Abit KT7-RAID Socket A Motherboard Review

Reviewer: Jon Buset
Category: 
Motherboards
Model: 
KT7-RAID
Price: 
$140

With Socket A motherboards now being almost a dime a dozen, Abit steps in with it's contender, the KT7-RAID. This board packs a killer punch, and there is no question it is one of the top boards for Socket A processors. In the past, Abit has been quite innovative with its products, and the KT7-RAID continues this tradition. Lets see how this baby shapes up under Linux.

Features

CPUs

  • AMD-K7 Athlon Socket A 200MHz FSB Processors
  • AMD-K7 Duron Socket A 200MHz FSB Processors

Chipset

  • VIA (KT133) /VIA 686A
  • Supports AGP 2X/4X
  • Supports 100/133MHz Memory Bus Settings

Ultra DMA 100

  • High Point HTP370 IDE Controller (supports up to 4 HDD devices)
  • Ultra DMA 100MB/Sec data burst transfer rate
  • RAID 0 (stripping mode for performance boosting)
  • RAID 1 (mirroring mode for data security)
  • RAID 0 +1 (stripping and mirroring - requires 4 disks)

Memory

  • Three 168-pin DIMM sockets supports up to 1.5 GB max. PC100/PC133 SDRAM

Multi I/O Functions

  • Two Channels of Bus Master IDE Ports supporting up to four Ultra DMA 33/66/100(up to 4 HDD devices)
  • Two Channels of Bus Master IDE Ports supporting up to four Ultra DMA 33

Misc.

  • SOFTMENU III Technology to set CPU parameters
  • ATX form factor
  • 1 AGP slot, 6 PCI slots and 1 ISA slots
  • Hardware monitoring - Including Fan speed, Voltages, System environment temperature.

Board Layout

I think it was a good decision on Abit's part in the layout decision of 1 AGP slot, 6 PCI slots, and 1 ISA slot (shared with a PCI slot) over an ISA-free design. I don't know about you, but I still use my ISA slots, and I would hate to be forced to get new cards for my peripherals just because I upgraded my motherboard. Since this board isn't aimed so much towards the OEM market, this is a definite plus for Abit.

There is one pressing issue with the KT7-RAID's layout, and that is the location of several 2200uF electrolytic capacitors very near to the Socket 462. There are actually some heatsinks that will not fit on this board because of this, and will in-fact damage the board (such as the Thermaltake Super Orb).

Hey baby, wanna get your RAID on? - "I think NOT!"

Abit's continued use of HighPoint IDE controllers has brought us to the HPT370 ATA/100 RAID controller. This new controller boasts 100MB/s burst transfer rates and is fully backward compatible with ATA/33/66. The most interesting feature of this controller is its support of IDE RAID arrays. The HPT370 supports RAID 0 (striping for performance), 1 (mirroring for data security), and 0+1 (striping and mirroring for performance and security - requires 4 drives). There are a few downsides to using RAID arrays, namely the cost of purchasing additional hard drives.

Unfortunately, as of the date of this article's publication, there is *NO* RAID support for this controller under Linux. If you are in dire need of a RAID, we suggest you opt for SCSI as you will get a much higher performance gain over IDE. The ATA/100 features of the HPT370 are supported under Linux (2.4.x Kernels or 2.2.x + ide patchs), but not the RAID features.

Update 28/12/00: I got the information about the lack of Linux RAID support from Andre Hendrick, the man who wrote the HPT370's Linux drivers.

Softmenu III - An Overclocker's Dream

Abit has been well known for its fantastic BIOS's in the past, and with its latest generation, SoftMenu III, things just keep getting better. The SoftMenu III boasts a true jumper-less design, and allows you to overclock those wonderful AMD processors with ease. Along with voltage levels, the front side bus adjusts in levels of 1MHz, and the CPU multiplier ranges from x5.0-x12.5, all from inside the BIOS. This gives the advanced user a huge level of customization. As we always state, be wary when attempting to overclock your processors, and be sure to have adequate cooling.

Conclusion

The KT7-RAID is an absolutely fantastic board, and I have only a couple of complaints. The pesky capacitors next to the CPU socket definitely restrict the installation of CPU and heatsink. Another complaint is the lack of Linux RAID support for this board, although in most cases SCSI RAID is a much better choice anyway. The final issue for the KT7-RAID is price. At around $140 US online, this might discourage some lower-level users. With these small issues in mind, I still recommend this great board to all those Athlon/Duron junkies.

Conclusion

The Good - Pros
  • An overclocker's delight
  • Great performance/stability
The Bad - Cons
  • RAID feature not Linux compatible
  • High price
The Ugly - Problems
  • N/A
The Verdict - Opinion
  • Overall a great Socket A motherboard, recommended to all AMD enthusiasts.

Innovation: 
4/5
Performance: 
4/5
Compatibility: 
2/5
Cost / Value: 
3/5

14/20

Overall score


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