Good and Bad

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Now, we’ll analyze all this. The most obvious difference between this and all previous Athlon motherboards, is the VIA 371 North Bridge. It is this component that enables the new 133 MHz memory bus. The BIOS options offer both the 100 Mhz or the 100 + 33MHz bus, allowing those with PC100 memory to use it on this motherboard, yet keeping it simple to enable the extra speed for those with PC133 memory. Also note that the EP-7KXA supports Virtual Channel memory, which is very new on the market.

Another key feature of the North Bridge is the 4x AGP mode. This is the first Athlon motherboard to have this feature that has been common for a while on the latest Slot-1 motherboards. Using the latest version of the AGP core, those who had experienced some problems actually enabling the 4x mode on their video cards should see them resolved. Of course, the slot is backwards compatible with 1x and 2x AGP modes.

Epox EP-7KXA Motherboard Review - Motherboards 12 The south bridge of the KX133 chipset, the VIA 686A, is also a highly innovative product from VIA. Integrating an I/O controller, ISA Bridge and hardware monitoring in single chip reduces cost to manufacturers, hence lowering costs to consumers and OEMs. Epox used this south bridge chip to leave in a single ISA slot on the motherboard for those who still have Legacy device sitting around. From what I can tell, most of the first generation of KX133 boards will follow suit with a single ISA slot, as well. Other expansion slots on this motherboard are in the 5/1/1/1 configuration (PCI/ISA/AMR/AGP).

One of the best modifications on this board is the movement of the ATX power connector. Unlike the K7M, which was plagued by users who wanted to add high quality cooling fans and heatsinks to their Athlon processors who were unable to do so, the EP-7KXA’s connector is turned 90° and moved up. This keeps the area between the processor and memory slots open and rooms for the Alpha fans or whatever you fancy. The layout of the bottom of the motherboard is not so uplifting, as the location of the floppy cable connector and the case connectors keeps a couple of the PCI slots from being full sized. This is minor concern, however, since their are very few full sized PCI cards that are in use in today’s market.

Epox has placed a slew of capacitors, caps and voltage regulator, with mounted heatsinks on them. Like all the Athlon motherboards, all these features back here are need to supply the processor with all the power it needs, which is a lot. This keeps the motherboard stable, though not as strong as the Asus K7M.

Epox has listened to what the public has been saying, and they have been screaming about overclocking! Epox responded by adding similar options to their EP-7KXA as Asus added to the K7M. Giving the users option of 110MHz and 115MHz front side buses, users can overclock their Athlon without entering the machine or modifying the processor. It would have been nice to see Epox show as much flexiblity as Asus with some more FSB settings, but a couple are better than none.

Some more overclocking options are given with the dip switches that allow the user to modify the core voltage to the CPU. Options from 1.50v to 1.80v are available in increments of 0.05v.

Extras will be included with the official retail version of the EP-7KXA, including some Norton software, notably Ghost and Anti-Virus. Nothing that is exceptionally outstanding, but you’re not paying anything for it, so why complain, right? 🙂 The Epox’s manual is decent, though beginners may find the lack of detailed instructions a pain, anyone with a general knowlegdge of computers should be able to handle the installation. If not, you can always head over to our forums to ask for some assistance.

Epox EP-7KXA Motherboard Review - Motherboards 13

With so much good to talk about on this board, where and how far does it fall short? First, the Epox board is a bit less stable than some of the previous Slot-A boards using the AMD 750 chipset, such as the Gigabyte GA-7IX and the Asus K7M. Running some hard tests on the board, including games and business applications and graphics programs such as Photoshop and 3D Studio, the 7KXA came to halt once or twice more than the comparable motherboards. Most of the issues seemed to be fixable, so we can expect higher reliability as more BIOS updates are available.

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