Features of the VT7
- Package and Contents
As of late, the package a motherboard manufacturer gives you somewhat resembles what they are hoping the motherboard will achieve, though not always. Recently we have seen that some companies overcompensate for a poor layout or performing product with a huge and glowing bundle.
ABIT has put a rather liberal package together with the VT7 motherboard, nothing too fancy but just enough to get you going. Inside comes a detailed user manual, that you would expect to see from ABIT, two Serial ATA cables, two IDE cables, one FDD cable, one Molex to two SATA power adapter unit, I/O shield and driver disk and CD. This in all will get you fully running with the VT7 without having to buy any additional cables.
- The Motherboard - Chipsets, Layout and Our Various Findings
ABIT uses a full sized ATX motherboard for their VIA offering of similar size as their Intel I865PE offerings. ABIT have been known for their good and bad layouts, a soft of hit and miss affair. The IC7 MAX3 for example was a total hit, not one flaw in its design but on the other hand, this motherboard does have a few problems.
First off the 4 pin power connector has been placed between the Northbridge heatsink and the I/O Shield, leaving you very little choice but to hang the 4 pin power connector around the CPU heatsink and fan unit. Another of note is the placement of the FDD connector which is located at the bottom, meaning if you have a large ATX case, you might have some problems with the FDD cable length.
For the good side, ABIT has placed the IDE connectors on a 90 degree angle, facing them to the side of the board. This allows for a much improved IDE cable placement, especially if you don't use rounded ones. The 20 pin power connector is placed behind the DIMM slots, which have been colour coded for easy location of Bank 1 and 2 for Dual Channel mode operations.
Expansion wise, ABIT has given us one AGP slot supporting 3.0 specifications as well as five PCI slots. This is good since this motherboard don't feature as many onboard bells and whistles as so many other ABIT motherboards contain. You'll likely need them.
The heart and soul of the VT7 is the VIA PT880 Northbridge. We have seen that this Northbridge has become something of a sore issue. While we have seen the performance score up as evenly as the Intel 865PE chipset, it has lacked some initiative from the hardware developer's side - we are talking about overclocking. VIA has put a lot of work in the PT880 with a much improved memory controller, support for Hyper Threading and the latest 800MHz FSB as well as the new AGP/PCI divider lock. Though, companies building motherboards based on this chipset have only put in very basic overclocking features, which have let the sale of PT880 motherboard go right down in favour of Intel 865PE.
If you have a good look you will see ABIT put their name in raised letters in the fins of the Northbridge heatsink. While this doesn't serve a practical purpose, it certainly looks very nice.
One smart move is the pit the PT880 Northbridge with the VIA VT8237 Southbridge over the older 8235. The 8237 adds eight USB 2.0 ports, a 7.1 AC'97 Audio controller, two SATA ports supporting RAID as well as 10/100 Ethernet all on the one chip.
ABIT hasn't added very much to this motherboard at all. In fact, ABIT is pushing this board as the more budget orientated overclocker. The VIA VT6103 Ethernet PHY is used in conjunction with the built in Southbridge 10/100 Ethernet controller to give one RJ-45 Ethernet port. This is a must have for motherboards of this era to have even the basic Ethernet support.
ABIT uses the onboard VIA AC'97 Audio in conjunction with the ACL658 AC'97 PHY. This PHY is a rather unique one in that is has support for UAJ or Universal Audio Jack. This is a hardware/software combination in that no matter where you plug your speakers, the system can determine if you have plugged speakers or microphone into the jack and configure itself accordingly. This controller also supports SPDIF which ABIT has taken advantage of with two jacks on the I/O plate.
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