EPoX EP-8K9A9I: Features
Again, this mainboard is a pretty ordinary product and the remarkable feature worth mentioning separately is the POST-code indicator that signals which POST procedure is currently executed and what’s wrong with the mainboard if anything fails. Compared to the voice or LED diagnostics by AOpen, this approach has both advantages and drawbacks.
The advantages are obvious: the POST-codes are more numerous than system components and information representation with the codes is more informative to an experienced user. On the other hand, the idea behind POST-codes is not as evident as a voice message or a lighted LED next to the “Memory” label. You will have to consult the user’s manual to decipher the code until you learn all of them by heart.
EPoX EP-8K9A9I: PCB Design
The premise that all mainboard makers now follow a widely-accepted PCB design standard holds true in this case, too. As the EPoX mainboard is a pretty ordinary product, its connectors layout is free from any evident drawbacks. Even the graphics card doesn’t block the DIMM slots clips as the mainboard carries only five PCI slots. Even the FDD connector is shifted down, not to hinder the FDD and HDD connection zone. The only thing I didn’t like that much was the undersocket thermal diode that looks too fragile. However, as long as does its job well, its looks doesn’t matter. By the way, none of the manufacturers except ABIT and Soltek, specifies explicitly how the CPU temperature is measured. EPoX, unfortunately, is no exception here.
Well, there is one weird thing about the EPoX mainboard: there is a hole under the CPU socket. It is probably intended to eliminate excessive warm air pressure under the CPU, however, I really doubt that this hole is so badly needed, especially since the processor socket is not absolutely hermetic and warm air has where to flow. One more possible way to use this hole, which I managed to invent, is the installation of your own thermal diode under the CPU. Quite exotic, you know.
EPoX EP-8K9A9I: BIOS
The BIOS tells all the frequencies and tells them right. That’s good. Moreover, if you change the settings, it shows what frequencies the AGP and PCI buses will work at after the next startup. In half of the mainboards we reviewed today, the frequencies are reported only after they have been activated, or in the worst case, in Windows with the help of various monitoring utilities. However, you should keep in mind that in some cases, you may fail to get the Windows start, as the data may disappear from the HDD much earlier.
There are two things I found strange in the BIOS. First, the Power BIOS Features page has a setting called ROMSIP Table. It can be Normal, Fast or Ultra. The user’s manual doesn’t tell what it is for, but as I found out this setting is responsible for the S2K bus timings (S2K is the bus between the memory controller and the CPU). Second, the memory/FSB frequency ratio (EPoX calls it Memory Type) can take values named by the memory types, that is, DDR266, DDR333 and DDR400, although the frequencies can be quite different during overclocking. Yes, this representation is very illustrative from the visual point of view, but if you set up high clock for the system bus, the DDR333 memory may not work, although the Memory Type parameter is set exactly to this value.