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On the chipset

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Juan Herrerías Rey

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DFI AK76-SN: DDR-SDRAM at a reasonable price


During the last years, the PCs have used the memory SDRAM as a principal memory, at different speeds (PC66, PC100 and PC133) and with small variants (unbuffered, registered, ECC...), but basically keeping compatibility enough and normally sharing the same format DIMM of 168 pines.

Nevertheless, everything good is finished, and we are already again in epoch of changes. The fashionable memory nowadays is the DDR-SDRAM, and as it is habitual to be able to use it we need a new motherboard, with a chipset that "comprises" it and the appropriate connector (DIMM of 184 pines).

The motherboard that we prove, of the Taiwanese manufacturer DFI (one of the most important of the world), is a badge for microprocessors Athlon and memory DDR-SDRAM, realized about a chipset of AMD and ROUTE. Is it a good motherboard to inform us? Let's see it...


Photo of the DFI AK76-SN

Description and specifications

Let's enumerate quickly the most significant characteristics of this motherboard:

  • Support of Athlon or Duron Socket A
  • Bus of 200 ó 266 MHz
  • 2 grooves DIMM of 184 pines
  • Northbridge AMD 761
  • Southbridge ROUTE 686B
  • 1 groove AGP 4x/2x
  • 6 grooves PCI
  • Support ATA/100
  • 2 ports USB + 2 optional ones

Well, theoretically a badge at a height of the modern times. Two memory grooves are not great, but yes sufficient if the precaution takes of installing big modules: better 256 MB 1, not 2 of 128 MB.

Physically it leaves a good impression, with a clean and quite rational design; personally I prefer that the feeding connector is in the top part, but rarely it will give problems where it is. And if you have more than 3 cards PCI as long as to collide with the discs connectors, his case is serious, friendly.

After having installed enough basic badges, I would emphasize two details of the AK76-SN: the memory grooves are well separated from all the rest elements, what favors the modules installation without breaking nor to dismantle anything, and the free space about the mike allows to install spendthrifts of considerable size. A blessing for the big mitts.

Also it is interesting arranging of active refrigeration by means of fan for the chipset (lately the Northbridge become very warm) and also other 4 (four!) connectors for fan, distributed by the whole motherboard. It is never known how many fans will be necessary, not where they will be...


On the chipset

In English, "chipset" it means simply "set of chips". Normally, in the basic badges it is a question of 2 chips, named Northbridge and Southbridge. The first one controls specific aspects of the microprocessor and the memory (type of bus and of memory, for example), while the second one controls the paragraphs of I/O (entry / exit: hard disk, USB, etc.). Module of memory DDR-SDRAM PC2100 in format DIMM of 184 pines

The Northbridge of the AK76-SN is the AMD 761, which was the first one with support of memory DDR-SDRAM for mikes Athlon. It is a question of a trustworthy chipset and of excellent yield... logically, since it was developed by the very same AMD.

The AMD 761 only has a "peculiarity": he does not support asynchronous speeds for the bus of mike and for the memory. Namely that if the mike uses a 266 MHz bus, the memory must go also at this speed (that is to say, to be DDR-SDRAM PC266, also call PC2100). Really it is not a "problem", so if we install a mike with 200 MHz bus (a Duron, for example), we can use memory PC2100 "underclockeada" to 200 MHz. What we must avoid is to install memory PC1600 (PC200), since we would have to change it when we update ourselves to a mike with 266 MHz bus.

As for the Southbridge, it is the ROUTE last. Trustworthy, rapid and with drivers updated often; also, there turns out to be more economic than his AMD equivalent, which lows the price of the basic badges... well for ROUTE, good for DFI and good for the final buyer.


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