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Albatron KX600 Pro Albatron KX600S Pro: For the VIA crowd, the KT600 is still making a play for your 32-bit dollar. How will this Athlon XP solution fare?
Date: February 6, 2004
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The BIOS

The Albatron KX600S Pro uses the familiar Pheonix AwardBIOS, complete with scrolling marquee and all. Thier implementation of the BIOS is very good, and there are plenty of options available for the enthusiast to make some system level tweaks.

On the main page, there are some standard settings you can adjust, such as system time, and your devices connected to the IDE channels. Under the main page of Advanced, you can set up your boot priority, right down to what device in what category. It is here you can access the Avanced BIOS and Chipset Features, as well as your overclocking options. Under Advanced BIOS Features, you have access to some basic CPU functions such as Intenal and External Cache.

By selecting the Advanced Chipset Features, we gain access to the guts of the KT600 chipset. For stability reasons, I usually leave the System BIOS and Video Ram Cacheable disabled, but feel free to enable them for a slight performance boost.

The DRAM Clock/Drive Control allows you to manually adjust the ram timings should you see fit. If your ram is of high quality, it would be wise to make some tweaks to squeeze some more performance out of the box.

The AGP and P2P Bridge Control is where you would make some adjustments to how the AGP interacts with the rest of the system.

Still under the Advanced main page, selecting the CPU & PCI Bus Control opens up your CPU and PCI frequency options. The Albatron board's FSB options can be opened with an unlocked CPU, and your range begins at 100MHz and tops out at 248MHz. Depending on your CPU and cooling, your milage will vary, but 248MHz seems like a real longshot for the majority of users.

Of course, high FSBs will cause some AGP and PCI issues, and although the BIOS will auto-adjust the optimal ratios for you once you select the FSB, you can still manually make adjustments yourself. The range here is 6:2:1 to 3:2:1, but unfortunently, there is no way to manually set a specific AGP or PCI clock, and the motherboard will do its best to make it as close to 66MHz (AGP) and 33MHz (PCI) as it can.

You can also adjust your CPU's multiplier, from 5x to 24x, giving you plenty of options when used in conjunction with the FSB adjustments.

Like the CPU and PCI ratios, you also have control over your ram's speed via a similar method. The ratio options are 1.33x, 1.66x, and 2.00x, and depending on your FSB and ram quality you can make some adjustments here.

The next group of options are the voltages. For the CPU, it tops out at 2.1v which isn't too bad for the Athlon XP. The AGP voltage ceiling is also very generous, topping out at 1.8v. For DDR, your max voltage is 2.8v, which isn't so bad when you consider that the majority of ram modules that require more than that are of the PC4000 variety. Since the KT600 only officially supports PC3200, and overclocking to PC4000 isn't possible, we won't ding the KX600S Pro for that.

The next page of note is the Peripheral setup. Depending on what kind of video card you have, you can manually set what slot (AGP or PCI) as your initial display.

The VIA OnChip IDE Device page allows some settings where you can enable or disable some of the VT8237 Southbridge's functions.

The VIA OnChip PCI Device page gives you the choice of enabling and disabling some of the onboard peripherals such as sound and LAN.

Finally, on the Super IO Device page, you can enable or disable your legacy connections.

Overclocking

To test the board's overclocking ability, I pulled out our trusty Athlon XP 1800+ DUT3C and paired it with a Koolance Exos-Al. Though the Koolance uses 1/4" OD hoses, the performance is quite good, and should be more than enough to squeeze as much as we can out of the CPU, which I've gotten to 2400MHz on our nForce 2 boards.

That being said, overclocking the KX600S Pro was far from being easy. I managed to get into Windows at 12x200 with a vCore of 2.1v, but the system would immediately reboot as soon as I logged in. Increasing the AGP voltage to 1.7v and DDR to 2.8v did not help matters, even when running the ram at 3-4-4-8-2T. 11x200 fared no better as the system would reboot at the OS load screen. Heat wasn't an issue, as the Koolance kept the CPU in the low 40s°C.

I should point out that up until now, our ram was running at PC3200 speeds. By adjusting the speed to as close as I could to PC2700, overclocking got a whole lot easier.

Above is just a screenshot of what I'm talking about. I actually got the ram speed up a little higher than what you see, but I think it's clear what needs to be done. With our ram running a lot slower, we worked towards our final OC.

Regardless of voltage and multiplier, ~210FSB was the ceiling. We managed 212FSB, but the system wasn't even stable enough to do an Alt-PrtScn. In the 210-211FSB range, the system would repeatably crash during benchmarks. 209FSB needed a boost to 2.0v, but after a couple days, I was able to lower it down to 1.95v while still maintaining stability. Though I was generally satisfied with the end result, I wasn't terribly pleased about neutering my ram for it.

One thing I should point out is that the Watch Dog Timer feature is a godsend. Not once did I need to flip a jumper to reset the CMOS, as the board reset itself whenever I had a bad overclock (which was often). In most cases, the system would reboot, leaving the previous failed settings intact for us to adjust. In the cases where I went for a ridiculous OC, the system simply shut down, then rebooted, resetting itself to safe/default settings. This is a real time saver, and I wish more manufacturers would implement a similar feature.

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