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Abit's KV8 Pro motherboard

Athlon 64 overclocking on a budget

ModelKV8 Pro
Price (street)$104

EARLIER THIS WEEK, AMD launched its long-awaited Socket 939 platform, and there was much rejoicing. But the rejoicing was followed by a heavy sigh, for as promising as AMD's dual-channel Athlon 64s are, the cheapest one rings in at $500. If you look at the price and performance of Intel's current Pentium 4 lineup, $500 for a 3500+ doesn't seem all that unreasonable. However, $500 can also buy an Athlon 64 2800+, 1GB of DDR400 memory, a shiny Antec Sonata case, and one of Abit's new KV8 Pro Socket 754 motherboards.

At first glance, our $500 bundle looks like a much better deal. After all, even slower Athlon 64s perform quite well, and the Sonata is simply gorgeous. But what about the KV8 Pro? Is it really worthy a worthy addition to our little all-star bundle?

Yes. And then some. With competitive performance, a working AGP/PCI lock, the most feature-rich BIOS I've ever seen, and the ability to lower the CPU multiplier, the KV8 Pro could very well be the best Athlon 64 platform for budget-conscious enthusiasts and MHz-starved overclockers. Read on for a detailed look at the KV8 Pro's features, performance, and intriguing overclocking potential.

The specs
Before diving into a tour of the KV8 Pro's layout, let's have a quick look at the spec sheet.

CPU supportSocket 754-based Athlon 64 processors
Form factorATX
ChipsetVIA K8T800 Pro
North bridgeVIA K8T800 Pro
South bridgeVIA VT8237
InterconnectUltra V-Link  (1.06GB/sec)
PCI slots5 32-bit/33MHz
AGP slots1 AGP 4X/8X (1.5V only)
Memory2 184-pin DIMM sockets
Maximum of 2GB of DDR266/333/400 SDRAM
Storage I/OFloppy disk
2 channels ATA/133
2 channels Serial ATA 150 via VT8237 south bridge with RAID 0,1 support
Audio6-channel audio via VT8237 integrated audio and ALC658 codec
Ports1 PS/2 keyboard
1 PS/2 mouse
1 serial
USB 2.0 with headers for 4 more
1 RJ45 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet via VIA VT6122

1 analog front out
1 analog bass/center out
1 analog rear out
1 analog line in
1 analog mic in
1 digital S/PDIF input (TOS-Link)
1 digital S/PDIF output  (TOS-Link)
BIOSPhoenix AwardBIOS
Bus speedsCPU: 200-300MHz in 1MHz increments
Bus dividersCPU:AGP:PCI:  6:2:1, 7:2:1, 8:2:1, fixed AGP/PCI
VoltagesCPU: 1.5-1.85V in 0.025V increments
AGP: 1.5-1.65V in 0.05V increments
DRAM: 2.5-2.8V in 0.05V increments
NB: 1.5-1.65V in 0.05V increments
SB: 2.5-2.65V in 0.05V increments
HT: 1.2-1.4V in 0.05V increments
MonitoringVoltage, fan status, and temperature monitoring

All the usual suspects, almost. The KV8 Pro has everything you'd expect from an enthusiast-oriented motherboard, including six-channel audio, Serial ATA RAID, and loads of BIOS goodies, but the board curiously lacks integrated Firewire support. Also missing is a secondary IDE or Serial ATA RAID option, which may or may not handicap the board, depending on how many drives and arrays you want to run.