The EPoX EP-8RDA3+ is the follow-up to the immensely popular EP-8RDA series motherboards so there is a lot of expectation for this one. What I found was a strange combination of superior features with mediocre implementation which may be a concern for some of you.  Read on and find out.

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Click to enlarge.

Quick Specs



nVIDIA nForce 2 Ultra 400


nVIDIA nForce 2 MCP




DDR 400

Memory Slots


Memory Capacity



2x SATA, 2x ATA133



Analog Audio Connectivity

(3) 3 stereo connects. Each can be configured for different input/output.

Digital Audio Connectivity

Coax SPDIF-out
Optical SPDIF-out (Toslink)


2x RealTek 10/100 LAN

USB 2.0

6 ports

Firewire IEEE1394

2 ports

Packaging & Contents

  • 2x 18″ rounded IDE cables
  • 1x Floppy cable (ribbon style)
  • 2x SATA cables
  • Serial and game ports bracket
  • 1x Firewire bracket (2x 6-pin ports)
  • 2x ATX molex to SATA converter
  • Manuals
  • Driver CD with Norton Ghost and PC-Cillin 2002
  • EPoX case badge

The EP-8RDA3+ packaging is very complete which I would consider the best of all the motherboards we’re looking at today. Inside the box there are some real nice bonuses like 18″ rounded IDE cables and a serial+game port bracket which many manufacturers only include as an optional feature these days. The CD actually contains some useful programs like Symantec Ghost 2003 and PC-illin 2002 which makes the package a lot more valuable.

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The manual for the EP-8RDA3+ is very thorough. It contains a single language for clarity (English in this case) and includes everything from installation, to the BIOS, to bundled software documentation. At the front of the manual for easy reference is a table of common diagnostic LED error codes and solutions. On the inside-back cover is a list of contact information should you require help. Like Asus, this shows commitment to customer satisfaction on EPoX’s part.

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With the exception of the Magic Flash and Magic Screen utilities, the rest of the utility software is very useful. Symantec Personal Firewall, PC-Cillin, and Symantec Ghost are some excellent products that you should consider using if you don’t already have something similar. Magic Flash is a tool that needs a lot of improvement. The interface is not particularly intuitive or obvious which is a dangerous thing when considering BIOS flashing. But the alternative is to use the AWDFLASH route using a floppy disk which some non-experts may find daunting. I hope EPoX improves this tool.

Design & Layout

After spending some time examining and installing the EP-8RDA3+ in my Antec SX800-series mid-tower, I have to say it’s really well designed.

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Plenty of room to install large heatsinks.

Of all the motherboards we’re looking at today, the EP-8RDA3+ has the best socket area of them all. The area around the socket is clear of any large capacitors and the only concern here would be the potential of the northbridge cooler blocking the CPU heatsink. In this case you may need to remove the northbridge fan, or modify one of the coolers to clear. The socket itself is located about 50mm from the top edge of which should give you enough clearance to mount a large heatsink or 92mm fan without worrying about the ATX power supply blocking it. Also, the socket is closer to the front of the motherboard which gives enough room to mount a larger heatsink/fan and larger exhaust fans in your case. There are four mounting holes to help hold compatible heatsinks and waterblocks.

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Northbridge a little close to the socket.

There are coolers installed on the northbridge and southbridge. The fan on the northbridge is a welcome addition for those looking to overclock their system (especially if you’re planning on increasing the chipset voltage).

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12V and ATX power headers are located about 1.5″ from the bottom-left corner of the socket which means that the cables can be routed around the socket for better airflow. However, the location of these headers aren’t optimal. Having them closer to the front of the motherboard would have been a better choice.

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Area around the AGP and PCI slots are clear of any headers, risers, or jumpers. This shows wisdom on EPoX’s part since there’s nothing more irritating than having to remove cards to flip a jumper or to plug in a USB extension. The AGP slot has a lot of room around it allowing for larger coolers. However, longer videocards may have problems with the RAM clips getting in the way. The nVIDIA FX5950 Ultra videocard completely blocks the first two clips. EPoX is well aware of this issue and even took time to document it in their manual. But to EPoX’s relief, most videocards are shorter in length these days.

There are only two functional jumpers on their entire motherboard (CMOS and CPU FSB switches) which is nice and both are marked with their default configurations so you can see at a glance (without having to open your manual) if the jumpers are in their proper spots.

The frontpanel IO pins are color-coded for easy identification and installation (most cases have their frontpanel wires color coded this way). There is also a diagnostic LED that displays POST codes. This is a nice feature for solving computer problems and is standard on the EP-8RDA3+ (not all manufacturers include this as a standard feature).

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My biggest gripe of this the EP-8RDA3+’s design are the location of the IDE and Floppy channels: they are located too far from the top of a typical mid-tower case. In my Antec case (21″ tall), the 18″ IDE cable did not have enough slack to reach. This is particularly annoying as there are customers who also use their 5.25″ bays for their HDDs. The solution would be to invest in some longer cables (24″ should be sufficient), but EPoX should really bundle 24″ cables in their box to overcome this quirk in their design.

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The legacy ports are present (PS2 keyboard/mouse, parallel and serial ports). There are 4 USB 2.0 ports as seen on most motherboards these days. The real gems are the optical SPDIF output (in addition to the SPDIF-out coax) and the dual 10/100 LAN ports. There are only 3 stereo ports on the back which means support for 5.1 channels will have to be done through the SPDIF connection or through the front panel audio connector.

Motherboard Features

There are some nice features on the EP-8RDA3+ like two IEEE 1394 firewire headers on the motherboard and optical SPDIF-out connector. The optical support I particularly like because it gives you the best flexibility for connecting your digital audio receiver since there is also coax output. There is dual 10/100 LAN ports which make this motherboard a nice candidate as a gateway between two networks. However, I suspect many of you will be using just one of them. The Silicon Image Sil3112 SATA controller onboard allows for regular SATA operation or RAID (RAID 0 or RAID 1).

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The EP-8RDA3+ has one onboard USB header which means that it supports at most 6 USB devices without adding a USB hub. I suspect the EPoX has made a mistake on their website by stating support for 8 USB devices since there are only 4 USB ports on the rear and one extra connector on the motherboard for a total of 6 devices.

Despite some nice features, the EP-8RDA3+ suffers from some poor implementation by not choosing to use nVIDIA’s MCP-T solution. This means that you are not getting SoundStorm or nice 3Com Ethernet controllers. Instead EPoX chose to use AC’97 audio using Realtek ALC655 which is inferior in quality compared to SoundStorm. The EP-8RDA3+ does not support 5.1 channels without losing your Line-In and Mic-In unless you use the front panel audio or SPDIF-out. The RealTek RTL8101L dual NICs are fine for more users, but are not the best network controllers when compared to 3Com that comes with the MCP-T implementation.

BIOS Features

The EP-8RDA3+ uses Award BIOS and has a full set of features. There is a wake-up alarm, IRQ control for PCI and AGP devices. Overclocking is well represented by multiple frequency adjustments (AGP 66MHz – 100MHz, FSB 133-250MHz), memory timings and voltage controls (CPU, AGP, RAM, and Northbridge).

In comparison to the DFI NF2 LanParty/Infinity, the EPoX does not have as much memory timing options or as wide a MHz spectrum on the FSB.

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A nice little feature is the displaying of PC health information (“Magic Health” feature) along the bottom of the initialization screen. You can also choose to display a 16-color image during boot-up as well and can be configured using the MagicScreen utility on the CD.

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Warranty & Support

EPoX does give some treatment to technical support in the package. There are tech support emails and website addresses on the back cover of the manual for quick access, and a list of common error codes and solutions listed near the front of the manual. EPoX’s website currently has 22 entries in their knowledge base concerning the EP-8RDA3+, which I suspect only covers the most common problems and questions. If you require more detailed support your only official option would be to fill out their online support form.

EPoX does not have a user forum so your quickest way to find solutions would be to visit EPoX related forums like our very Represented EPoX forum.

The warranty on the EP-8RDA3+ (and for all EPoX mainboards in general) is 2 years which is a great safety-net for most users. This information can be obtained here: http://www.epox.com/USA/article.asp?id=1705.

Warranty Information Update – July 26, 2004
At the time of publishing this article, the information concerning EPoX warranty was unclear as their website showed a typographical error that can be interpretted as 1 or 2 years of warranty. This has been clarified above.


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