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Epox EP-8KHA


Epox EP-8KHA

Introduction.

Recent months have seen the gradual encroachment of DDR SDRAM into the mainstream PC market, driven mainly by PCs based upon the AMD Athlon processor. The first DDR chipset for the AMD Athlon/Duron platform was the AMD 760 which we looked at in the EP-8K7A review, and it offered a powerful alternative to PC-133 derived chipsets such as the VIA KT133 and KT133A. Now we come to look at the EP-8KHA, which is Epox's first board to be based upon VIA's first DDR chipset, the KT266.

As with the original Athlon chipset in the form of the AMD 750, the AMD 760 chipset was only ever intended to provide a chipset solution for system builders whilst companies such as VIA, ALi and SiS readied their chipset solutions for the mass market. Thus whilst the AMD 760 provided the initial high-end chipset solution for the DDR SDRAM based Athlon platform, the real mass market DDR chipset for the Athlon has always been expected to come from a 3rd party chipset manufacturer, with by far the most likely candidate being VIA.

Interestingly VIA's first DDR chipset, the Apollo Pro266 (for the Intel Pentium III/Celeron platform) did not create too much of a fuss with performance which did not get everyone excited (see our AOpen AX37 Pro review). Much of the performance issues surrounding the AX37 Pro stemmed from the Intel P6 not really being optimsed for the high memory bandwidths offered by DDR SDRAM, but a more modern design such as the AMD Athlon would offer more potential for such a chipset.

Interestingly the first boards based uon the VIA KT266 chipset did not received rave reviews in early summer 2001. If anything, early boards were accused of having poor stability combined with none-too-great performance. It appeared that early adoption of the KT266 was not a good idea. As summer 2001 progressed new boards based upon the KT266 appeared and the initial impression of a none-too-great chipset began to disappear. Boards such as the EP-8KHA began to gain a formidable reputation as being both fast (reasonably) and stable. It also became apparent that the KT266 was a platform which was friendly to the overclocking enthusiast.

Now in late summer/early autumn (depending upon your seasonal viewpoint) we received at Processor Emporium an EP-8KHA from Epox to put through its paces in a motherboard review. To find out how it fared, read on...

VIA KT266.

The VIA KT266 sees a return to a more conventional chipset layout for the Socket A plaform (i.e. both controllers from the same manufactrer) when compared to the AMD 760. This time we see a North Bridge controller which demonstrates VIA's first attempt at producing a DDR chipset for the Socket A platform.

The South Bridge controller is the VIA VT82C686B chip which features support for U/DMA 100 Hard Drive support and also support for up to 4 USB devices to be attached. The 686B also provides support for an AC97 audio codec, a feature which is becoming increasingly popular with many new motherboard designs.


Specifications.



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Review Posted 26th September 2001

© Copyright, Anthony Barrett 2000/2001.