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Albatron PX925X Pro Albatron PX925X Pro: We take a look at Albatron's Alderwood solution and test its performance, features and stability.
Date: February 11, 2005
Manufacturer:
Written By:
Price:


So it's that time again. Time to upgrade your PC. It will inevitably happen to any PC enthusiast but sooner or later, they will feel the need to upgrade. Now this can go one of two ways; you can upgrade a piece at a time on a regular basis or you can hold out as long as possible and eventually build yourself pretty much a new rig entire. The good thing is that barring any major changes in technology you can often bring a few common components up with you through various upgrades, your memory perhaps, the PSU, case and monitor should all be good right? Well every now and then, in the need for advancement, the format or requirements of PC components change dramatically and you find a few of the items you were counting on continuing their previous service have to be changed during the upgrade as well. This is basically what has happened with the introduction of the latest Intel chipset based boards, sporting PCIe, DDR2, a 24-pin ATX Power requirement, not to mention the push of other technologies such as SATA and of course the CPU socket change to LGA775.

So changing your system components in an Intel chipset motherboard based system will require a new CPU, Graphics Card, possibly new Ram and possibly a new PSU. But before all that you'll need to choose the motherboard itself. have a couple of 925X boards in their lineup, and we are going to get a good look at their PX925X Pro and see how it fares as the base of a new system.

Features

Intel Pentium® 4 Processor (Prescott)
Socket 775 with FSB 800 MHz
4 DDRII 400/533 Memory Sockets ( Dual Channel )
1*PCI Express x 16, 2*PCI Express, 3*PCI Slots
8 Channel HD Audio,
Broadcom Gbits Ethernet LAN(PCI-Express LAN)
VIA 10/100 Mbits/s Ethernet LAN
4 Serial ATA150 Channels, SATA RAID 0, 1
IDE RAID 0,1/ATA133
8 USB 2.0/1.1 Ports (4 ports by optional cable)

Full specifications can be read .

The box for the Albatron Mars PX925X Pro uses a lot of foil embossing to emphasize the logo's used and is quite eye catching despite the bland 'Mars landscape' reds and gold that dominate. All pertinent info is displayed on the front and rear so you should be well aware of what you are getting up front. Inside, the items are segregated into two layers; on top we find the manuals, disks and other extras such as IDE cables and the like, and below has the motherboard itself.

The extras include three flat ribbon IDE cables, a flat ribbon Floppy cable, two red SATA cables, a 1x 4-pin Molex to 2 x SATA 7-pin power adapters and an I/O rear panel to fit the motherboard. Albatron have included a quick startup guide which will get you up and running easily enough, two manuals (one for the motherboard and one for the ITE IDE RAID), a Driver CD and a RAID floppy disk. The overall extra's included may not be as outstanding as you would find with other packages but there is enough here to get you going.

The motherboard itself is based on a rather fetching blue PCB and the overall layout at first glance is one of a nicely designed board. But let's look closer. Starting at the CPU socket, you can't help but notice the caps that sit very close and line two sides of the socket. They are low in height but I'm personally of two minds if they will provide enough clearance for large coolers. They appear to be low enough and I never had any issues with the ASUS Star Ice Cooler (that said the ASUS cooler has a small foot print at the base so …). Albatron ship the motherboard with a hard plastic cap covering the pins during shipping, and personally considering the size and fragility of these pins, I'd be wary of any manufacturer who didn't.

Below the CPU socket is the passively cooled 925X, covered by a gold coloured aluminum heatsink. During operation the cooler seemed to perform well, getting hot but not worrisomely so. You can just see in the top of the picture the 4 pin 'P4' AUX power connector which is in a place I personally do not like, as the placement will mean having to route the wiring around your CPU cooling setup, but better that than the 24-pin ATX connector with its thicker cabling.

Moving over to the Ram slots, we can see that the 24-pin ATX Power connector is nicely out of the way at the edge of the board. Albatron have coloured the 4 DDRII slots in orange and green, allowing you to see at a glance which pairs of slots will provide Dual channel operation for the DDR2 (although that depends on how you think, for reference you will need one stick in each of the same colours, e.g. a stick in each orange slot). Next to the slots and below the power connector is the floppy port. This is nice place for it to be, giving a little extra reach for those folks who have a floppy drive at the top of the case.

Moving down is the first of the IDE ports, coloured red and provided by the ICH6. Just below the battery are the 4 SATA slots with 2 extra yellow coloured IDE ports from the ITE IDE RAID. Now I want to make it clear here; this board is the PX925X Pro using the ICH6. This means no SATA RAID onboard (if that's what you are looking for, you'll want the PX925X Pro R). You do however get extra ports for IDE from the ITE IDE RAID which can be setup for JBOD, RAID 1 and 0. It may seem strange to see IDE RAID but not SATA RAID, however the IDE RAID is more of a 'side effect' of using the ITE setup and as some other 925X based boards only provide the one IDE, the ITE does increase your IDE connection possibilities giving you a total of 10 devices with the 4 SATA ports. The ICH6 chip provides us with the PCIe x1 ports (the PCIe 16x is run from the 925X), the aforementioned 4 SATA ports, the Intel HD Audio we will look at later and the USB 2.0 ports. Albatron have chosen to mount a passive heatsink on the ICH6 and it was a wise decision; this little heatsink does get quite warm when the board is in operation. I'm also glad to see that both ICH6 and 926X coolers are passive in nature, as while fan assisted coolers would no doubt perform better, the lack of noise is something I'm sure many will appreciate.

Moving to the left we come across the PCI slot area. Just to side track slightly here, below the PCI slots are the various connectors such as the HD LED, SPDIF, Game Port etc., and also the Front Audio Panel out. Now I've set up and run a total of 5 motherboards in this Antec P160 case which features a Front Audio Panel. Of those 5 motherboards, 3 have been moved to other cases, and again those cases have front audio panels, and in each case I've found the pins to match the 3 cases and 5 motherboards exactly. This is not so on the Albatron PX925X Pro. I don't know if it is some new format due to the HD Audio but the pins on this motherboard are labeled differently to other motherboards I've used. No doubt there is documentation on this somewhere, but the only documentation included with the PX925X Pro labels the pins with names that don't match that of other motherboards and enclosures. I've had to leave it with no front microphone, speaker out from the front allowing me to use my headphones, but without the 'sense' function working, (meaning I have to turn off the rear output manually or have both front panel and rear speaker out working at the same time).

OK, moving back to the PCI slots, we have 3 standard 33MHz PCI slots in the lower half, 2 PCI Express 1x slots (coloured blue) above them and top most is the red 16x PCI Express port for graphics cards. I'm pleased to see no jumpers or ports in between the PCI slots themselves, although there are a couple of USB ports next to the ICH6 in line with the 1x PCIe slots. Until I get a PCIe card to test with it's hard to say if this will be an issue but depending on the length of the PCIe card in use, the USB connectors may cause problems if used.

The rear of the board is uneventful and the rear I/O Panel is pretty much standard fare, although I personally like the fact that onboard peripheral devices all have ports on the I/O panel and not on some daughterboard for the PCI slots. That said there isn't really a lot to cram in anyway but I like the tidy factor none the less.

From top to bottom (left to right in the picture) the PS/2 ports, two serial and a parallel port, the six ports for the HD audio, 2 LAN ports (one of which is Gigabit) and 4 USB 2.0 ports.

Overall the layout has no major issues although the socket area is a little dubious, but I am a little disappointed in the lack of information included on the front audio out pins and how they connect to standard pins in the majority of cases currently on the market.

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