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Gigabyte GA-7VAXP KT400 Motherboard Review

By: Cameron Johnson | Editorials in Motherboards | Posted: Sep 7, 2002 4:00 am
TweakTown Rating: 9.0%Manufacturer: Gigabyte

Features of the GA-7VAXP


Packaging and Contents



Gigabyte's choice of packaging is the same as just about every other of their AMD motherboards. Packaged in a Green and white box, you can easily see the Gigabyte trademark box in just about any shop that sells Gigabyte products.


Once opened you get a view of what Gigabyte packages in the unit. First you get your motherboard in a static bag, IDE and FDD cable set, USB2.0 expansion bracket, Firewire connection bracket, user manuals and decal stickers.


The board



Not much has changed in the layout department of the board. Designed around the same PCB as the GA-7VRXP (Gigabytes KT333 board), we get a 1/5/0 (AGP/PCI/Riser) configuration. The AGP slot on the GA-7VAXP is one of the newer 1.5v only slots designed for AGP4x and 8x operations, so like Intel's i845 and above chipsets, older 2x AGP cards will not work in this board. This is not a motherboard problem but a chipset limitation, as AGP 3.0 specs require this new measure. The DIMM slots have been colored purple to give the board a bit more color, as colored peripheral connectors seem to be winning in the decorative PC market now.


Placement of the connectors on the GA-7VAXP was done with some very serious thought. The IDE connectors are lined up behind each other and placed toward the middle of the right hand side of the board to reduce cable clutter and increase case air flow. The FDD connector has been placed at the upper right hand corner along with the ATX power connector to keep cables out of the way of the rest of the components, a very good layout indeed.





Driving Gigabyte's latest creation is VIA's new KT400 chipset. Originally intended to come to market with DDR-400 support, VIA couldn't get the KT400 to accept DDR-400 memory and at the last minute pulled official support for this memory. While the dividers are still in there, VIA doesn't endorse DDR-400 at this time. Gigabyte, though, has included support for these dividers so you can, if lucky, get the DDR-400 out of your DDR-400 memory.


Supporting next generations 8x AGP transfers, the KT400 is compatible with SiS Xabre's 8x transfers and ATI Radeon 9700 video cards that are now available on the market. Whether or not 8x AGP will make a huge difference, we will have to wait and see. Coupled with the VT8235 Southbridge, this board gives native ATA-133 IDE, USB2.0 and AC'97 rev 2.2.


Networking Provided



Like all of Gigabyte's top of the line range of boards, the GA-7VAXP supports onboard networking. Rather than use the Rine 2 networking controller supplied by the VT8235 (which does a good job), Gigabyte has equipped this board with the Realtek RTL8100BL PCI Ethernet controller.





The VIA Southbridge doesn't have built in support for Firewire controller, but Gigabyte isn't going to let that stop them from producing an all in one board that appeals to just about everyone. Utilizing the VIA VT6306 Firewire controller, you get three Firewire ports provided by an external bracket. VIA's 6306 Firewire controller is, in my opinion, the best low cost hardware controlled Firewire system available. Unless you have an Audigy and want Firewire, VIA is the way to go.





Just about any motherboard that is aiming for the enthusiast market these days needs to have some sort of RAID function. The GA-7VAXP uses the Promise ATA-133 RAID controller chip for this purpose. In the main System BIOS you can set the controller for standard ATA operations or RAID function, perfect if you just want a 2nd IDE controller or if you want RAID.





No Gigabyte board would be complete without the famous Dual BIOS. As you may or may not know, Gigabyte was the first to implement two BIOS chips on a one board system back in the BX chipset days. While a bit problematic back then, its process has been more well refined and today serves as a great "just in case" tool.


Sound System



While Gigabyte has been known for putting hardware sound chips on their previous boards, this time it isn't so. The GA-7VAXP uses the Alcatel ACL650 6ch audio Codec for the onboard sound. While being AC'97 2.2 it doesn't use as much CPU power as previous generation AC'97 controllers but its sound quality still isn't up to perfect levels.


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