XFX MACH-4 (KT400-ALH) Motherboard Review
Greg Gibson / Jun 10th, 2003 No Comments
A new entry into the motherboard market comes from PINE Industries. PINE has an excellent track record with video cards (XFX GeForce cards with nVidia TI 4000 chipsets), and they are now expanding their product line to include motherboards. We had a recent opportunity to test their new MACH-4 Motherboard and was impressed with the value.
We performed our evaluation on their new MACH-4 [KT400-ALH] which is designed for the AMD Socket-A Athlon XP/Duron processors. We installed a new Athlon XP 2100+ and 512M RAM for the evaluation tests. Our video card was the XFX GeForce4 Ti 4400 with 128M Video RAM.
The MACH-4 motherboard comes packaged with CD-ROM with BIOS and user-defined options for upgrading to USB 2.0 and 8X AGP. These two items (USB 2.0 and 8X AGP) alone should be sufficient reasons for someone to consider upgrading their motherboard to take advantage of these new technological advancements.
The motherboard configuration (see figure) is excellent in several respects:
1. The motherboard support for 8X AGP is a significant improvement over current 4X AGPs.
2. The motherboard has 2 additional USB connections (in addition to the normal 2 rear USB ports) to permit cases with front-USB ports to be easily connected. This is an excellent feature for quickly and effortlessly plugging cameras into the computer.
3. The motherboard comes with Onboard Sound, supporting Microsoft DirectSound/DirectSound 3D.
4. RJ45 LAN port is very convenient for plugging in your cable modem (avoiding a PCI card).
5. The six PCI slots and AGP clot are more than enough for today’s needs, and is one PCI slot more than most motherboards (always nice to have future expansion capability).
6. The three DIMM 184 pin slots, supports DDR200/266/333 for up to 3Gig of memory. Chipset – VIA VT8377 (North Bridge) – VIA VT8235 (South Bridge)
7. The remaining features are pretty-well the standard two serial ports, one parallel port, one mouse (Ps2), one keyboard (Ps2), one game, three audio jacks: Speak out/line in/MIC in, two PCI IDE Channels – ATA/33, 66, 100, 133, Form Factor: ATX, and the BIOS are AWARD BIOS.
The product installation manual was clear and concise with the exception of explaining that Jumper15 factory default was ON (causing a FSB speed of 200MHz versus 266MHz – this resulted in some initial confusion on why the 2100+ speed was around 1400, until the JUMPER was removed and speed returned to normal – see discussion below).
We took about 45 minutes to carefully install the motherboard into the case (which already had two hard disks/one floppy/one CD-ROM, and then we connected the power supplies, install the memory, and install the PCI and AGP boards. We ran the start-up system BIOS, and were fully operational using WINDOWS XP within an hour and a half.
As a former INTEL owner, there was some reluctance to try an AMD device, but everything ran fine with no problems (although AMD systems do have a higher “noise” level due to higher temperature fan-cooling requirements, the increase is not unacceptable).
During the installation process, when we had not properly accounted for JUMPER15, we took the opportunity to call the help line listed on the PINE website for support. We were able to quickly get a technician to answer the phone (Canadian – which explains why they answered on Thanksgiving). Support was complete and accurate, and included a follow-up email confirming that we should check the JUMPER15 connection.
We ran the system in moderately heavy usage for a month, and have added a PCI Firewire card, and run a scanner, PDA, and camera using the front USB ports. There have been no unacceptable performance issues, and the system is apparently running fine.
Using the HWDOCTOR program, we ran a series of tests that evaluated the entire system (motherboard, processor, and video card). The results of these tests are provided below. In our opinion, the main items for consideration are:
– The Athlon XP 2100+ ran slightly slower than a comparable Intel P-4 2.0G for several of the tests.
– The system significantly outperformed a comparable Intel P-4 2.2G in several math analyses and consistently in the graphics tests where the full advantage of the nVidia AGP.
The MACH-4 motherboard is an excellent choice for any system upgrade. It is well priced, reliable, and easy to install and configure. An XFX system, pairing the motherboard with AGP graphics card, results in superior performance. Offering the extra PCI slot (6 versus 5), and the USB 2.0 and 8X AGP, make the MACH-4 an EDITORS CHOICE AWARD Winner. We recommend this system for anyone considering upgrading their current processor to take advantage of the new speeds and technology.
tags: review , xfx