has earned the reputation as makers of some of the most innovative motherboards on the market. Although they may not pack in as many extras like front panels, and wacky LEDs, their innovations such as Softmenu BIOS and µGuru technology serve to improve the enthusiast's experience in areas that do matter... performance, stability and overclocking.
While the VIA K8T800 was a strong chipset for the Athlon 64 platform, it was hampered by one glaring problem... a non-working AGP/PCI lock. This issue was addressed by VIA K8T800 Pro, as well as adding support for a 1GHz HyperTransport bus. While Socket 939 motherboards grab most of the spotlight, the Socket 754 is a great budget alternative, and to capitalize on this, ABIT released their latest Socket 754 based on VIA's latest chipset. As we'll soon see, the ABIT KV8 Pro-3rd Eye brings a lot to the table for a reasonable price.
" Supports Socket 754 for AMD® Athlon" 64
" VIA K8T800 Pro / VT8237
Supports 1GHz Hyper Transport
Supports Advanced Configuration and Power Management Interface (ACPI)
Accelerated Graphics Port connector supports AGP 8X/4X (0.8V/1.5V)
" 72-bit memory controller supports DDR at 266, 333, and 400MHz
" Support 2 DIMM DDR 400 up to 2GB Max.
" On board VT6122 10/100/1000 Mb PCI Ethernet Controller
" Supports SATA data transfer rates at 150 MB/s (1.5G bps), Supports SATA RAID 0/1 JBOD
" 6-Channel AC 97 CODEC on board
Professional digital audio interface supports optical S/PDIF In/Out
The ABIT KV8 Pro-3rd Eye
Everything is packed into a nice box, with individual boxed compartments for the included accessories. Other than the motherboard, you'll find a quick start guide, manual, a guide on µGuru, driver CD, SATA disk and a reference sticker to go inside your case. This sticker maps out the various parts of the motherboard, saving you from opening the manual for basic information.
You'll also find a couple rounded cables (floppy and IDE), two SATA cables, one SATA power adapter, a custom rear IO plate, and an AMD heatsink retention brackett.
Exclusive to ABIT's "3rd Eye" line of products () is the µGuru Clock. While the word "clock" is on the name, this LCD display does much more than that. The big selling point of this product is that it allows you to overclock your system without the need to exit any open applications. It also monitors room temperature, monitor your hardware, MSN and E-Mail notification, and allows you to power on and off your PC (useful if your PC is located in an inconvenient location). Installation is no more difficult than installing an USB brackett, and plugging the µGuru Clock in. Unfortunently we were unable to use it as the clock was broken upon arrival (the screen appeared to be pierced). Hopefully, we were an isolated case rather than a widespread issue.
The KV8 Pro is laid out fairly well, and given some of the "budget" decisions, there is plenty of room around the board. Most components are placed logically, though we did run into a slight issue with the CMOS jumper which we'll get into later.
There is plenty of clearance around the socket area, and we managed to install the massive Cooler Master Hyper 6 without any issues. Some of the Rubycon capacitors seemed a little close for comfort, but the heatsink did not bump any. ABIT does not preinstall the heatsink retention bracket, and in our opinion, this is a good thing as many performance coolers come with their own custom installation.
Located just above the pictured rear IO is the Northbridge. We've always preferred active cooling, as opposed to passive (fanless), but ABIT's solution does a good job of keeping the Northbridge cool. Even during overclocking, the heatsink did not get too warm, but if you're the more cautious type of overclocker (something of an oxymoron), you may be better served by swapping the heatsink with an active cooler.
While the K8T800 Pro supports dual channel memory controllers, the Socket 754 CPUs currently only support single channel modes. There are two slots on the KV8 Pro, which supports DDR400 and up to 2GB of total memory. While four slots would be better, given the target market, we think that two will suffice for most users. The location of the ram slots also put it out of the way of video cards, makingit quite easy to change modules with a card installed. You'll also notice that the floppy and 20-pin ATX connector are located just beneath the slots along the edge of the motherboard, which is our preferred spot.
The top right image shows the IDE and SATA connections, which are right by the Southbridge. The IDE connections are oriented at 90 degrees of what we're accustomed to, and are designed to steer IDE cables away from the board. Personally, I find these trickier to work with, but not a major inconvenience.
Five PCI slots and one AGP 8x slot makes up the peripheral expansion options. While the onboard sound is servicable, there's enough expansion room here to add a discreet sound card, an additional RAID controller if you choose to.
Right next to the AGP card latch is the CMOS jumper and battery. Nothing frustrates me more than fumbling with a jumper, but ABIT uses pull tabs which make it easier to use. We mentioned this earlier about being a potential problem, as a full sized AGP card may interfere with the user attempting to reset the CMOS. With an ATI Radeon 9600 XT, the jumper was accessable, but for larger cards, there's a possibility that you may need to remove the card to reset the CMOS.
The VT8237 South Bridge handles most of the board's I/O functions, which include IDE, SATA, sound and USB. Located to the left of the chipset are a couple of SATA connections which support single disks, RAID-0 and RAID-1. This chipset unfortunently does not offer native SATA, which means you will need to press F6 during a Windows install if you're planning to use a SATA drive. You can read more about this topic in our forum thread here.
The diagnostic LED beneach the VT8237 is a nice bonus, as it'll help with some basic troubleshooting. During bootup, the LED will display a number of codes which will illustrate the current condition of the board. The only problem I have with it is unless you have a case window, you will have to open your case up to see it. I still prefer solutions where the diagnostic LEDs are located on a USB bracket (D-Bracket), but this is still a useful feature.
Rounding things out are the rear IO connections. Located here are the two PS/2 ports, serial port, S/PDIF input and output ports, parallel port, 5 audio ports, four USB 2.0 ports, and the Gigabit LAN Ethernet port.
The Phoenix AwardBIOS is back, and as usual with ABIT, the options are numerous for enthusiasts to get the most out of their KV8 Pro. Options such as Standard CMOS Features, Power Management Setup, and Intergrated Peripherals are all here, but let's delve deeper into the more important areas for tweakers.
The µGuru Utility is ABIT's starting point for system fine tuning and within this page are a couple of tabs; OC Guru and ABIT EQ. ABIT EQ allows the user to custom define the fan speeds depending on processor temperature.
Under OC Guru, you can make adjustments to your CPU and voltages. For the External Clock, your options are 200 to 336, while the Multiplier Factor goes from 5 to 11. Excessive FSB adjustments can wreak havoc on your system, so it'll be a good idea to adjust the AGP Ratio accordingly (options are 6:2:1, 7:2:1, 8:2:1, and Fixed) to keep your peripherals within spec.
Setting the Voltages Control to User Define will unlock all the voltage options available on the board. For the CPU, the default setting is 1.5v, and maxes out at 1.85v. For AGP it maxes out at 1.65v and the max DDR is 2.8v. For the Northbridge, the maximum setting is 1.65v, while the Southbridge can go as high as 2.65v. The HyperTransport voltage tops out at 1.4v. While we feel most of the voltage ceilings are fine, the DDR voltages could be higher. Many high-performance DDR modules suggest 2.9v, but given that in most cases these are PC4000 modules, it shouldn't be a problem unless you have an Athlon 64 capable of 250FSB and up.
To adjust the HyperTransport bus, you'll need to head on over to the LDT & PCI Bus Control page. The Upstream LDT Bus Width and Downstream LDT Bus Width have options of 8 bit or 16 bit. For the LDT Bus Frequency, we have options for Auto, 1 GHz, 800, 600, 400, and 200 MHz in that order.
On the DRAM Configuration page, all your ram timing options are here. By setting the DRAM Timing Selectable to Manual, all you options are unlocked. For your DRAM Clock, the options are DDR200, DDR266, DDR333, and DDR400. CAS Latency Time options are Auto, 2.0, 2.5, and 3.0. The rest of the options are available for further tweaking, where lower numbers will improve the performance of your ram, at the expense of stability if your modules cannot handle it.