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This week I bit the bullet, feeling flush from pay day and decided to get a new motherboard and processor, as well as new RAM to top and tail the progressive updates I had been making to my system since purchasing a Pentium III 800 MHz machine in August 2000. Having been loyal to Intel since 1995, I broke away and went for an AMD Athlon XP 1700+ (1466MHz) with 133MHz FSB, which was considerably cheaper than going for a similar spec Pentium IV.
To go with this I of course required a new motherboard, and having bought an Asus P2B which was a great board when I bought a P II in late 1998, I decided to revert to an Asus board (the system I bought in 2000 had a different make of board which died 2 months ago, and the Chaintech board with onboard sound and video was a desparate stop-gap) and plumped for the A7A266 DDR/SDR.
I chose this as I had 448Mb of SDRAM sitting around from my last computer which could be used in my board, although when a friend put in a useful offer for some of it, I went and bought DDR Ram (it is quicker and will tell when I really put the machine through its paces). The motherboard can accommodate both types of RAM, although you cannot mix it, with up to 3 banks of SDRAM (potentially up to 3 Gb), or 2 banks of DDR RAM (either PC2100 or PC1600 DDRAM and up to 2Gb). Whilst the FSB is quoted as 133Mhz, the memory bus speeds of 200Mhz and 266Mhz are supported.
With a digital camera due to be my next purchase, and having a USB printer and a USB scanner, I wanted more than two USB ports for my computer (My Palm will soon migrate to the USB connection too) and this came with two on board and an extra 2 port USB bracket provided.
The expansion slots for the video card supports 4x AGP or AGP Pro (remember to remove the tab from the AGP slot as required) and there are 5 PCI slots (for your sound cards, network cards, SCSI cards, TV cards etc.) and an AMR slot. The AMR (Audio Modem Riser) slot allows you to plug an internal modem like device into your machine, although of course this has to be an Asus device, as the AMR slot is usually proprietary.
My motherboard features onboard audio, which was not something I really wanted as I have a very good sound card which I would otherwise use, and indeed it is possible to bypass this. All the ports on the onboard Soundcard and the keyboard, mouse, serial and ECP connections are colour coded in accordance with PC99. The onboard card supports 6 speaker mode (ideal for people with surround speaker set-ups.
There are two IDE ports, and both support UDMA 100 - otherwise sometimes called UDMA 5 - this is how it appears on the start-up screen, with backwards compatibility with ATA 66 and ATA 33. The board supports Duron/Thunderbird/Palomino chips (although the Palomino is really supposed to be for laptops) from 550Mhz to about 1600Mhz, with either 100Mhz or 133Mhz FSB (although this is doubled using DDRAM as mentioned above). My processor is officially clocked at 1466Mhz. I was expecting complicated maths to work out jumper settings for this one (how good is your 133x table - in half increments!) but the jumper free mode available made it very easy. At the first power-up the BIOS allowed me to set-up the processor clock speed, and gave me two alternatives 1.1GHz or 1.466GHz, depending on whether my machine was running on 100Mhz or 133Mhz. That was the only tinkering I needed to do, other than adjusting the time on the Processor clock. The BIOS allows for adjustment of the FSB so that it is possible to overclock your system, although I have yet to delve into that possibility. The power supply is of course an ATX one.
The necessary screws were supplied, and also assorted raisers/spacers to allow users whose case is a tiny bit big to attach their motherboard whilst avoiding bending the motherboard. As with all systems, of course, you should make sure that you are grounded before you starting putting this one together. Having put together a lot of systems in my time I didn't refer to the installation manual, although for people putting together their first system it is very useful, especially as it offers a step by step installation guide.
The motherboard was shipped with a variety of software. Trend PC-cillin 2000 anti-virus software (not the most current but at least the updates worked well) assorted video and graphics utils, as well as sound utils for the onboard sound card, which had proved a lot easier to set up than the Chaintech - which didn't enjoy the ME experience, as well as the Asus Probe hardware monitoring software. I had no problems installing any of the software, although usually I tend to de-install it after having had a quick nosey to see what it is about, as I have better software available.
Price: £103+VAT from dabs.com (£121.20 incl VAT) although buying it in Austria, I paid ATS2249 - that's £102, or EURO163.49 but that was from the cheapest place in the country and had to pay cash. All in all a damn good buy especially as I didn't have to mess about with jumper settings, and the fact that had I been short on cash I could have used my SDRAM in it, before migrating to DDRAM.
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