Following on from the successful KT266 chipset, VIA has launched another high performance chipset; the KT333. This is VIA’s first chipset to offer support for DDR333 (PC2700) as well as DDR200/266 memory and is compatible with the complete 200/266MHz AMD Athlon XP and Duron range of CPUs. To achieve this, it uses an asynchronous memory bus that has a +33 modifier on the frequency of the FSB, thus allowing the CPU to run at 133/266Mhz DDR frequency, while the memory runs at 166/333MHz DDR at the same time. Got all that? Good.
One of the first boards to use the new chipset is this GA-7VRXP from Gigabyte. The blue PCB’s components have enough space around them despite the compact nature of the board and it comes with onboard LAN, RAID and many other features. It makes good use of Gigabyte’s Dual BIOS set-up, with most things being adjusted using this instead of relying on motherboard jumpers.
Thankfully, this board has no CNR slot; instead, it has five PCI slots and, somewhat surprisingly, a standard AGP 4X slot. Without the CNR slot, all the other slots are spread out, allowing the three DIMM slots to be placed far enough away from the AGP slot to allow the locking hatches to be easily undone.
The I/O panel contains the normal ports along with the port for the network adapter, which is controlled by the onboard Realtek 8100BL 10/100Mbps chip. Four USB 2.0 ports are supplied on a separate bracket, as are two more USB 1.1 ports to supplement the two on the board itself.
To allow for better airflow and neater cable runs, all the IDE ports, including the ones for the RAID array, together with the power socket, are grouped on the far right-hand side of the board. The RAID array is controlled by a Promise PDC 20276 controller and Gigabyte has developed, together with Promise, a unique driver/BIOS combination that allows you to switch between Ultra ATA/133 and the RAID array in the BIOS to allow another ATA/133 device to be used.
What makes the GA-7VRXP special is the way that the BIOS can be tweaked. Apart from the Dual BIOS setup, which provides a backup BIOS to reduce the chances of failure due to infection by viruses, there’s a number of BIOS utilities. These make flashing the BIOS a much easier and safer thing to do.
One such tool is EasyTune III, a Window-based over-clocking utility which allows you to tweak the system to its maximum performance without changing BIOS or hardware settings. Also supplied is @BIOS, a live update utility that lets you download a BIOS upgrade from the Web and install it under Windows, without rebooting your system – clever. Finally, there is Q-Flash, which allows the BIOS to be flashed under the BIOS setup screen without any OS, bootable floppy or other utility.
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