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Epox EP-8K9A2+

Design and Layout.

At first glance the EP-8K9A2+ appears to be a typical Epox Socket A motherboard following many of the same layout conventions seen on the EP-8KHA+ and EP-8K3A. As with most other high-end Socket A boards, the EP-8K9A2+ has a rather large PCB measuring 305mm x 245mm. As with any board of this size it is recommended to fit a third row of pillars in the case to provide adequate support. Overall though the layout of the EP-8K9A2+ is sensible as can be seen in the picture below:

Epox EP-8K3A+

The EP-8K9A2+ follows a conventional Socket A layout which in many respects is similar to that found on the EP-8K3A (unlike the rather unconventional EP-8K7A). On this board we find that the ATX power connector is located just to the right of the back panel connectors and immediately below the bank of voltage regulators and capacitors. What immediately struck us was that the KT400 NorthBridge controller only featured a passive aluminium heatsink, similar to that on the EP-4SDA5+ in place of the a conbined heatsink and fan unit. Given this we assume that the KT400 North Bridge is like the KT333 and must run considerably cooler compared to the older KT266A, KT266 and AMD 760 chipsets.

Epox EP-8K9A2+

Located in the standard position just to the right of the North Bridge controller are three 184 pin DIMM sockets capable of supporting up to 3 GB of either PC-2100, PC-2700 or PC-3200 DDR SDRAM. As with many other DDR powered board, the three 184-pin DIMM Sockets are located very close to the AGP slot, which could cause some card fouling of AGP cards. We do advise approaching this issue with caution (i.e fitting memory before display card). Unlike the EP-8K3A there are no IDE or Floppy lead connectors located to the right of the three DIMM Sockets. Essentially the DIMM Sockets have no other major features in close proximity as the 3-pin CPU fan header has been located just beneath the lower left hand corner of the CPU ZIF Socket.

Expansion is seen as a priority on the EP-8K9A2+ as Epox have provided a generous compliment of 6 PCI slots on the board. The presence of six PCI slots will be welcomed by many PC enthusiasts, especially that Epox have also managed to integrate a Highpoint HPT372 RAID controller onto the board. There are no AMR or CNR riser slots on this board given that it is targetted at the PC enthusiast market.

Located on the edge of the board to the right of the PCI slots are the two standard IDE connectors. These two connectors are grouped together quite closely which can make for some awkwardness when fitting the IDE leads together. Again Epox have also decided to equip the EP-8K9A2+ like previous boards with both IDE slots having blue plastic connectors, which meant that we had to double check which slot was for the primary IDE channel. A slight omission on the part of Epox as we quite like the recent trend towards colouring the primary IDE slot differently so that it is easy to distinguish. Again this is an area where Epox could do well to follow recent trends. The floppy lead has now been moved to the lower right hand corner of the board just beneath the two ATA-RAID IDE sockets. This is a rather unusual location for the floppy lead connector, but one which did make installation a bit easier.

Given the fact that the EP-8K9A2+ has to incorporate a HighPoint HPT372 IDE RAID controller and a Silicon Image Sil 3112A Serial ATA controller, Epox’s design engineers have had to work with some tricky layout configurations in order to accommodate both the controller chip and two additional IDE connectors. These are located in the lower right-hand corner of the board. The IDE RAID connectors are moulded using red plastic so as to make the easily distinguishable from the standard IDE connectors. The Serial-ATA connectors are the two banks of pins just to the left of the floppy connector as seen in the picture below:

Epox EP-8K9A2+

As the IDE RAID controllers have been placed in the lower right-hand corner of the board the front bezel connector pins are located in the long line along the bottom of the board. This makes the front bezel connectors easy to attach.

Located at the bottom of the board is an integrated DeBug card which displays a series of two digit codes during the boot sequence and thoughout normal operation. This allows the user to see which programs are controlling BIOS at any given time. This is especially useful in troubleshooting a non-booting board. Located just left of this is the CMOS Clear jumper and chassis fan connector. The addition of debug cards to boards is a feature which has been a real leap forward in the past year for the DIY PC builder as it provides another level of diagnostics in the event of system trouble (after booting it should stay on “FF” most of the time). Most system integrators probably do not have much need for such a card to be integrated onto the board. We like this though.

As the EP-8K9A2+ has an integrated AC-97 Audio Codec, Epox have had to place the CDIN1and Modem Audio connectors between the PCI slots and the left edge of the board. Do take care in fitting the audio input pin connectors before installing any other cards. Epox have though made use of the integrated LAN controller on the VIA 8233 South Bridge which is something they should have done also on the EP-8K3A. Integrated LAN now appears to be a standard feature on high-end motherboard. This changes the back-panel a bit as can be seen in the picture below:

Epox EP-8K9A2+

USB pin headers now are compatible with USB 2.0 as this is standard on the VIA VT8235 South Bridge controller.

Overall the EP-8K9A2+ is well laid out given the compromises needed by the designers in order to accommodate the large number of features found on this board.


Installation and Configuration.

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Review Posted 18th December 2002

© Copyright, Anthony Barrett 2001/2002.