While DDR is still in it's infancy, Epox has been turning out some very fine boards using it. Take a trip with Sov as he takes us on a tour of one of their latest offerings; namely the Epox 8KHA. It looks like we may very well have a new winner for you right here!
IntroductionFive years ago if I said the name Epox, you would probably have asked "Who?". Now, if you mention Epox, just about everyone knows who you are taking about. Epox's most famous line of motherboards were the MVP3 PC100 Socket 7 line of motherboards supporting its own AGP 2x slot. What really put Epox on the map was to have the first Slot A KX133 motherboard out in the market two weeks before anyone else did. This sparked a lot of hungry Athlon Slot A users to buy Epox's EP-7KXA motherboard. While this board did have its share of problems, it was a rather large success for Epox. With AMD's release of the Socket 462 CPU, Epox were first in again with the EP-8KTA. After the discovery of the L1 Bridge overclocking trick, Epox released the EP-8KTA+. It had the exact layout of the 8KTA, only with the ability to change the clock multiplier.After VIA released the 686B southbridge with ATA-100 IDE support, Epox took its successful 8KTA+ and replaced the 686A southbridge with the 686B southbridge to add ATA-100 support. This board was given the title EP-8KTA2.Again, VIA made changes to its line, adding the KT133A chipset with 266Mhz FSB support, and again Epox took up the initative with the 8KTA3 and 8KTA3+. The expansion layout of the 8KTA3 was almost identical to the 8KTA2. The major differences were the addition of a POST debug card, ATA-100 RAID (8KTA3+ only), an extra DIMM slot to make four SDRAM slots, and the KT133 chipset was replaced with the KT133A.Now with the introduction of the DDR chipset, Epox already has two DDR motherboards for AMD Athlon; the Epox 8K7A and the 8KHA. We will be reviewing the latter.
Epox 8KHA -
Specifications- CPUSupports AMD Athlon 700 ~ 1.2Ghz @ 200Mhz FSBSupports AMD Athlon 1Ghz ~ 1.4Ghz @ 266Mhz FSBSupports AMD Athlon MP 1Ghz ~ 1.2GHz+ @266Mhz FSBSupports AMD Duron 600 ~ 850Mhz @ 200Mhz FSBReserves support for future AMD Athlon/Duron CPU @ 200/266Mhz FSB- ChipsetVIA KT266 ChipsetVIA VT8366 Northbridge AGP setVIA VT8233 V-Link Southbridge- Bus Frequency100MHz/133MHz Internal200MHz/266MHz ExternalAlpha EV6 Communication Bus- Expansion Slots1 AGP @ 2x, 4x6 PCI- Onboard PreferablesVIA VT1611A 6ch AC'97 Software Audio CodecUSB PC to PC (Optional)- Expansion Ports1 PS2 Keyboard Port1 PS2 Mouse Port6 USB Ports (2 rear accessible, 4 via optional expansion brackets)2 Serial Ports1 Parallel Port3 Audio Ports (Audio out front, Line in, Microphone)1 Midi/game Port- Special FeaturesFSB Adjustable in BIOSVcore, VDimm adjustable in BIOSCPU Multiplier Adjustable in BIOS
Epox 8KHA -
Features- Expansion Layout
The Epox 8KHA uses a rather sensible and clean 1 AGP, 6 PCI and no ISA, AMR, CNR or ACR slots. Supporting three DDR DIMM slots the 8KHA can support up to 3GB of PC1600 or PC2100 DDR SDRAM.- Chipset
Driving the 8KHA is the VIA KT266 chipset and is comprised of the VT8366 northbridge paired with either the VT8233 or VT8233C V-Link southbridge. The utilization of V-Link is an important step up for computer motherboards. Similar to Intel's Hub design, the KT266 has a 266MB/s communication to the southbridge. This is a much better design over the tradition 133MB/s PCI interconnection for the southbridge.- AGP retention is here again
Like many of Epox's other motherboards, the 8KHA has the click-lock AGP retention mechanism. Designed for the LANer, or if you have to transport your PC alot, this little white clip prevents the video card from being bumped out.- Debug card
With many manafacturers adding diagnostic devices to their motherboards (MSI with D-Led, Aopen with DR Voice and FIC with Audio Alert), Epox has added its own verion of D-Led to the 8KHA. These two LED displays come up with post codes which you find in the back of your motherboard manual. If the board stops on a certain code, you can look it up in your manual and find out exactly what the motherboard is telling you is not working.- Socket A Layout
The layout around the Socket A is very, very clean. Actually, it is the cleanest that I have ever seen. All the capacitors are well clear of the socket allowing for super large heatsinks to be installed. One of the reasons behind the super clean layout is Epox's great ingenuity of placing the voltage regulators on the back side of the motherboard, thus reducing clutter around the top. But will this affect the stability and overclockability. Lets see...OverclockingThose voltage regulators on the back didn't hinder overclocking. With our test piece of Kingmax PC2100 DDR SDRAM and an AMD Athlon 1.33GHz clocked back to allow the CPU to fully use the bus and not fizzle out because of too much heat, we got the FSB up to 166MHz FSB without any instabilities whatsoever. Not bad!
- Results - Quake III Arena (1024x768 32bit Color)
- Results - Star Trek Armada (1024x768 16bit Color)
- Results - Star Trek Voyager Elite Force (1024x768 32bit Color)
Epox 8KHA -
ConclusionThe Epox 8KHA is one of the most stable motherboards of the DDR variety, and the most overclockable that I have ever seen. Supporting all the current Socket A CPU's including the new Athlon MP, and most likely the Athlon Desktop Palimino (said to be named Athlon XP but we won't go into that now), this board is well designed for the future with plenty of expansion room. Rating - 9.5/10 and TweakTown's Editors Choice Award
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