This content was originally featured on Amdmb.com and has been converted to PC Perspective’s website. Some color changes and flaws may appear.If there is one thing that the Tyan Thunder K7 has a lot of it, besides followers, is features. This motherboard is overflowing with extras and add-ons.
The main feature of the Thunder K7 is of course the AMD-762 Northbridge, part of the AMD-760 MP Chipset. It is this feature that allows the motherboard to capture the power of two Athlon MP processors. This chipset was covered in depth in our look at the 760 MP chipset earlier, so be sure to check that out first.
It may be possible that many of you have never seen PCI slots like the ones pictured above. These are 64-bit PCI slots as opposed to the 32-bit ones found on most other motherboards, and the ones we are used to seeing. The difference being the amount of traffic that the PCI bus can transfer on a single clock cycle has increased from 32-bits to 64-bits. Where does this come in handy? The main aspect is in SCSI and RAID configurations. Our very own DieU has stated that going from a 32- to a 64-bit bus on the ATTO UL3D SCSI RAID card can take his sequential writes and reads from 120 MB/s to 150+ MB/s. That is quite a nice increase! Though I won’t cover much data transfer in this review, you can expect to see a nice supplement to this review later on the next week or two from DieU, concerning how the Tyan Thunder K7 performs on a SCSI RAID configuration.
Besides just having the standard dual IDE channels on the motherboard, Tyan has included the Adaptec AIC-7899W SCSI controller. This allows for two Ultra160 SCSI channels. Keep in mind that this is NOT a RAID controller at all, and does not have any RAID functions to it. However, having the SCSI on-board makes the option of using a SCSI hard drive instead of an IDE one an easy choice to make.
Tyan has included an integrated video system on the Thunder K7, too. From ATI, the Rage XL VGA controller with a 4 MB buffer should be more than adequate for server usage. Workstation users will surely disable this feature and install their own AGP-based video solution in the provided AGP Pro slot. With Tyan offering options like this for the server market they are decreasing the amount of expansion room needed and raising the chances of the Thunder K7 fitting in a rack mount case.
While a few of the past reviewed motherboard have had on-board network adapters before, the Thunder K7 shows its server market roots by providing two independent NIC cards, each powered by a 3Com 3C920 chip. This 10/100 compatible chip is definitely not on the cheap side of the NIC market. Most workstation and home users will only have a need for a single NIC, servers very commonly used multiple network cards in order to have more than one network association. Having a dedicated connection to a database server, for example, saves on the need to waste valuable bandwidth on the other network connection.
The AMD-760 MP chipset is the first AMD chipset to offer support for ECC memory. ECC memory (Error Correction) is mainly used in servers that require 100% uptime and 100% reliability. Most workstations and home users will want to stay with the non-ECC memory as it is slight faster and less expensive.
The Thunder K7 motherboard uses jumpers for just about everything, including changing the FSB of the processors as well as enabling and disabling everything from the SCSI to individual 3Com ports to the ATI video. Here is some bad news for many of you: the Tyan Thunder K7 has no overclocking options at all. End of story. You can choose 200 MHz or 266 MHz bus and that’s it. No voltage, multipliers, nothing. In fact, the bios of the motherboard is nearly barren, having only options for selecting boot devices, etc. A bit of a disappointment there, but keep in mind that this is a server and workstations marketed motherboard, and those do not dwell much into overclocking.