Layout and Features

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The physical layout of the AK31 motherboard is fairly standard. Starting at the top of the PCB, you can see the ATX power connector is located between the CPU socket and the PS/2 and USB connectors. I have seen the placement on a few other motherboards and it has caused a few, very minimal problems. Most noticeable is the need to have to stretch the power cable over the heatsink in order to reach the connector. If you are using a fan guard, there will be no problems of course.

Shuttle AK31 Rev2 KT266 Motherboard Review - Motherboards 21 The CPU socket itself is a little too close to the KT266 north bridge. For my testing, I used the Tai Sol Copper Bottom HSF, and it was a very close fit between the two heatsinks. Unlike some of the other motherboards though, I had no difficulty getting this heatsink attached to the clips – a much needed relief some of the other boards we have seen at with capacitors much too close to the 462-pin socket. Directly to the right you can see the 6 MOSFETs that enable the AK31 to use the 3-phase power system for maximum power to the processor, providing increased stability for overclocking.

There are four DDR DRAM slots on the AK31, providing the most room for memory expansion on the KT266 chipset. The system specs for using more than 2 DIMMs on the AK31 ( and all KT266 chipset ) states it is required to use Registered memory. This may be true on many circumstances, but I was able to use 3 Corsair XMS2400 DDR DRAM modules without a problem.

As I mentioned before, the AK31 has an active cooling system for the north bridge on the KT266 chipset. A simple heatsink and fan provide a decent cooling power needed for those who are pushing the chipset beyond the 133 MHz FSB barrier. Besides being too close the CPU socket, I also don’t like the way the fan power cable on the north bridge ‘wraps’ around the heatsink, capacitors and under the AGP guard to the power connector. Simply rotating the fan on the heatsink and the cable could have been 1/4 the length.

The AK31 offers the standard connector configuration including two PS/2 ports, two USB ports, a pair of serial connectors and a parallel connector. Shuttle has also included some standard AC’97 PCI audio for those users who choose to use it.

The slot configuration on the motherboard is very good at 6/0/1/1 (PCI/ISA/AGP/CNR). As always, I am pleased to see any motherboard come with the maximum 6 PCI slots. The AGP port is 4x compatible and includes a retension clip to prevent the AGP video card from slipping out during case moves or simple PC work. The inclusion of the CNR slot at the bottom is a big deal for most consumers, but since they didn’t leave out any PCI slots to have it there, Shuttle deserves recognition.

Finally, the Shuttle AK31 provides two ATA100 IDE channels and a single floppy connector. There are no RAID options for this board, currently. At the very bottom right of the PCB is an on-board speaker that prevents the need for an external internal PC speaker. 🙂

As a side note, anyone who has ever been cut or stabbed by a motherboard connector will like the fact that the Shuttle AK31 has rounded edges! This is a first for motherboards that I have ever seen.

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