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Abit KX7-333/KX7-333R DDR Athlon Motherboard
Last updated: 10/3/2002

The Western Digital WD800 drive has 8 MBytes of cache' compared to the other drives with 2 or less MBytes of cache.  I have no explanation for the last Cached Disk benchmark except roughly the same results were obtained in repeated tests and that WinTune is measuring the Windows 98 disk caching.  My impression of performance is that uncached disk test on the 80 gig WD drive is more in-line with what a user would perceive as compared to the other drives, but not as extreme as the numbers would indicate--it flies.  The problem is in Wintune 98, an old benchmark.  Let's move on to more tests with newer benchmark software from Zeff-Davis.

Config 1 2 3 4 5 6
Mother-board EpoX
8KHA+ KT266A
Abit
KX7-333
KT333
Operating System Win XP Win XP Win XP Win XP Win XP Win XP
Hard Disk WD300BB
30 GByte
7,200 RPM
ATA/100
Maxtor
53073H6
30 GByte
7,200 RPM
ATA/100
WD800
  80 GByte
7,200 RPM
ATA/100
WD800
80 GByte
7,200 RPM
ATA/100
WD800
80 GByte
7,200 RPM
ATA/100
WD800
80 GByte
7,200 RPM
ATA/100
Hard Disk Config. Single Drive
Normal IDE
  Port
Single Drive
Normal IDE
  Port
Single Drive
Normal IDE
  Port
Single Drive
RAID IDE
  Port
Dual Drives
RAID 0 Striped
Dual Drives
RAID 1
Mirrored
Business Winstone 2001 50.4 49.5 53.9 57.8 59.7 57.6
Business Disk WinMark 99 4277 5350 8748 12176 17680  9360
High-End Disk WinMark 99 18883 16220 26480 30460 36040 24550

The Winstone tests show that the KX7-333 with it's KT333 chipset and faster processor is neck and neck with it's predecessor, the EpoX 8KHA+ and the KT266A chipset.  Any real difference in the benchmarks is caused by the much faster WD drive.  Surprisingly, the Highpoint RAID IDE interface is faster than the normal one managed by the VIA Southbridge.  This may be a driver, chipset, or BIOS shortcoming/issue.  As expected, the highest performance is obtained by putting two of the WD 80's on the RAID interface in a RAID 0 configuration and a performance penalty is paid when mirroring the drives.

For my use, the performance gained with one of the WD drives on the normal IDE interface was very noticeable and is more than sufficient--"LIGHTNING FAST" is what it says on the box the retail version of the drive comes in and that is the way I would characterize it.  The disadvantages of the additional cost of a second drive, the reduced reliability that a RAID 0 configuration entails--if one drive fails, all data is lost, which makes the combination twice as likely  to fail over a given time period as compared to a single drive--outweighs the advantages of the increase performance of a RAID 0 configuration.  Besides, in human terms, the drive is so fast on the normal IDE interface it is hard to perceive the difference when two of them are running in a RAID 0 configuration--very fast is very fast.  Furthermore, the inconvenience of having to wait for the Highpoint BIOS to initialize and detect the drive--that's why I don't like SCSI drives, which boot in a similar manner--during boot-up outweighs any speed advantage of putting a singe drive on the RAID interface.  The RAID capability is useful for mirroring drives on a file server/Unix box.

One usually sees page after boring page of benchmarks in many motherboard reviews.  Often these benchmarks do not provide a clear picture of what one can actually expect.  Many of them are so focused on competing products that they do not compare motherboards and systems that are further separated in technology and time.  In many cases, the real differences in perceived performance, despite the benchmarks numbers, are actually so small that they are almost insignificant to most computer users.

Benchmarks mean different things to different people depending on what they do with a computer, their experience, and how they interpret the numbers.  If you do a lot of number crunching and graphics for programming, engineering, science, etc. or are addicted to games, any reasonable increase of speed is probably significant.

The Wintune 98 benchmarks are a step in the right direction, but even these numbers do not completely depict what one will perceive as a noticeable speed difference while sitting in front of a computer with this motherboard as compared to competing products and others from generations past.  Perceived performance does not have a linear relationship to the results of benchmarks tests.  Benchmarks measure computers, not human beings.

If you are an average business/home computer user, you would probably not see any noticeable difference in speed between this motherboard and quality DDR motherboards using the most recent Athlon chipsets from competing manufacturers. Any speed difference between computer #4 in the Wintune benchmarks and this one (#5) with a comparable drives are almost insignificant to the business user.  On the other hand, if you have an aging computer with 500 MHz K-6 processor, 64 MBytes of memory, and a 5,400 RPM hard disk drive, or something like that (sell it now or forget selling it), or a computer like computer #2 to a somewhat lesser extent, a computer with this generation of motherboard, processor, memory, and, especially, the WD 80 gig hard disk drive will make the average person think that maybe it's finally time for a major upgrade or a new computer?  If you want to really soup-up a more recent computer get a hard disk with larger disk cache.'

It would be wise to see a comparable computer for yourself and put your hands on it for awhile before reading too much into any these numbers (and others) and descriptions before deciding to upgrade.

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