- Expansion Layout
The Aopen AK73 Pro, like many Socket A motherboards uses the 1/5/1 (AGP/PCI/AMR) expansion layout. While this does provide enough expansion slots for your PCI add-on cards a 6th PCI slot is more preferable. The layout around the PCI slots is very clean, no IDE connectors to get in to way of full or oversized PCI expansion cards. Once again I must complain about the AMR slot. As many of you will know by now we aren't in favor of these slots as they take away from either another PCI slot or an ISA slot.
- KT133 Chipset and Gold Heatsink
The AK73 Pro is powered by the VIA KT133 chipset and is paired with the VIA 686B Southbridge. This Southbridge provides ATA-100 IDE support without the need to add an extra IDE controller onto the motherboard. Aopen have once again toped the KT133 chipset with their traditional gold plated heatsink.
This heatsink was first used on the Aopen AX6BC Pro Gold motherboard. This heatsink is 24k gold plated. This while looking good serves no practical value, the KT133 chipset doesn't get all that hot, while a heatsink is necessary the extra gold plating doesn't help and only adds extra cost to the motherboards price tag.
- AGP Retention Mechanism
Like many other board on the market, Aopen have included an AGP retention mechanism to the motherboard. This is the second variation on the AGP retention we have seen. The first design was first implemented by Gigabyte on the GA-7ZX and ZM motherboards. This new design is much better, with the AGP retention unit used on the gigabyte motherboards you have to pull back a lever and remove the card at the same time in order to get the card out of the AGP slot. With the new design we see here all you have to do is push down on the white clip and it pops the card out the slot like removing a DIMM from a DIMM slot.
- Die Hard BIOS??
Like some of AOpen's past motherboards, this one includes a Die Hard BIOS. The Die Hard BIOS is a dual bios chip setup. In the Bios chip on the left which is soldered to the PCB contains the Flash upgradeable BIOS, in the BIOS chip in the right contains the read only backup BIOS code. In the event of a flash upgrade gone wrong or a virus in BIOS you set the jumper that is located above the backup BIOS to rescue. This then triggers a flash process that wipes the main BIOS and restores the backup BIOS code. To test this out I downloaded a BIOS for the AX34 Pro motherboard and flashed the BIOS with it, after the flash process was done I reset and a big blank screen came up. I set the jumper to rescue, the BIOS then re-flashed itself with the backup BIOS, I then set the jumper back to normal and all worked well once again.
Overclocking is handled by two different systems. The AK73 Pro supports CPU multiplier adjustments and also FSB adjustments. Like all KT133 motherboards, the limit of the FSB is around 110Mhz. The BIOS controls FSB adjustments, Vcore and VIO adjustmentswhich can be adjusted within the BIOS. The supported voltages for the Vcore and 1.45 up to 1.85v in 0.25v increments. VIO adjustments are also possible from 3.3v up to 3.5v in 0.1v increments. CPU multiplier adjustments are handled by a set of dipswitches located above and to the right of the Socket 462 connector, AOpen's user manual give all the settings for the multiplier which can be adjusted form 5x up to 12.5x. to use the new Athlon 1.3G the multiplier settings must be set at default for the 13x to activate.