Review of the EpoX 8KHA+ DDR Athlon
Last updated: 7/31/2002
HARDWARE MONITORING. Like most, if not all,
recent motherboards, the 8KHA+ does not fully support the Athlon XP processor. This
processor has a built-in diode circuit to monitor processor temperature and
to shut down the system before damage can result from a defective heatsink-fan. Instead
of using this feature, the 8KHA+ employs an inferior combination of the temperature
monitoring capabilities of the Winbond 83697HF super I/O chip and a thermister
mounted in the center of the socket A, which are a hold-over from previous
motherboard designs and are necessary for monitoring and compatibility with
older Thunderbird core processors. Another diode next to the W83697HF
monitors the system temperature.
Fan monitoring by the W83697HF is inadequate. It
can only monitor two fans and the jack that the Northbridge heat-sink fan
plugs-into is not one of the ones that is monitored. The processor
heat-sink fan jack and the chassis fan jack at the front, right of the motherboard
are the only ones that are. The Northbridge fan jack and chassis fan
jack at the rear of the motherboard should be monitored.
The 8KHA+ has a built-in P80P Debug Card with two seven-segment
LEDs that display Award
BIOS POST (Power-On Self-Test) codes as the BIOS checks the motherboard,
etc. during boot-up. This feature may be useful for troubleshooting
QUALITY. I counted 53 105°C electrolytic capacitors. That
is an awful lot of capacitors for a motherboard, about 20 more than most
motherboards I've seen. The tighter timing and bypass requirements
of higher-speed processors and DDR memory probably accounts for the difference. Of
course, 20 more capacitors are 20 more things that can break. There
are many more bypass, etc. capacitors all over and under the board.
There isn't much information in the EpoX literature about
the on-board power supplies and regulation, but voltage regulation components,
etc. are apparent all over the motherboard, including the bottom under the
main power circuitry for the CPU where there are four CET CEB6030L field
effect (FET) power transistors in addition to the three on the top of the
board (in fact, there are quite a few smaller components on the bottom of
the board, particularly around the VIA chips).
Masking and wave soldering are good. Trace
and ground plane layout looks very professional.
The silk-screening on this board is very good;
however, it is not quite as good as previous EpoX boards which were rated
excellent in this category. Some of the larger labels were a little
blurred on the three motherboards that were examined and labeling of
the front panel connectors is a bit confusing. However, just about everything
from the jumpers to I/O connectors is clearly labeled. If you
lose the motherboard book you can still configure the jumpers. All
of the settings are printed on the motherboard.
There are ten mounting holes and oversized
doughnuts surrounding each of them. One doesn't have to worry about
the head of the screw, used to fasten the motherboard to the case, overlapping
a trace on the motherboard and capacitively grounding it.
The DDR-SDRAM sockets are of very good quality
and have what appears to be gold-plated contacts (they are difficult to see).
Just about when I was going to start calling
this board the "A+" board I saw one glaring indication of poor
quality. The word "sleeve" on the small cooling fan on the
VIA Northbridge. On top of the fan it says: Cooler Master, etc., the
company that sells the entire heatsink-fan unit. Unscrewing the fan
from the heatsink and looking at the bottom reveals the true manufacturer
and model number of the little thing that spins: T&T MW-410M12S. I
cannot find any information on the fan on CoolerMaster's
web site and no product info at all on T&T's
web site, which appeared to be broken when I tried it. Fans
with sleeve bearings usually have a specified lifespan of about 20,000 hours
and single bearing, ball bearing fans roughly twice that long. My experience
with chipset fans is limited, but with CPU sleeve fans it shows that you
will be lucky if one doesn't break within a year of average use. And
before they do break they have a nasty habit of expelling bearing residue
in the form of a fine black powder, which seems to have an affinity for motherboards
and is probably not too good for them. Passive cooling would be more
reliable and the chip/motherboard should be designed to make it possible. If
fans are used they should be high quality and have ball bearings.
7/31/02 Two of the three fans on the
8KHA+ motherboards I sold have failed already. Excerpts
from our forums on the chipset fan problem.
measure or quality, the most important, is stability. This board employs
a new CPU with a new chipset and runs faster than any other board I've seen,
yet it is one of the most stable motherboards I've encountered. It
is as stable with 1.4 GHz Athlon XP 1600+ as all of the before mentioned are
with slower processors and memory. I have built three computers so
far with this motherboard and all of them have been running without incident
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