MSI K7T266 Pro Motherboard

Sep 25th, 2001 | By

Print this article

MSI K7T266 Pro Motherboard

: 09/25/01 – 05:04:17 PM


: Motherboard

Page 1 : Introduction

Manufacturer: MSI
Price: $150


Today we are putting one of MSI’s bestsellers through the torturing we tend to put on motherboards, namely the MSI KT266 Pro. MSI was one of the first manufacturers to release a socket A motherboard that was capable of using DDR memory, and they did a pretty good job with it too. Although this motherboard was released some months ago, we did not review it until today because of two reasons: in the mere beginning of its career, the KT266 Pro was having memory problems and there were two versions floating around the net, both offering different memory scores due to the lack of a resistor on one of both versions. The second reason is that our board was very unstable with the first BIOS and we didn’t think it was a good idea to review the board when it was lacking a good BIOS. Almost two weeks ago, MSI has released a new BIOS update for the KT266 Pro, revision 1.6, and this update turned the board from a unstable computer component into a rockstable piece of hardware. This changed our view on the board and we decided to give it a go and post our review.

As you know there are two chipsets available for the socket A platform that support DDR memory: VIA’s KT266 chipset and AMD’s 760 chipset. Like the name predicts, MSI has chosen to use the VIA chipset on this board. Although VIA is about to release a new revision of this chipset, the KT266A, there is no reason to state that this board would be a waste of PCB. Not everyone out there needs/wants the lastest hardware, so this MSI board would be a very intresting buy, especially since the prices of KT266 products will drop with the release of the KT266A coming closer!

So how did the KT266 Pro perform? How did it behave in our testing, and more important is it worth your hard earned cash? Let’s read on and find out soon!

Page 2 : Specs


Before we go in depth on the specs of the KT266 Pro, let’s see what MSI has to say about their own board:


Support Socket A for AMD Athlon / Duron / Palomino Processors
Supports 600MHz ~ 1.4GHz processor


VIA VT8633 (552BGA) Chipset
FSB @ 200/266MHz
AGP 4x and PCI Advanced high performance memory Controller
VIA VT8233 (376BGA) Chipset
High Bandwidth Vlink Client controller
Integrated Faster Ethernet LPC (Optional CNR card support)
Integrated Hardware Sound Blaster /Direct Sound AC’97 audio
Ultra DMA 33/66/100 master mode PCI EIDE controller


Supports 66/100/133MHz FSB

Main Memory

Support six memory banks using three 184-pin DDR DIMM.
Support a maximum memory size up to 3GB.
Supports 2.5v DDR SDRAM DIMM


One CNR (Communication Network Riser).
One AGP (Accelerated Graphics Port) or AGP Pro slot.
Note : AGP Pro only for K7T266 Pro-R
AGP specifcation compliant.
Support AGP 2.0 1x/2x/4x
Five 32-bit Master PCI Bus slots.
Supports 3.3v/5v PCI bus Interface.

On-Board IDE

An IDE controller on the VIA VT8233 chipset provides IDE HDD/CD-ROM with PIO, Bus Master and Ultra DMA 33/66/100 operation modes.
Can connect up to four IDE devices.


Chip integrated (2 channel S/W audio)
Direct Sound AC97 Audio

On-Board Peripherals

On-Board Peripherals include:
1 Floppy port supports 2 FDD with 360K, 720K, 1.2M, 1.44M and
2.88M bytes.
2 Serial ports (COM A+COM B)
1 Parallel port supports SPP/EPP/ECP mode
1 IrDA connector for SIR/ASKIR/HPSIR
1 Audio/Game port


The mainboard BIOS provides ‘Plug & Play’ BIOS which detects the peripheral devices and expansion cards of the board automatically.
The mainboard provides a Desktop Management Interface(DMI) function which records your mainboard specifications.


30.4 cm(L) x 23.5 cm(W)ATX Form Factor


6 mounting holes.

Special Functions

USB Interface (Optional)
USB 2.0 HC On Board (Optional)
Support 4 USB 2.0 ports via extemal bracket
USB PC2PC Networking Function (Optional)
Controlled by USB PC2PC Controller
Supported by the JUSB2 pin header
6 USB Ports (Optional)
Controlled by VT8233 Soughbirdge
2 rear ports and 4 port supported by JUSB2 & JUSB3

Special Features

Fuzzy Logic 3

Special Options

Promise 20265R On-Board
Support IDE RAID 0 or 1 can connect a Master and a Slave drive to each IDE RAID connector.
The two connectors support hard disk drives only.
Note: only the two Master Hard Disk Drives will adopt RAID function

The KT266 Pro is one of the most interesting motherboards available with the KT266 chipset. MSI made their homework when they designed this board because it comes with several features that will make life a lot easier! Of course the basic needs are in place, which means the KT266 Pro has support for every AMD CPU currently available starting with the slowest Duron up to the fastest Athlon which is currently running at 1.4GHz. Along with the new BIOS I discussed in the introduction, MSI has installed support for the upcoming Athlon ‘Palomino’ CPU and the already available Duron ‘Morgan’ CPU.

The heart of the KT266 is based around VIA’s KT266 chipset, one of the most popular chipsets for AMD systems. At the moment there is only one ‘big’ competitor for this chipset, and that’s the AMD 760 chipset. The SiS chipset offers good performance as well, but there are not that many boards available with this chipset. I am aware of the fact that the AMD chipset outperforms the VIA chipset, but sometimes speed is not everything. As you may or may not have noticed, most AMD 760 based motherboards only support up to two memory sticks. The only exception to this rule is Abit’s KG7 motherboard, but they clearly state that you need to use the more expensive ECC memory if you want to use more than two memory sticks.

The VIA KT266 based motherboards don’t have these problems and can take more than two sticks of memory. MSI has decided to equip this board with a total of three memory slots, for a total of 6 memory banks. This means you can use double-sided memory sticks, as long as you don’t surpass the 3GB limit … but I doubt you will find memory sticks bigger than 1GB each ;).

When it comes to free slots, MSI installs 1 AGP Pro slot (only on the RAID version the no-RAID version comes with a normal AGP slot), 5 full size PCI slots and 1 CNR slot. Powerusers and tweakers would prefer 6 PCI slots and no CNR slots, but I guess 5 slots will have to do this time. I can see where MSI is coming from when they installed the CNR slot, as MSI is also aiming towards to low-budget market with their boards. Some peeps will definately have a use for it … but I don’t.

Just like most boards out there today, the KT266 Pro comes in two flavors: with or without onboard RAID. Our test sample came without the onboard RAID controller, which is no biggie since there is nothing new about the Promise RAID controller MSI tends to use. I am more of an High Point guy, which is used on Abit and EPoX motherboards, but Promise is a big player in the IDE RAID market as well … it just depends on personal preferences. Note that MSI uses a light version of the Promise RAID controller which means you can only get RAID 0 or RAID 1, not a combination of both.

Onboard sound is available too, but just like the CNR slot, I don’t really like onboard sound solutions. With the exception of the IWill’s onboard soundcards, these cards are not good enough for people who use their computer to listen to music or play games a lot. An add-on card will bring you much better quality sound and it won’t use the processor for the calculations. For people who use sound every now and then, e.g. to listen to an occasional sound file or just to play the Windows sounds this onboard sound solution based upon the AC97 soundchip will do just fine.

Although MSI has installed many OEM features (sound, CNR, …) on the KT266 Pro, they did also think about the tweakers and overclockers out there! You can alter the FSB all the way up to 166MHz, change the multiplier to whatever you want and increase/decrease both the cpu core voltage and the DDR memory voltage. Furthermore, MSI lets you control the memory settings and some other things too, but I’ll get into those when I discuss the BIOS later on.

What makes the KT266 Pro special compared to other boards, are the features only MSI boards carry. For starters MSI includes an extra USB bracket giving you a total of 4 USB ports. On top of that they include another bracket with one USB port and one PC2PC port. This makes a total of 5 USB ports, which should be more than enough to install all the USB devices you could possible need! Now what is that PC2PC port exactly? Let me explain it to you …

PC2PC is MSI’s gadget to make it extremely easy to connect to computer to each other without the need of a LAN card. Instead the USB ports will be used. How does this work? Connect the included cable to the PC2PC port on the bracket, and connect the other end to a USB ports on the second computer. That’s it … now you have the two computers networked to each other! This is a very cool feature that will make it very easy to quickly hook up to another computer to transfer some files or to play a deathmatch in Q3 for example!

Apart from the PC2PC features, the KT266 Pro also has the MSI Fuzzy Logic software, LIVE BIOS, … that allows you to overclock from within Windows (only 9x) or upgrade your BIOS from within Windows.

Another cool gadget found on most MSI boards, is the D-LED lights. These green/red LEDs will tell you exactly what is wrong with the computer in case of a crash or error. Stuff like bad memory, dead CPU, memory not seated correctly, … everything is reported by this small but handy feature.

Let’s take a peek at the layout …

Page 3 : Layout


Aaaah … the layout, overlooked by many but just as important as features, speed and stability. A good motherboard should come with a good layout as well, although there isn’t a board out there that has a prefect layout … YET. The most vital parts about a motherboard layout are the placement of the ATX connector, the memory slots, the IDE channels and also the space around the CPU socket. If all these factors are taken into consideration, a good layout should be reached.

Unfortunately, MSI’s engineers have hit the ball with the wrong end of the stick here … the layout of the K7T266 Pro is lacking some pieces in order to be qualified as a good layout. First of all, the ATX power connector is located on the left side of the CPU socket. This means that the power cable will cross the CPU and this means airflow will be influenced in a negative way, but there is also a chance that the power cable gets trapped in the heatsink’s fan. Especially if you have a high speed fan like the Delta fans and you don’t have a fan grill … Less dangerous is the fact that for case modders, a power cable running over the CPU and the heatsink looks bad …

Another point of critism is the placement of the memory slots. In our test setup, in which we used a Visiontek GeForce3 card, two of three memory slots were blocked by the videocard. This means that you can not install/remove memory sticks from those two slots unless you remove the videocard first. People who build a rig and never open up their case again won’t mind, but the average tweaker, who likes to swap hardware every now and then, will find it very annoying that he/she has to remove his/her videocard every time he/she wants to swap memory. (What a sentence :p)

The third essential part of a good layout comes to mind: the space around the CPU socket. With today’s heatsinks, size matters! Just think about the Swiftech MC-462A or the Thermaltake Dragon Orb. Both heatsinks are used by many overclockers out there who want to best possible cooling for their computer. So it is very important that those heatsinks can be installed on the motherboard they want to use. Luckily, MSI did do the right thing here and didn’t put any capacitators to close to the socket. The MC-462A was a perfect match for the K7T266 Pro … way to go MSI.

The last struggle is the location of the IDE connectors (and the floppy connector). The first two IDE connectors and the floppy connector are placed at the right-top side of the board, one of the most popular places to mount those. Nothing bad to say about that … but the optional RAID connectors are installed at the bottom of the board, on the right-hand side. Luckily, MSI has twisted the connectors 90 degrees so they are put horizontally. This does improve the airflow a lot since no cable is standing erect on the motherboard this way. The bad part is that you always need longer IDE cables when using boards where the IDE connectors are at the bottom … and that’s no different with the K7T266 Pro.

In short, MSI scores 2 out of 4 when it comes to the layout of their K7T266 Pro motherboard. Not too bad but far from being perfect. Better luck next time heh?

Page 4 : BIOS


As I said in the introduction, a good BIOS is critical to get a good motherboard. The first BIOS revision that came with our test sample made the K7T266 Pro a very unstable motherboard that gave me nothing but headaches. Take the same motherboard, fit it with the latest BIOS revision and in return you get a rockstable motherboard, passing all our stability and torture testing. This situation really shows how something can evolve from zero to hero in just a brief moment …

So what can we expect from MSI’s BIOS? Well, quite a lot actually. The latest BIOS for this board comes with everything you need to finetune your setup and it will enable you to get the most out of it!! Overclocking is not a problem with the K7T266 Pro as you can alter the multiplier, the front side bus, the cpu core voltage and the DDR memory voltage. Just like most boards out there, the cpu core voltage is limited to a maximum setting of 1.85v. Like I said a million times before, increasing the max to 2.05v would increase the overclocking results drastically … but it would also mean that many people would kill their processor as such high voltages require very good heatsinks, and many people ‘forget’ that.

The memory settings can be altered as well, allowing you to control the CAS settings, interleaving settings, … Something that might interest some of you is the possiblity to run the memory async from the front side bus. So you can run the processor at 133MHz (internal 266MHz) while the memory runs at 100MHz (200MHz DDR). Very interesting for people who bought PC1600 DDR memory. This is something which can only be done with the VIA chipset, as AMD did not include such a feature in their northbridge.

With the new BIOS update, a new BIOS feature was included. MSI called it ‘High Performance’, and basicly what it does is try to get the most out of your rig by selecting the fastest memory settings and other things that can improve the speed of your system. Personally I rather set everything myself because I want to know what everything does, but for people without the needed expertise, this option might come in handy!

MSI also includes monitoring tools with the K7T266 Pro, which means you can track any voltage and temperature on the board. It must be mentioned that these values are updated at a very high speed in the BIOS itself. Most motherboards show a static value and it only changes when you exit the monitoring tab and reenter it …

To conclude our BIOS talk, I want to let you know that the K7T266 Pro does not show the real cpu speed in the BIOS. For example it will show 1450MHz when I set the cpu to 9.5x150MHz, which results in 1425MHz. To my knowledge, MSI’s BIOS can only show the speed in 50MHz increments. Next to that, the FSB is not shown either so it always tells you the memory is running at 100/133MHz. Only a program like Wcpuid will give you the real setting, but you won’t see that one until you’re in Windows. These issues are not a big deal, but I do kinda miss them …

Page 5 : Overclocking


Just like you guys, I was wondering how the K7T266 Pro would hold up in the overclocking departement. Up to 149MHz everything was sweet, but for some strange reason the board would not boot into Windows 2000 when I set it to 150MHz FSB. This is with a multiplier of 9.5x because I wanted to stay as close to 1.4GHz as possible in order to make sure that the cpu is not the cause of instability. When I set the multiplier to 10x, the board did boot into Win2K at 150MHz FSB … I have no idea how this is possible but it happened right in front of me … I guess MSI still has some tuning to do when it comes to the BIOS.

With 150MHz, the ceiling was reached for the K7T266 Pro … althought the FSB can be set all the way up to 164MHz, I don’t think anyone will ever reach that speed. Now with 150MHz we can not complain, but if we look at the AMD 761 based motherboards, who all reach 160MHz+, the VIA chipset teamed up with the MSI board is falling short.

In our test we used Crucial DDR memory, which has been known to reach very high speeds. As a matter of fact, this memory reached 166MHz rockstable with all memory settings set to fast. This was on the EPoX 8K7A motherboard which uses the AMD northbridge.

Page 6 : Benchmarking


Lets see how the MSI K7T266 Pro stacks up against some of the most popular boards out there. But first, whats under our hood?

Test system

- AMD Athlon 1.4GHz
- MSI K7T266 Pro
- 2x128MB Crucial PC2100 DDR
- Western Digital 20GB UDMA100 7200rpm hdd
- VisionTek GeForce3
- Accton NIC
- Windows 2000 + SP2 + VIA 4.33 + Detonator 12.90/21.81

As you can see, we used both the 12.90 Detonator drivers and the Detonator XP drivers (21.81) in order to give you a showdown on what these new drivers can do for you. We also did this because we will be transferring to the 21.81 drivers as default driver set, but we’ll also add the 12.90 results in order to be able to compare to previous motherboard reviews. Apart from the drivers, nothing has changed from out other test setups. So, what are the numbers telling us today?

MadOnion’s 3D Mark 2001




Demo 001 Normal Quality

Demo 001 High Quality

Torture Demo Normal Quality

Torture Demo High Quality

Sisoft Sandra Suite

Memory Test

Page 7 : Conclusion


The MSI K7T266 Pro is a good socket A motherboard, but I do have some trouble of putting it into a section … It ain’t a hardcore overclocking/tweaking board, but it has too many tweakable options to be called an OEM board. MSI tried to bring us best of both worlds because they include several features like onboard audio, 5 USB ports, PC2PC, … that make this board a good all-rounder, and at the same time the K7T266 Pro comes with a nice bundle of overclocking options. Stability was top notch with MSI’s latest BIOS and overclocking was not too bad either, although it ain’t an overclockers wetdream (unlike the Abit KG7 or the EPoX 8K7A). If needed, you can get the RAID version which also comes with an AGP Pro slot. All of this makes the MSI K7T266 Pro an ideal solution for people who want to have a very stable motherboard with lots of onboard features and a healthy amount of overclocking/tweaking features. With the KT266A chipset around the corner, this board will surely drop in price, making it an even better buy.

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.