The ASUS A7N266-E Motherboard Review
An All-In-One Powerhouse!

By, Jeff Bouton
March 6, 2002


 

Quality and Setup of the ASUS A7N266-E Motherboard
Looking Good...

The layout of the A7N266-E is very clean and well thought out.  Each component is positioned in a way that does not infringe on any of the neighboring components of the board.  For example, the AGP Pro slot doesn't even come close to interfering with the DIMM slots, a common issue we point out regularly.  The ATX power connector is also placed in a way that there is virtually no chance it could drape over the HSF, impeding proper airflow across the CPU.  Along with the 1 AGP Pro and 5 PCI slots, the A7N266-E comes equipped with an ACR-Slot for the ACR-A6CH card included in the package.  The add-on card not only has the capability to output 6-Channel audio, but it offers S/PDIF_OUT digital audio.

   

Two indicator lights are mounted on the board, one adjacent to the ATX power to remind the user if power is being provided to the board.  The second is mounted between the AGP Pro and 1st PCI slot to indicate if an error exists with the AGP card installed.  Along with the two standard USB ports mounted on the rear of the board, additional headers are included to allow for the addition of 4 more USB ports.  An optional USB kit can be purchased with the board to take advantage of this feature.  The system comes with a total of three fan headers for supplying the CPU and chassis fans as well as any additional item you might want to add.  A block of jumpers are available on the motherboard for voltage adjustments up to 1.85v VCore and 1.7v Vdimm.

   

The Socket A has plenty of room to accommodate an oversized heat sink/fan combo, an important feature if overclocking is in your future.  We also liked to see that the Northbridge came with active cooling attached to it, although after you read about our overclocking experience, we wonder if they should have planned active cooling for the Southbridge as well.  Along with what one would expect to see on the back of a motherboard, the A7N266-E replaces one of the serial board with the on-board video connection.  If you are one of the few people who might miss the second serial port, Asus has included a serial dongle that attaches to a header on the board and fits in one of the PCI openings on the case.  And let us not forget the integrated 10/100 Ethernet port.

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The BIOS of the ASUS A7N266-E:

The A7N266-E came equipped with a Phoenix BIOS which had a well balanced selection of settings.  Although its features might fall a little short for the hardcore overclocker, this version allowed for the adjustment of a number of settings critical for achieving optimal performance.  The BUS could be adjusted in increments of 2-3 MHz. ranging from 100MHz. to 172MHz.  Regardless of the system BUS setting, however, the PCI BUS remains at a steady 33MHz., which should help in maintaining a stable system when the system BUS is set higher than its default.

   

   


 

What the BIOS lacks is any form of voltage adjustment whatsoever.  The voltage adjustments are only available using the jumpers on the board itself.  If you want to bump up your BUS to eke out a little more power from your system, great.  But if you are hoping to hit the high-end of the overclocking spectrum, you'll have to open the case to tweak the voltages.  Regardless of the settings available, we are going to give it our best shot and see where the A7N266-E will peak after we cover the setup of the system.

Setup of the ASUS A7N266-E:

The setup and installation of the A7N266-E was as simple as it gets.  The beauty of this product is that once the board and other components are installed, all you have to do is install Windows and insert the setup disk.  When the CD launches, click on nVidia nForce Drivers and the board practically installs itself.  The one-step installation process takes about a minute to install all of the necessary drivers for the chipset, audio and video to run properly with the operating system.  The team at nVidia has done a fine job at developing an intelligent, unified driver package that makes installation virtually error-proof.  This was easily the simplest motherboard installation that this reviewer has ever done, and there have been a few. Next, we'll take a look and see what this board is capable of doing when we start adjusting some of the overclocking settings in the BIOS.

 
Overclocking the ASUS A7N266-E Motherboards
Get On The BUS!

Since our Athlon XP 1800+ processor was not unlocked, we had to settle for overclocking the system BUS only.  This isn't a bad thing, but we normally like to use the multiplier to determine how high a board will go.  Once you start using the BUS-speed adjustment, it's hard to tell what causes the overclock to fail, the board or one of the components attached to it.  In the case of the A7N266-E, we were able to reach a stable 143MHz. BUS setting, increasing the output of our processor from 1.53GHz. to 1.65GHz., a gain of 8%.  The next increment on the BUS scale was 146MHz., where the system booted to Windows, but would ultimately freeze during benchmarking.  In fact, once we attempted to run a benchmark at 146MHz., I could feel the Southbridge chip heat up just before the system locked.  At this point we settled for a respectable 8% gain at the default voltage and decided to see what kind of performance boost we could expect.  So let's get to the benchmarks!

Sandra 2002, Quake 3 and More!