The general layout of the motherboard is very good. This board is no longer plagued by ABIT's inconvenient placement of the power supply connector on most Pentium III boards. In the majority of the ABIT Pentium III motherboards the connector was placed in such a way that one had to route the motherboard power supply connector over the CPU. On the KA7 is placed on the very top edge of the motherboard underneath the power supply. That way the power cable doesn't interfere with anything else.
One minor complain involved the KA7's four DIMM slots. If you were to use a huge-ass heatsink then you would most likely lose one DIMM slot. But, such is the price for overclocking.
The motherboard package came with the usual fanfare. Besides the motherboard itself (Duh!), it came with a manual, a thermistor cable, two ATA-66 80-pin IDE cables, a standard floppy cable, drivers/utilities disk, two CPU motherboard brackets, and a copy of ABIT's own Linux distribution, Gentus Linux 6.2. The inclusion of Gentus Linux 6.2 is definitely a nice bonus. If you are going to be using ABIT motherboards, you'll most likely want to use their own version of Linux, since it has features specific to ABIT motherboards that other distributions do not have.
As we have always expected from ABIT, the manual is top notch. A rather large manual, it explains everything you will ever want to know about the motherboard including those mysterious BIOS settings that nobody seems to know what they do.
A Few Words About Performance and Overclocking
In order to get every last bit of performance out of the KA7, you need to play around with the BIOS settings. Specifically, the memory timings are the settings that seem to make the most difference in overall system performance. Of course, I would like to make clear that we are not talking about a very big difference between tweaked and non-tweaked memory timings as we will illustrate in our next section.
We found that the best way to over clock our Athlon 600 was to use a golden fingers Athlon over clocking device, in conjunction with the KA7. The KA7 is definitely an overclocker's board, but since it's not possible to adjust the CPU multiplier with the motherboard, it's best to use a golden fingers over clocking device for maximum flexibility. Using our Outside Loop Afterburner GF device, we were able to change the multiplier from the default 6x to 5.5x and then we bumped the FSB speed to 133 MHz for a total CPU speed of 733 MHz. We also used the KA7 BIOS L2 cache speed adjustment for 2/5 ratio vs. the default 1/2 ratio. Using this method we didn't over clock the core to a level that we couldn't achieve and at the same time we were able to reap the benefits of 133 MHz RAM speed.
If we were to leave the multiplier at 6x we would
have ended up with a CPU core speed of 800 MHz, which our CPU refused to do
unless we bumped the core voltage to 2 Volts. As some of you may know, 2 volts
on an Athlon core is usually considered BAD! Since we are talking about core
voltage adjustments, it brings us to the next benefit of using an Athlon GF
device. The ABIT KA7 as well as the majority of the motherboards out there, will
not let you adjust the CPU core voltage past a certain level for obvious safety
reasons. While this may be good for the beginner overclockers out there who
don't push the envelope, it's bad for the experienced nut cases like myself.
Using an Athlon GF device, we were able to adjust the core voltage to 1.90
volts, which was way past the 1.80 volts that the KA7 allowed for us. Let's take
a look at some numbers: