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Shuttle's AK31 motherboard

Unexpected goodness

ModelAK31 Revision 2

One of the companies caught in the middle of the KT266 debacle was Shuttle, whose AK31 Revision 1 board was an early KT266 entry. Not long after the KT266's rocky start, rumors started swirling around about a new revision of the KT266 chipset from VIA that would improve performance and address concerns with the first spin of the KT266. But a handful of manufacturers pressed on, denying the rumors and offering updated BIOS and mobo revisions based on the existing KT266 chipset.

Those rumors continue to swirl, but what has materialized is a new crop of KT266 motherboards that are much better performers than the earlier boards. Among them is Shuttle's AK31 V2.0, for which the company has high hopes—and for good reason. The AK31 fits the mold of the best enthusiast's motherboards of the day, packing in more slots, ports, and overclocking options than a box full of the bland mobos we've had to settle for, at times, lately.

The specs
Shuttle's AK31 lacks only one feature I'd really miss: an on-board IDE RAID controller. Beyond that, I can't see much of anything I'd want to add. Have a look at the specifications for yourself:

CPU supportSocket 462-based CPUs, including AMD Duron and Athlon processors
Form factorATX 
ChipsetVIA Apollo KT266 (VT8366 North Bridge, VT8233 South Bridge)
InterconnectVIA V-Link (266MB/s)
PCI slots6 (5 PCI master, 1 shared)
AGP slots1, 2X/4X AGP w/sidebanding and fast writes
CNR slots1 (shared)
Memory 4 184-pin DIMM sockets for up to 4GB of PC1600/PC2100 DDR SDRAM
Storage I/OFloppy disk
2 channels ATA-100
Ports1 PS/2 keyboard, 1 PS/2 mouse,
2 serial, 1 parallel, 2 USB,
4 additional USB ports via 2 expansion headers,
1 line out, 1 line in, 1 mic in for AC'97 audio,
1 game port
Bus speeds100MHz-166MHz in 1MHz increments
MonitoringVoltage, fan status, and temperature monitoring
The long and short of it is: it's loaded. Let me point out a few of the highlights. The board has a full six PCI slots. The AK31 doesn't lack a slot or two because of the integrated sound or the CNR slot, as many boards nowadays tend to do. Also note the four DIMM slots, capable of accepting up to 4GB of RAM. The KT266 chipset endows the AK31 with the ability to address more RAM, in more flexible configurations, than most AMD 760 boards can.

The AK31 also packs a raft of overclocking options and a few other goodies. We'll get to those in a second.