Articles: Mainboards

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Closer Look

The specs of the Soltek SL-KT880E-RL mainboard indicate that the developers were trying to create a product that would be as cheap as possible. They made use of all the chipset’s integrated capabilities and refused to add any external PCI controllers. Thus, all the characteristics of the mainboard are realized through the chipset, the KT880 and VT8237 chips.

The Soltek SL-KT880E-RL supports all members of the Athlon, Athlon XP and Duron processor families that work with a FSB clocked at 100/133/166 or 200MHz. It’s characteristic that the clock rate of the processor bus is set up by onboard jumpers – that’s normal for Soltek. Well, automatic detection of the frequency is possible, so these jumpers are in fact only necessary when you are using the processor at non-regular frequencies, i.e. at overclocking.

The board supports single- and dual-channel DDR SDRAM of 200/266/333 and 400MHz clock rates and that’s quite natural. What’s surprising, Soltek placed only two DDR DIMM slots on this mainboard. Thus, the maximum amount of memory that you can install into the SL-KT880E-RL is 2GB. This is enough, of course, but the main trouble will occur during upgrades of the system. To make use of the advantages of the dual-channel KT880 chipset, you’ll probably want to fill both memory slots with memory modules right away and this means you won’t have an opportunity of adding more memory into your system. The developing team from Soltek may have wanted to save on the product cost by soldering only two memory slots. On the other hand, when the owner of a Socket A platform goes for an upgrade, he’ll probably throw the entire platform away into the dustbin.

All the fine-tuning memory options are present in the BIOS Setup, which is based on the AMI microcode. There are also a few simple presets that help inexperienced users to do the system setup.

I must confess we had problems using the Soltek SL-KT880E-RL in the single-channel mode. We met similar instability when working with the ASUS A7V880, so the cause of the trouble may be in the chipset and calls for correction by VIA Technologies or by mainboard manufacturers, on the BIOS level. In any case, you should be aware that it now seems impossible to use KT880-based mainboard in the single-channel memory access mode.

Using the properties of the chipset, the Soltek SL-KT880E-RL supports two SerialATA-150 channels besides the traditional ATA/133 ports. You can also unite your SATA drives into a RAID array of level 0 or 1. The mainboard has eight USB ports: four at the connections panel and four more are onboard headers. Again, for economical reasons, the manufacturer doesn’t include a USB bracket to output those onboard ports to the outside of the system case.

Otherwise, the Soltek SL-KT880E-RL seems to be a regular mainboard, without anything extraordinary about itself. The system offers upgradeability with its five PCI slots and one AGP 8x port. Then, we have integrated audio and network, realized through physical-level controllers, offered by VIA to its clients along with the VIA VT8237 South Bridge.

As for the AC’97 audio codec employed in the mainboard – the VIA VT1617 chip – the manufacturer’s website says it is an advanced solution with support of the AC’97 2.3 specification and providing up to 96kHz sample rates. Soltek didn’t use this codec to the full, though. They only wired six channels. Moreover, the lack of appropriate drivers doesn’t allow users enjoy any benefits from version 2.3 of the AC’97 standard. In other words, the Soltek SL-KT880E-RL doesn’t support any advanced technologies like Jack Sensing.

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