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SOYO's SY-P4X400 DRAGON Ultra motherboard


Got DRAGON?
— 12:24 AM on December 5, 2002

Manufacturer SOYO
Model SY-P4X400 DRAGON Ultra
Price (street) US$140
Availability Now

AS THE GAP BETWEEN high-end Pentium 4 and Athlon prices has narrowed, the Socket 478 platform has become a more attractive option for enthusiasts. The fact that Pentium 4 "Northwood" processors tend to overclock like nobody's business hasn't hurt, either. With enthusiasts now showing a genuine interest in Socket 478, the market for high-performance, feature-packed Pentium 4 motherboards has exploded, giving consumers a wealth of options to choose. One of those options is SOYO's SY-P4X400 DRAGON Ultra, a Socket 478 motherboard based on VIA's P4X400 chipset.

Unfortunately, enthusiast-oriented motherboards are starting to look more and more alike as competitors copy each others' features and ideas. Doing something truly original with a motherboard has become a challenging task, but exceptionally good ideas and features really stand out nowadays as a result.

Can the SY-P4X400 DRAGON Ultra rise above the mass of commoditized motherboards, or is it buried beneath the deluge? Read on to find out.

The specs
The SY-P4X400 DRAGON Ultra isn't quite as packed with features as Abit's MAX line of motherboards, but it certainly has its share of integrated peripherals. Let's take a quick look at the spec sheet and see what's there.

CPU support Socket 478-based Intel Pentium 4 processors
Form factor ATX
Chipset VIA P4X400
North bridge VIA VT8754
South bridge VIA VT8235
Interconnect V-Link (533MB/s)
PCI slots 5 32-bit/33MHz
AGP slots 2X/4X/8X AGP Pro (1.5V only)
AMR/CNR slots none
Memory 3 184-pin DIMM sockets
Maximum of 3GB of DDR333/266/200 SDRAM
Storage I/O Floppy disk
2 channels ATA/133
Serial ATA None
RAID HighPoint HPT372
2 channels ATA/133 IDE RAID 0,1,0+1
Legacy ports 1 PS/2 keyboard, 1 PS/2 mouse, Serial and Parallel ports
USB 2 USB 2.0/1.1 ports
4 additional USB 2.0/1.1 ports via 3 1/2 drive bay expansion headers
Firewire None
Audio C-Media CMI8738-MX 6-channel audio
standard audio jacks
S/PDIF input and output ports via PCI back plate expansion header
Ethernet RealTek RTL8100B 10/100 Ethernet
BIOS Phoenix - AwardBIOS
Bus speeds 100-132MHz in 1MHz increments (for 100MHz FSB CPUs)
133-165MHz in 1MHz increments (for 133MHz FSB CPUs)
Bus dividers None
Voltages CPU: 1.10-1.850 in 0.025V increments
DRAM: 2.6-2.8V in 0.1V increments
AGP: 1.6-1.8V in 0.1V increments
Monitoring Voltage, fan status, and temperature monitoring

We'll go over all of the specs in detail in the following pages, but I'll mention the board's lack of Firewire and Serial ATA ports here. Current motherboards are only offering "bridged ATA/133" compatibility with Serial ATA drives, and since Serial ATA has yet to have any impact on the market in terms of drive availability, I can forgive SOYO for not throwing a few Serial ATA ports onto the SY-P4X400 DRAGON Ultra. I do, however, wish the board was graced with Firewire, if only because DV camcorders continue to drop in price. Firewire would also let the SY-P4X400 DRAGON Ultra work with Apple's new PC-compatible iPods, if you're into that sort of thing.