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Review of the EpoX 8KHA+ DDR Athlon Motherboard
Last updated: 1/14/2002

CHIPS.  The 8KHA+ motherboard uses the VIA Apollo KT266A chipset.  It consists of two chips:  the 552-pin VT8366A DDR North Bridge and the 376-pin VT8233 South Bridge.  The VT8366A is located to the left of the CPU socket and has a small fan on top of it and the VT8233 is under the PCI expansion bus sockets.  Simply put, the North Bridge controls the system and interfaces the CPU to the system memory and AGP display adapter.  The buses to the CPU and memory can be set to 100 or 133 MHz.  The Front Side Bus (FSB), which connects the CPU to the Northbridge, and the memory bus going from the Northbridge to the system memory use DDR memory technology to send data at twice the actual bus clock frequency for an effective speed of 200/266 MHz.  This is done by transferring data on both the leading and trailing edges of the clock pulse.  In other words, the data is "double-pumped."  Furthermore, VIA has improved this Northbridge over its predecessor in  KT266 chipset with a "Performance Driven Design" featuring an enhanced memory controller with better timing for faster transfers between synchronized FSB and DDR memory buses and deeper queues that permit faster, more efficient access to buffered data.  The new controller can burst up to eight quad words per clock cycle as compared to four in previous chips. The AGP graphics bus connects to the AGP display adapter slot on the motherboard and operates at 4X or 66 MHz.

Instead of hanging the South Bridge off the PCI bus with a theoretical maximum burst speed of 132 MBytes/sec., which must be shared with all PCI peripherals, as it is done with older chipsets, the Southbridge is connected to the Northbridge with VIA's V-Link pipe, which is a 66 MHz quad-pumped bus for a 266 MByes/sec. transfer rate between the North and South Bridge.  Not only is it faster, it frees the PCI bus to deal strictly with peripheral devices and motherboard resources.

The Southbridge supports four ATA/33/66/100 devices (hard disk, CD-ROM, and DVD drives) with two ATA/100 controllers, each of which can (theoretically)  burst up to 100 MBytes/sec.  The chip supports six PCI slots and has  three USB hubs supporting  two USB ports each.  It has a Low Pin Count (LPC) interface to implement legacy I/O functions, such as a floppy disk drive controller, and serial and parallel ports, with a Super Input/Output (I/O) chip.  An Advanced Programmable Interrupt Controller (APIC), Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI), Advanced Power Management (APM), and 6-channel AC/97 2.2 sound support are built-into the chip.  The Southbridge also has an MC/97 software modem interface, but it is not used by this motherboard.

The VT8233C version of the Southbridge adds an integrated 3Com Ethernet MAC controller for 10/100 MHz Ethernet and HomePNA phoneline network support.  Use of this chip instead of the VT8233 and implementation of its networking capabilities would have added noticeably to the appeal of this motherboard.

The 8kHA+ employs the 128-pin Winbond W83697HF super I/O chip. It connects to the Southbridge's LPC interface and is located behind  PCI slots 4 and 5 (counting from the right).   It includes:

  • The floppy disk controller

  • Two serial ports (UARTs), one of which supports infrared.

  • Printer port

  • Game and MIDI ports.

  • Hardware monitoring...

  • 2 thermal inputs

  • 2 fan speed inputs

  • 6 voltages

The specification in .pdf format can be downloaded here.

A Realtek ALC201C AC' 97 18-bit, Stereo Full-Duplex  CODEC (Coder/Decoder), the little chip to the right of the Winbond Super I/O chip, basically (and with the help of some audio circuitry) converts the digital signals to and from the Southbridge to and from the Analog signals at the I/O connector at the back of the motherboard.  This little powerhouse has many features with many inputs and outputs, including two pairs of stereo outputs and support for a Sony-Philips Digital Interface (SPDIF) output; however, like many motherboards with integrated audio, the 8KHA+ only implements an output for one set of stereo speakers, inputs for line-in and microphone-in, and a header for CD audio-in, all of which is adequate for many, if not most, PC users.

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