The ASUS A7M266
Back in January, we showed you two very different motherboards based on AMD's 760 chipset: the Gigabyte GA-7DXC
and the FIC AD11
. While the Gigabyte motherboard offered great stability, we were a bit disappointed with its feature set -- the GA-7DXC didn't support PC2100 DDR SDRAM nor did it offer many features for tweaking system performance (only seven bus speeds were adjustable via dipswitches, with no settings for core voltage or multiplier adjustment).
FIC's AD11, on the other hand, offered the voltage and multiplier settings necessary for overclocking our 1.2GHz Athlon CPU, but disappointed us in the small selection of bus speeds available for squeezing more performance out of our system. When ASUS provided us with their 760-based solution, the A7M266, we hoped to have a high performance motherboard that combined the quality and stability you expect from a product designed and built by ASUS.
Fortunately, the A7M266 didn't disappoint in some areas, but left us wanting a bit more in others. Of course, we'll discuss this in much more detail over the course of this review, but first lets quickly rehash the myriad of options currently available in the Socket A motherboard market.
The state of the chipset market
It's hard to believe that just a year ago AMD's 750 chipset was the only solution readily available for the Athlon market (motherboards based VIA's KX133 chipset weren't available until April of last year). Today, newer offerings from AMD (the 760 chipset), Acer Laboratories (the ALiMAGiK 1), and VIA (the KT133/KT133A and, coming soon, KT266 chipsets) have complicated the situation a bit.
With its support of both SDR (PC100/PC133) and DDR (PC1600/PC2100) memory types, many expected the ALiMAGiK 1 to win support among end users and motherboard manufacturers over AMD-760 (which only supports DDR), which were the two DDR chipsets available at the end of 2000. Unfortunately for ALi, the disappointing performance and limited supply of MAGiK 1 has prevented it from gaining widespread acceptance, leaving DDR solely to AMD's 760 chipset, at least until KT266 motherboards hit the market.
On the SDR front, KT133A has shaped up to be an excellent successor to KT133. Motherboards based on the KT133A chipset offer an 8-12% performance increase over KT133 when utilizing the newer 266MHz front side bus. In fact, a heavily tweaked KT133A motherboard such as the ABIT KT7A-RAID can outperform many 760 motherboards currently available on the market -- but not the ASUS A7M266...