VPSD have decided to go with a 1/5/1 (AGP/PCI/Riser) layout configuration. This configuration is mostly used by manufacturers trying to reduce PCB space to save on costs and this is what VIA has done here. PCB is reasonably small for an ATX standard. One thing I am critical about is VIA's use of the CNR slot over the ACR. As many may or may not know, VIA were the ones to introduce the ACR standard along with the VT8233 V-Link Southbridge. Why VIA would choose an Intel slot over their own VIA slot is beyond me.
Driving the VIA board is the new VIA P4X266A class chipset. Identical in features to the original P4X266, the major difference between the two is a further improved memory interface controller. It is designed to take full advantage off the DDR-266 memory standard that is available today. Equipped with 6 USB ports and the usual legacy serial and parallel port, the P4XB-RA is laid out just like any other board. During our testing, I decided to see just how well VIA had put their own motherboards together. As we know, some motherboards based on VIA chipsets have had USB issues in the past, but I can assure you that not a single USB device failed on this board, even with the FSB pumped up.
RAID is here from VIA
Well, let it be said that the manafacturers support RAID. It certainly shows due to the inclusion of the Promise ATA-133 IDE RAID controller chip. Some people have read that Promise chips slow down VIA boards, and this statement was true. VIA has already released a PCI burst rate patch that fixes all Promise RAID issues with VIA chipsets so RAID all the way.
No more AC-97!!!
Well, even VIA has taken the hint from high-end users, NO WAY AC'97. VIA has included the popular C-Media CMI8738 6ch PCI audio controller chip. Supporting front, rear, center and sub channels, you get full theatre feeling with the C-Media chip. While this same chip supports 56K V.90/Kflex modem operations, the implementation is not there. It would be a nice sight to see this feature.
VIA has elected to go with the Intel 2.03 ATX standard power supply specifications. Personally, I would have liked to have seen a design like ASUS' EZ-Plug connector, but then again, we can't have it all. Using a 3-Phase power regulation system, the P4XB-RA is designed to take power hungry P4's without getting as hot as the old 2-Phase power regulation.
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