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Abit's KR7A-RAID motherboard

Nothing extra but speed

Manufacturer Abit
Price (street) US$137
Availability Now

ABIT HAS BEEN A FAVORITE of enthusiasts for years. They've set the bar for what many expect in a motherboard. Constantly a leader in overclocking options, performance, and even features like on-board RAID, Abit has made quite a name for itself in the hardware community.

It used to be that Abit was one of only a few choices an enthusiast had when choosing a motherboard, but things have changed. Now, it seems everyone has caught on to BIOS tweaking, on-board IDE RAID, and overclocking options galore. Additionally, the new crop of performance motherboards is coming equipped with all sorts of integrated peripherals. Some on-board sound options even rival the venerable SoundBlaster Live! in audio quality.

Abit has chosen not to walk the integrated line with its new KR7A-RAID. Instead, the board is a foundation, based around VIA's KT266A chipset, on which enthusiasts can build their ultimate high performance PCs. Without any on-board extras, we're left to evaluate the KR7A-RAID solely on the merits of its performance and stability. How does the KR7A-RAID do with such a focused spotlight? Read on to find out.

The specs
The KR7A-RAID is built with enthusiasts in mind. What does that mean for its spec?

Well, it's pretty sparse. Depending on your priorities, though, this board could look pretty stacked. It's all about perspective.

Abit's priorities with the KR7A-RAID aren't about on-board components. Instead, Abit gives you six PCI slots that you can load up with whatever you want. The board itself isn't totally bare, though. Abit has included Highpoint's 372 ATA/133 RAID controller for all your high-speed IDE needs.

The layout
With only on-board IDE RAID to fit in, how does the KR7A-RAID's layout look?

4 DIMMS and 4 IDE ports: Opulence for the enthusiast

Pretty good. Let's take a closer look at some of the more important components and board locations.

The KR7A-RAID's four DIMM slots

The four DIMM slots can cause a few problems if your AGP slot holds a longer graphics card. You're going to have to remove the card to take out the closest DIMMs, but that's a price I'll gladly pay to have four DIMMs rather than only three. There's a price premium for 512MB DIMMs, so 1GB of memory ends up being a lot easier to achieve with four available slots.

There are a couple of capacitors up top that could get in the way

The socket around the KR7A-RAID is pretty open, and you shouldn't have too much trouble fitting larger heatsinks. However, there are a couple of capacitors that might get in the way if you want to run a heatsink that's really monstrous or has a poorly designed clip.

The KR7A-RAID's spartan port cluster

Highpoint 372 ATA/133 IDE RAID

Having few on-board components makes the KR7A-RAID's backplane of ports pretty boring, but for most of us, that's not a big deal. Though there are decent on-board sound options available, those serious about audio are far more likely to opt for a discrete sound card. With six PCI slots, you've plenty of room to add your own high-end audio on the KR7A-RAID.

ATA/133 IDE RAID makes an appearance on the KR7A-RAID courtesy of Highpoint's 372 controller. While the list of ATA/133 drives available is a short one right now, the 372 controller does make the KR7A-RAID a little more future-proof. You can still use the controller with older ATA/100 drives, as well.

Unfortunately, Abit has the IDE RAID and floppy ports on the bottom edge of the board. This placement might be a problem if you're running a bigger case, as standard ribbons might not reach the ports. Generally, though, you should be fine with most hard drive and floppy locations.

The KR7A-RAID is missing a couple of features that we've seen on recent Pentium 4 boards from Abit, including the TH7II-RAID and BD7-RAID. These mobos include power and reset buttons right on the board, plus a two-digit diagnostic LED display. They also come with an additional temperature probe. I'd certainly like these features on Abit's Socket A products.