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Albatron K8SLi Albatron K8SLi Motherboard: Albatron’s NF4 solution has SLi, blue styling, and a smaller footprint, but can it perform as well as its competitors?
Date: January 9, 2006
Manufacturer:
Written By:
Price:

has had a long history and was established in 1984. They began making motherboards and graphics cards in 2002. Ever since then they have strived for excellence and worked on getting as close as possible to a tier 1 hardware manufacturer. Today Viperlair takes a look at the that has a full list of features, and is another step into the upper end hardware community.

Specifications and Features

AMD AthlonTM64 / AthlonTM64 FX /AthlonTM64 X2 Dual Core Processor
Socket 939 with FSB 800/1000+ MHz
4 DDR333/400 Memory Sockets (Dual Channel).
Build-in Realtek AC97 6 channel
NVIDIA nForce4 SLI GbE LAN
2*PCI Express x 16 (NVIDIA SLi technology support X8+X8, No support ATi Radeon X300)
2*PCI Express x 1, 2*PCI Slots
4 Serial ATAII Channels, Serial ATA RAID 0, 1& 0+1
2 ATA133 Channels, up to 4 ATA 133 IDE Devices
Dual BIOS (Second BIOS by ABS Card) (Optional)
8 USB 2.0/1.1 Ports (4 ports by optional cable)

Processor
Socket 939 AMD Athlon™64 / Athlon™64 FX /Athlon™64 X2 Dual Core Processor

FSB
800/1000+ MHz

Chipset
Chip: nForec4 SLI (Single chip)
LAN Chip: VITESSE VSC8201RX (PHY)
Audio Chip: Realtek ALC655
I/O Chip: Winbond Smart I/O W83627THF

You can read the full Specifications and Features .

The box depicts a tank with dual-turrets and has a camo box. It’s an obvious reference to SLi.

The first thing I noticed about the board was its size. The board was less wide than a standard ATx board by about 2 inches. To give a good idea how much thinner this board is compared to a standard ATx board I placed it on top of a Winfast board I had laying around. This made me think that Albatron should have simply cut off a few of the PCI slots and made it a mATx board.

The board comes with plenty of goodies including 2x IDE cables, 1x FDD cable, 1x SATA cable, 1x SATA power cable, backplate, SLi bridge connector, “Albatron BIOS security”, and manual.

By far the most interesting thing about the bundle is the Albatron BIOS Security or “ABS” which is essentially a plug in extra BIOS chip to either backup the BIOS or rewrite a messed up BIOS.

Simply remove two jumpers on the motherboard when the ABS is in use, and plug it in and it’s good to go. The ABS also includes a jumper to allow it to be write protected.

The board is cleanly laid out with only a few trouble spots which I’ll talk about later.

The top right portion of the board has many clustered items. The top edge of the board has the FDD connector, and below that are the 4x DDR slots. For this motherboard the two same colored slots are used for dual-channel. Underneath the DDR slots is the CPU socket, and slightly below that is the Southbridge. The P4 connector is to the left of the Southbridge. This is not an optimal to say the least; I personally hate having to route cables to the center of any motherboard. To the right of the CPU socket is the ATx connector, which is laid on the edge of the board.

The bottom left of the motherboard of course has all of the expansion slots. Including 2x PCI 1x slots, 2x PCI 16x Slots, and two legacy PCI slots at the bottom. The BIOS battery is underneath the second PCI 16x slot. The Southbridge is awfully close to the top 16x PCI slot, but at least it’s not to the right of it, which is terrible at best.

The bottom right of the board has the rest of the major components. In the top right of the picture is the 4x SATA connectors. The two yellow bricks are internal USB, and the black one underneath the BIOS chip is the brick used for the ‘ABS’. The bottom right portion of the board has a multi-colored jumper brick which is for the power LED’s and the rest of those items.

The ports on the back are plentiful, including the two ps/2 ports, printer port, serial port, coaxial digital audio port, 4x SATA ports, 1x Ethernet port, and the audio ports. The only “glaring omission” seems to be the lack of a second Ethernet port, but it’s not 100% necessary, and this does seem to be a minimalist board.

Problems spots:
This board only seems to have problem in the layout all in one area, and that’s mostly because all the components are squeezed into one area.

The CPU socket is boxed in by virtually every other major component including the DDR slots, Southbridge, IDE connectors, and a wall of capacitors. This makes it difficult to plug in the P4 12v connector, and of course it means that the distance between other components when using a very large heatsink is very small, if there is room at all. I just so happen to have a large heatsink available: the Zalman 7700Cu. Installed it does actually fit, but it’s also over the Southbridge, and does not allow the installation of 2 of the 4 DDR slots. Of course the MSI K8N Neo4 Platinum had the same problem even though the board is much larger.

BIOS

The BIOS is a Phoenix AwardBIOS. The sections of the BIOS are lined up from the left to right at the top of the screen; Main, Advanced, Peripherals, Power, HW Monitor, Defaults, and Exit. Each section features appropriate options, standard fare as far as BIOS menus are concerned.

Up first is “Main”. Main includes the date, time, IDE and SATA peripherals, not to mention the floppies.

‘Advanced’ has boot priorities for the harddrives/optical drives/etc., and all of the features used to manipulate the CPU or the FSB including voltages. There are several subcategories under Advanced, and this is clearly the section that most individuals will spend time tweaking and working with. The Hard Disk Boot Priority and CD-ROM Boot priority is pretty basic so I won’t go over that, it simply allows the user to make the desired changes to the order.

“Advanced BIOS features” contains all of the other functions that the motherboard will activate during boot including numlock status, quick power on self test, and HDD S.M.A.R.T. capability.

While “Advanced Chipset Features” doesn’t contain anything very interesting under it, the sub category “DRAM configuration” does. This section of course allows for the manual changing of CAS settings as well as FSB divider, and command rate.

“PnP/PCI Configurations” has several options that most will never use, including PCI Latency Timer, and Reset Configuration Data.

   

Finally the last submenu underneath Advanced is “Frequency/Voltage Control” which has the rest of the major OC goodies. Frankly I wish that Albatron would put the DRAM configuration settings to a sub menu of this one, and simply get rid of “Advanced Chipset Features”. This section allows for the frequency adjustment of the FSB (in 1 MHz increments) and the CPU Multiplier (in 1.0 increments). The CPU adjustment was a big complaint from me; it doesn’t allow half steps on the multiplier which a lot of times can be the sweet spot for overclocking. Also in this section are the HT Ratio (1-5) and CPU and DDR voltage.

This was another complaint for me, the voltage settings don’t allow for .05 increments on the RAM and chipset, meaning that in many cases the user could be over-volting or under-volting the ram unnecessarily.

The “Peripherals” menu contains all of the options to manipulate the harddrives except for the earlier mentioned boot priority. It also contains the menus to turn off onboard features such as audio and Ethernet. And finally it contains the I/O chip setup which allows the changes for serial port IRQ's and power on functions.

The “Power” submenu contains all the power saving functions of the motherboard including HDD power down while in suspend, and AMD’s “cool ‘n’ quiet”.

“HW Monitor” has monitoring for all of the major components (RAM, CPU, etc) and also contains a menu that allows the setting for a maximum temperature that when reached will force the computer to automatically shutdown. I noticed that the sensors of this particular motherboard always read the CPU temperature very high. Using the K8N Neo4 Platinum SLi showed a temperature difference as much as 30 degrees Celsius, and because I used the same processor and the same cooling solution for both setups I realize it must be a recording error. While most would say it is better to err on the side of caution, 30 degrees Celsius is just silly even ‘if’ the MSI solution was reporting temperatures slightly low.


The last two submenus “Defaults” and “Exit” are self explanatory. Simply different options to go to different Default settings and removing any user settings, and different exit settings allowing the user to decide to keep changes or not and re-boot the system.

Test System: AMD 3500+ Winchester, Albatron K8SLi (nForce 6.66), 1GB Corsair XMS Xpert, 2x MSI 6600GT not in SLi (77.72 Forceware), 74GB Western Digital Raptor, Windows XP Professional edition w/ SP2 and all updates.

AMD 3500+ Winchester, MSI K8N Neo4/SLi Platinum (nForce 6.53), 1GB Corsair XMS Xpert, 2x MSI 6600GT not in SLi (71.84 Forceware), 74GB Western Digital Raptor, Windows XP Professional edition w/ SP2 and all updates.

Benchmarks

Aquamark
dbpowerAMP Music Converter
Comanche 4
Doom 3
PCMark 04
SiSoft Sandra 2005 memory Bandwidth Benchmark
SYSmark 2004
TMPGEnc Plus

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