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EPoX EP-5LWA+ EPoX EP-5LWA+: Looking for a fast 925XE motherboard? Along with 1066FSB support, EPoX packs a number of other features worthy of attention.
Date: April 4, 2005
Manufacturer:
Written By:

With the introduction of the 1066FSB based Extreme Edition CPUs, Intel introduced the 925XE chipset. The features are pretty much identical with the 925X, with the exception of the faster bus support. Until we see offerings from VIA, ATI and NVIDIA hit store shelves, the 925XE is the only game in town if you're looking for official 1066FSB support.

EPoX are well known for their motherboards, and have been on top of the latest chipsets released from the usual suspects. We've had good success with their boards over the years and today we'll be looking at their high-end Intel offering, the . Strange names aside, everything that is expected from the 925XE is present here, along with some extras that EPoX tosses in to sweeten the package.

CPU Socket LGA 775 800/1066FSB
Chipset Intel 925XE Chipset + ICH6R
Memory - 4X DDR2 400/533
Expansion Slots - PCI-E x16 (no AGP)
- 3x PCI, 2x PCI-E x1
LAN - Dual GigaLAN
Audio Realtek ALC880 8-CH Azalia audio with SPDIF

The EPoX EP-5LWA+

The EP-5LWA+ arrived in a rectangular cardboard box (more square than rectangular) and packs it to the brim with parts and manuals. I do think EPoX should consider reinforcing the edges of the box where the motherboard is situated as some of the pins were bent from the weight of the extras. The EP-5LWA+ itself is neatly laid out with good space around the various key areas which makes installation a breeze. We did find the location of the lone PATA connection to be a bit inconvenient as we were unable to install our optical drives in the upper most slots in our Koolance PC3-720SL as the IDE cable was not long enough to reach it. Placing the drive in the second slot remedied the situation, but take note if you have a large tower.

Other than the motherboard, we received the usual assortment of SATA and rounded IDE cables, manuals and driver disks. EPoX also includes a nifty PATA-to-SATA converter that will allow owners of PATA hard drives to use the SATA interface. They also include four heatsinks which can be placed on the MOSFETs (why they were not preinstalled, I don't know), a screwdriver and a thermal probe which is useful for monitoring the temperatures of almost anything you can think of.

As per usual with LGA775 motherboards, the socket is a 775-pin setup where the pins are located on the board and not the CPU, so take some care with installation as it's very easy to bend the pins out of place, and far less easy to fix any mistakes. There is plenty of clearance around the socket area, but the capacitors lining the edges of the socket made it impossible for us to fit our PolarFLO TT water block.

The 925XE North Bridge is passively cooled, and ran lukewarm through our testing. The heatsink is held down by clips, which actually isn't my preferred installation method as I've had two boards where the pins snapped off the mainboard.

The main 24-pin power connection is located just above the North Bridge, which is not our ideal position. If you're using air cooling for the CPU, make sure you route the power cable so that it does not interfere with airflow or with the cooler's fan itself. Not pictured above, but located just to the upper right of the socket is the ATX12v connection needed for the CPU.

There are four colour coded ram slots, supporting Dual Channel operation with up to 4GB of ram.

Those looking to put together a massive storage or streaming media server may want to look elsewhere or purchase a PCI storage controller for the board. For most people, EPoX offers enough though as the EP-5LWA+ has 4 SATA ports, one PATA port, and one floppy. There's no 3rd party onboard controller, but the ICH6R South Bridge (which is passively cooled as well) does offer modern features such as RAID 0,1, JBOD, Native Command Queuing, and Matrix RAID.

Multiple colours seem to be the underlying theme with the EP-5LWA+ as other than the black PCB board, we have a black PCI Express x16 slot, two yellow PCI Express x1 slots and three red PCI slots. The CMOS battery is located just below the PCIe x1 slots, but the CMOS reset jumper is located near the SATA connections. Neither location is what I would call ideal, but as we'll explain later in the BIOS descriptions, this is not much of a problem.

To aid in the troubleshooting process, EPoX adds a couple of excellent features to help the user out. Located on the edge of the motherboard between the PATA connection and the ram slots are two buttons that can be used to power on the system and reset it. While this may not seem all that useful if you already have your case wiring installed, it is handy for those who work with the board out of the case. Furthermore, if your case's power button does not power on the system, but the onboard button does, you'll know that it may be the case wiring that is suspect.

Located near the SATA connections is a diagnostic LED. As the system boots (or does not) a series of codes will be displayed. If you run into a problem, you can check the code and refer to the manual to determine the cause of the problem.

Rounding things out are your inputs and outputs. From left to right, we have; two PS/2, one Optical and Coaxial S/PDIF Outputs, one parallel, one serial, four USB 2.0, two Gigabit Ethernet, and six audio connections. Additional connections are available with some PCI brackets in the package.

The BIOS

EPoX uses the very familiar Pheonix AwardBIOS. Everything is neatly arranged and pretty self explanatory. We figure most of you don't need a refresher on the basic items, so we'll go right into the juicy bits.

Under the Advanced Chipset Features, you can adjust the ram settings. Setting the DRAM Timing to Manual will allow you to edit the settings where the lower the numbers, the better the system performance.

The POWER BIOS Features is where you can do more advanced CPU configurations. We mentioned the CMOS reset and battery as not being too essential here, and that is because of the Watch Dog Function. Setting this to Enabled will allow the board to reset automatically to safe BIOS settings if your system fails to boot after an aggressive overclock. We've found this to be an incredibly useful feature and wish more manufacturers would make use of it.

Another adjustment available on the POWER BIOS screen is the ability to change the FSB, with a maximum of 350MHz available. Real time Turbo mode is a dynamic overclocking function that will automatically set the FSB once the system is up and running and under load.

With the 1066FSB, users are now able to run their memory at 1:1, and that option is available here. Of course, no overclocking BIOS would be complete without an ability to adjust the voltages, which opens up in a new page when you select that option.

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