is that you can have a main BIOS that is totally upgradeable for future flashes and a backup BIOS in case of a virus or that unfortunate bad flash (Yes I have had the power go out on me before when I have been flashing the BIOS). Now you don't have to worry. If your main BIOS is corrupted, you can simply throw a switch and make the system boot from the backup BIOS and re-flash the main BIOS with the backup image. This allows you to get back onto the Internet and download updated BIOS image files and re-flash. Much better than hot flashing. Unlike Gigabyte, Albatron requires you to set a switch to make the system boot from backup BIOS. I prefer this as sometimes Gigabyte's software doesn't detect a bad flash or determine that the new BIOS image isn't right and overwrites with the backup image. This gets to be very annoying.
All your settings by four dipswitches
Albatron has designed their boards to be as jumper free as possible but still giving the main functions hardware control. This I prefer to allow no software clashes. These switches control Audio, Dual-BIOS, and Audio Doctor settings.
Speaking of which, this is another great feature that we have seen others like FIC implement. Audio Doctor is a Voice Diagnostic system that tells you in your desired language (setting dipswitches tells the board what language to use) what is wrong with your system. Very handy, no more beep codes.
Overclocking and Tweaking
Albatron has followed the market trend and left just about all overclocking to BIOS control. Only one jumper is needed, this is your 100/133MHz FSB setting.
Here we have a view of the BIOS overclocking options. We get to see all the options that Albatron have given us. First on the list is the Ratio Select. This is pretty standard, you can set your CPU clock ratio provided you have an unlocked CPU.
Second on the list is spread spectrum. Disabling this option gives us better overclocking, but this is user dependent. Third, you have your CPU clock. This is your FSB selection. When the 100/133 jumper is set to 100 mode you can set your FSB from 100MHz to 132MHz in 1MHz increments. When the same jumper is set to 133 mode, you can set your FSB from 133MHz to 200MHz in 1MHz increments. It is good to see Albatron taking up the 1MHz step settings, as this is the benchmark for all good motherboards today.
Fourth on the list is the DDR CPU Ratio. This sets your memory frequency in accordance with your FSB. There are 3 options, 2.00x, 2.66x and 3.33x. This sets your memory to either 200MHz, 266MHz or 333MHz depending on your FSB. Albatron is set to place a 4.00x divider for 400MHz operations in their next BIOS, but it would be nice to have had it in this BIOS as it is supposed to support 400MHz memory from shipping.
Overclocking on this board dispite these extra tweaks missing was quite good. With an unlocked Athlon XP I was able to lower multipliers and push the bus frequency to 157Mhz totaly stable. Not a bad effort indeed.