Shuttle AK35GT2-R KT333Jul 17th, 2002 | By Archive
Shuttle AK35GT2-R KT333
: 07/17/02 – 07:41:06 PM
Page 1 : Introduction
Back in February 2002 I took a closer look at the Shuttle AK35GT-R, which was a socket A motherboard based upon VIA's KT266A chipset. That board snagged away our precious Overclockers Online POWER Award and today I am going to put it's successor, the Shuttle AK35GT2-R on the testbed.
Although both boards are identical when looking at the layout, some important things have changed underneath the hood! The most important new feature is a new chipset: the VIA KT333. With VIA's latest AMD chipset, 166MHz memory is fully supported (including a 1/5 PCI divider) so in theory, a memory boost of 20% should be around the corner. Besides the support for DDR333 memory, the new chipset also brings support for UDMA133 along. This also provides a sweet boost of 33% when it comes to hard drive performance, but be aware that chances are close to zero that you will notice any difference between UDMA100 and UDMA133 because IDE drives just don't reach those speeds (unless at peak moments …).
Will the AK35GT2-R be as successful as it's older brother and will it be able to add another award to Shuttle's prize closet? Only one way to find out and that's by reading the review … Enjoy!
Page 2 : Specifications
I'm sure you know how it works at O², so here is the copy/paste from the Shuttle website:
-CPU Support: Socket A CPU
AMD Duron CPU with 200MHz FSB
AMD Athlon CPU with 200 / 266MHz FSB
AMD Athlon XP CPU with 266MHz FSB
-Chipsets VIA KT333:
(North) VIA VT8367
High Performance Athlon CPU Interface
Integrated full featured Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) controller
Integrated high bandwidth 266MB/S 8-bit Vlink Host controller
Integrated advanced high performance DDR DRAM controller to support DDR 333 SDRAM
(South) VIA VT8233A
Built in high bandwidth 266MB/S 8-bit V-link Host controller
Integrated USB controller with two root hub and four function ports
Integrated dual channel UDMA 33/66/100/133 master mode EIDE controller
LPC interface for Low Pin Count interface to Super-I/O or ROM
Integrated Keyboard Controller with PS2 mouse support
Integrated DS12885-style Real Time Clock with extended 256 byte CMOS RAM and Day/Month Alarm for ACPI
System Management Bus Interface
Sophisticated PC99-Compatible Mobile Power Management
Integrated Plug and Play Controller
-Memory: 4 x 184-pin DIMM
Supports 6 banks up to 3 GB DRAMs (512Mb x8/x16 DRAM technology) for un-buffered DDR SDRAM module
Supports 8 banks up to 4 GB DRAMs (512Mb x8/x16 DRAM technology) for register DDR SDRAM module
No ECC function support
-H/W Audio: C-Media 8738
Support 5.1 speakers, C3DX positional audio in 6 CH speaker mode
HRTF-3D positional audio, supporting Direct Sound 3D and A3D interface
Legacy SBPRO compatible
-USB Hub: Built in VT8233A
Integrated USB Controller with three root hubs and six function ports
USB v.1.1 and Intel Universal HCI v.1.1 compatible
Support up to 6 ports
AGP: 1 AGP slot
Support AGP 2.0 compliant, 1X, 2X, 4X AGP device
Support both 1.5V / 3.3V AGP electrical device
Supports SideBand Addressing (SBA) mode (non-multiplexed address / data)
PCI: 6 PCI slots, PCI 2.2 compliant
Support 32 bit PCI master mode device
133 Mbyte/sec Maximum Throughput
-IDE interface: Built in VT8233A
2 x UltraDMA/100/133 Bus Master IDE from VT8233A
2 x UltraDMA/133 Bus Master IDE from High Point 372 to support RAID 0, RAID1, RAID0+1 function
80-pin Cable Backward Compatible Legacy ATAPI Devices
ATAPI IDE CD-ROM, CD-R, CD-RW, and LS-120 Supports
support RAID 0, RAID1, RAID0+1 function (AK35GTR only)
-H/W Monitoring: Built in Winbond 83697HF
2 thermal inputs from CPU and system temperature sensor
6 positive voltage inputs (+12V, -12V, +5V, -5V, +3.3V, Vcore)
2 intrinsic voltage monitoring (Vbat, +5VSB)
Build in Case open detection circuit
Programmable hysteresis and setting points for all monitored items
Over temperature indicate output
Automatic Power On voltage detection Beep
Issue SMI#, IRQ, OVT# to activate system protection
Winbond Hardware Doctor
Support Intel LDCM TM / Acer ADM compatible
ACPI v1.0 Compliant
APM v1.2 Compliant
Supports multiple system suspend types: power-on suspends with flexible CPU/PCI bus reset options, suspend to DRAM, and suspend to disk (soft-off), all with hardware automatic wake-up
Multiple suspend power plane controls and suspend status indicators
Thermal alarm on either external temperature sensing circuits
Support Power Fail Resume function
Built in 2MB Flash ROM
BIOS FSB step-less setting from 100MHz to 200MHz
BIOS Multiplier setting from 5X to 14X
CPU core voltage setting from +0.025V ~ +0.20V
Support IRQ manual assign table
BIOS boot block protection
1 set of 2 x5 pin Front Panel USB header
Mini CD Audio in
CD Audio in
Suspend switch and LED
To hit off, the board has a 1/6/0 configuration: 1 AGP slot, 6 PCI slots and no CNR, ISA(??) or any other slot most of us use. For me, this kind of setup is what I like best since people who need CNR or AMR slots are not buying high-end motherboards anyway.
Memory expansion is not a problem either as the AK35GT2-R comes with four memory slots! If you are using registered DDR memory, up to 4GB of memory is supported, if using non-registered memory you will have to do with 3GB. Pretty good especially since the this one of few boards that come with four slots. Be aware that ECC memory is NOT supported …
As the name implies, the board I tested is the RAID version (that's why there is an "R" at the end of the name) but if you have no use for onboard RAID, a non-RAID version is available and is called (surprise surprise) AK35GT2. Of course, I am pro RAID as it can be useful in many ways. Shuttle decided to equip the AK35GT2-R with High Point's HPT372 controller supporting UDMA133 and a total of 4 IDE hard drives.
Apart from the RAID controller, the board comes (of course) with two onboard IDE connectors and the casual floppy connector (is anyone actually using those?). Onboard sound is around as well, supporting 6-channel sound setups thanks to the C-Media 8738 soundchip. I mentioned it in previous reviews as well: these solutions are fine for occasional gaming and listening to some mp3's, just don't expect to get crystal clear, ultra-crisp sound from it as you would get from a high end add-on card like the Turtle series …
USB is around two, but unfortunately there are no USB 2.0 ports onboard. Shuttle equips the AK35GT2-R with two USB ports, and optionally you can hook up a USB bracket to give you a total of 4 USB ports. The board has marks for another bracket (to give you a total of 6 USB ports) but there are no pins so you can not hook up a bracket … The original AK35GT did have those pins in place so I don't know why they decided to leave them out of the picture this time.
As with most current motherboards, Winbond earned his spot on this board too and supplies us with accurate temperature readings, voltage levels and fan speeds.
Page 3 : Layout
Since the AK35GT2 and the AK35GT use an identical layout, I copied this part from the AK35GT review which you can read here if you want.
Now the layout is a part that is of great importance to some, and totally ignored by others. For me, the layout of a motherboard is something I tend to look at when choosing a board to install in my personal rig. So what's important about a layout and what should I look for?
The first part is the placement of the ATX power connector. The AK35GT2-R sits somewhere in between good and bad on that level. Shuttle's designers installed the connector on the left top of the motherboard, placed vertically. Although this certainly kicks a connector sitting in the middle of the board, I definitely prefer my power connector at the right top of the board, placed horizontally.
The second thing that you need to pay attention to, is the space around the CPU socket. Especially people who want to use more extreme cooling solutions like a Swiftech MCX462A air cooler or water cooling setups with peltiers. If the socket is surrounded by capacitators, condensators, … and other stuff that might stand in the way of your cooling, you're screwed. Shuttle is in the clear here, because there is quite some room around the socket, leaving your cooling options open.
The third factor that can spoil the fun, is the placement of the memory slots. When installed to close to the AGP slot, you are cursed to remove your video card anytime you feel like swapping, adding or removing memory from your system. With the AK35GT-R, Shuttle almost did an excellent job: the first memory slot, the one closest to the AGP slot, is just barely being blocked by our VisionTek GeForce 3. If the slots would be moved a few millimeters to the right side, everything would be perfect. The other three slots are in the clear and can easily be used without having to remove the video card.
The IDE connectors, the floppy connectors and also the RAID connectors are installed fairly easy. Maybe the IDE and the floppy connectors should have been installed a tad higher and the RAID connectors right below them, placed vertically, but in the end I am fairly pleased with it.
To conclude my layout chat, I can say that Shuttle did a pretty good job with the layout of the AK35GT2-R. There are a few flaws in the design, but nothing major. Note that the AGP slot comes with one of those AGP retainer thingies that locks the card in there. Interesting for people who move their case around a lot.
Page 4 : BIOS
Just like it's predecessor, the AK35GT2-R is completely jumperless, meaning everything can be altered through a few strokes on your keyboard. I'll skip the boring stuff and immediately fast forward to the more exotic features which are quite interesting as there aren't too many motherboards who can offer such stuff …
For example, the CPU core voltage can be set all the way up to 2.30V (the AK35GT also had this feature), making overclocking a serious option! Of course no sane person would go this high without the proper cooling power attached to the processor. And when I say cooling power, I do not refer to one of those standard tiny heatsinks … I am thinking hardcore watercooling and other geeky stuff that makes me go wild :).
As high as the CPU core voltage will go, as low goes the DDR voltage setting … Shuttle decided to allow you up to 2.7V (your memory runs at 2.5V default) which is way to low for serious overclocking! EPoX is aware of this and they provide you with up to 3.20V for the DDR voltage … Shuttle, please follow their lead and make our dreams come true!!
On the other side, the AK35GT2-R does have a 1/5 PCI divider!! Finally speeds way above normal are achievable without risking to corrupt your data because of the PCI speeds being too high. Sweeeeeeeet!
If you managed to unlock your CPU, the multiplier can be set to whatever you like as long as it is a value between 8x and 12.5x for Athlon XP processors and 14x for "TBird" Athlons.
All in all, the BIOS is top-notch … if they only would include higher DDR voltage options ;).
Page 5 : Overclocking
In theory, the Shuttle AK35GT2-R can be overclocked up to a front side bus of 225MHz in 1MHz increments. Of course these kind of numbers are not achievable (perhaps with liquid nitrogen on the chipset ;)) so I was wondering what speeds are achievable with this baby?
As expected, the board runs just fine at 166MHz … heck, the KT333 chipset officially supports those speeds :). Anything greater was not stable with my Crucial PC2100 DDR memory because it needs more "juice" to achieve greater speeds … If it would be possible to set the DDR voltage to +3V, speeds of 180MHz and more are achievable (and stable) with this memory. When combined with PC2700 memory (which can run at 166MHz at default voltage), speeds up to 184MHz were obtainable. Pretty sweet huh? And if you remember the 1/5 PCI divider, you know that this kind of speed is really usable because there is no risk of losing data or PCI cards malfunctioning due to the high PCI bus speeds.
The Shuttle AK35GT2-R proves to be a good overclocker, as long as you got your hands of some PC2700 memory. If you need +2.7V to achieve speeds of 180MHz with your memory, this board is not for you … because unless Shuttle is releasing a new BIOS that comes with these options, EPoX is a better choice (they deliver up to 3.20V).
Page 6 : Benchmarking
The test box:
MadOnion's 3D Mark 2001
MadOnion's 3D Mark 2001SE
Sisoft Sandra Memory Benchmark
Page 7 : Conclusion
With the AK35GT2-R, Shuttle managed to deliver a very good successor to the AK35GT-R. Both boards are almost identical, with the exception of the chipset and the features that belong to that KT333 chipset. This not only means that the new kid on the block inherited the good stuff from its little brother, it also inherited the not so good features like the layout flaws, the lack of DDR voltage options (compared to the very good CPU core voltage options) and also the lack of extra's. Overclocking is sweet, but for hardcore overclocking you have to make sure to get PC2700 memory or you might end up disappointed in the long run! Stability was no problem what so ever, and the onboard RAID is a good addition to the board. Another note I want to make is the pricetag: it is VERY low … the non-RAID version can be found for around $75 whereas the RAID version is available at your reseller for about $95!! You can't go wrong for such a sweet price …
- CPU voltage options
- No extra's
- DDR voltage options