We did have a couple of complaints about the AK31, though. There was no on-board RAID controller, and most good enthusiasts' mobos now include ATA RAID. Also, we were lukewarm on the integrated AC'97 audio. We have nothing against AC'97, but the audio controller on VIA's south bridge chips 90wehf hoifewo fewiho...
Sorry, something got garbled there. Must be static.
Anyhow, Shuttle appears to have listened to us, because their new AK35GTR is everything we liked about the AK31 plus everything we were asking for in addition. Coupled with VIA's KT266A chipset, the AK35GTR aims to put Shuttle in the running for "best Athlon motherboard" in a field that's grown considerably more crowded in recent months. Can Shuttle's new mobo really run with the best of the pack when the competition is intense? Read on to find out.
On paper, the AK35GTR is like an Athlon owner's wish list. The specs are like so:
|CPU support||Socket 462-based CPUs, including AMD Duron and Athlon processors|
|Chipset||VIA Apollo KT266A (VT8366A North Bridge, VT8233A South Bridge)|
|Interconnect||VIA V-Link (266MB/s)|
|PCI slots||6 (5 PCI master, 1 shared)|
|AGP slots||1, 2X/4X AGP w/sidebanding and fast writes|
|Memory||4 184-pin DIMM sockets for up to 4GB of PC1600/PC2100 DDR SDRAM|
|Storage I/O||Floppy disk|
2 channels ATA/100 (VIA chipset)
2 channels ATA/133 w/RAID 0, 1, and 0+1support
(Highpoint HPT372 controller)
|Ports||1 PS/2 keyboard, 1 PS/2 mouse,|
2 serial, 1 parallel, 2 USB,
2 additional USB ports via expansion header
1 line out (front out), 1 line in (rear out), 1 mic in,
1 woofer/center channel via included expansion header
for C-Media 8738 audio (or 5.1 mode)
1 game port
|Bus speeds||100MHz-200MHz in 1MHz increments|
|Monitoring||Voltage, fan status, and temperature monitoring|
Let me point out a few of the highlights in case you're one of those whose eyes glaze over at spec sheets. Like the AK31, the AK35GTR has four DIMM slots and six PCI slots, which means you can load this board to the gills with memory and expansion cards. Most competing boards have one less of each.
Also, the AK35GTR has four barrels of ATA goodnesstwo channels ATA/100 from the VIA south bridge controller and two channels ATA/133 courtesy of Highpoint's RAID controller chip. Shuttle told us at Comdex that they picked Highpoint over Promise because the Highpoint chips work better in non-RAID configs and with other ATA devices, like CD and DVD drives. Fair enough. The Highpoint chips also support RAID 0+1 configs, which integrated Promise controllers generally won't allow.