|ASUS A7M266 Scoring
Although it suffered from a disappearing act a few months after its release, the ASUS A7M266 is back in full distribution. Initially ASUS Taiwan had planned for the A7M266 to be their premier DDR motherboard for the first few months of 2001, with the A7A266 picking up the slack for the rest of the first half of the year going into the second half. In actuality, the performance of the MAGIK 1 chipset was disappointing, leaving little demand for the A7A266 despite its increased versatility (as it's offered with both DDR SDRAM and SDR SDRAM DIMM sockets). As a result ASUS was forced to kick production back into full gear, with the A7M266 remaining at the top of the AMD DDR motherboard lineup. The A7V266 was supposed to eventually claim that spot in the US market (which contrary to popular opinion was never officially released here), but with the KT266A chipset now available, its life will likely be even shorter than A7A266. At least until ASUS can release a follow-up to the A7V266 with the newer North Bridge.
As one of the early first generation AMD-760 motherboards, the A7M266 feature set is beginning to show some signs of age. Only two DIMM sockets are present and five PCI slots are available. While this was the standard configuration for the first generation of AMD-760 motherboards, the second generation boards offer more expansion options.
In terms of board layout, the A7M266 is fairly good. There's plenty of space around the Socket A interface for larger heatsink installations, and ASUS continues to utilize its green power LED and an AGP Pro slot on its high-end products. However, the ATX power connector is located below the CPU interface, which means end users will have to drape the ATX power cord over the fan cooling the processor. This inhibits airflow around the processor, and could potentially get caught in the CPU fan. For this reason its best if the ATX power connector is located along the right edge of the motherboard, near the DIMM sockets.
The BIOS implementation is distinctively ASUS, with their familiar Award BIOS interface for adjusting system settings. While bus speeds from 100-180MHz are available in 1MHz increments, the clock multiplier of the CPU cannot be adjusted via BIOS or even on the motherboard itself. We're unsure why ASUS chose to disable this feature in the A7M266, as their previous product, the A7V133, fully supported both front-side bus and clock multiplier adjustment.
It's for this reason that we wouldn't be surprised if ASUS intended the A7M266 for the OEM market and added the retail sector at the last moment. Their supply problems with the A7M266 earlier this year certainly don't contradict this, and clearly the company knows how to make a fully-featured motherboard with a full complement of overclocking options. If you're looking for a dependable motherboard however and the lack of multiplier adjustment isn't a major concern for you the A7M266 won't disappoint, although its feature set is beginning to show signs of age.