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Reviewed by: Trevor Flynn [05.14.03]
Edited by: Carl Nelson

Manufactured by: Epox
Est. Street Price $116

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First Impressions

Epox does a nice job on the packaging.  The electrified animal skeleton (greyhound?) with it's red demonic eyes is eye catching to say the least. 

Out of the box, the typical green PCB on the 8RDA+ just can't compare with the golden PCB of the FRN-L.  I was slightly more impressed with the included bundle. 

Aside from a full user manual, quick start guide, driver and software bundle, the 8RDA+ also includes the optional USB and Firewire back plate cables, something that was noticeably lacking with the FRN-L.  In what seems to be a trend with the lower priced NForce2 offerings however, there is no included 6ch audio expansion cable. If you want to take full advantage of the onboard sound expect to shell out and addition $10-$20 for the add-on adapter.

The included software bundle is sparse but adequate.  Included are full version of both PC-Cillin 2002 and Norton Ghost 7 along with a couple of handy Epox utilities; Unified Systems Diagnostic Manager, and Magic Update.  Out of the two the Magic Update program is the one that really caught my eye.

It is basically a Windows based BIOS flashing program.  What I found nice, was that by simply clicking a few buttons you can not only check for a newer update of your current BIOS revision, but also download and flash it right from within the program. 

The Board

With its plain green PCB, the 8RDA+ is definitely not as flashy as some of the other Nforce2 boards on the market.  It is however slightly smaller than some of the other full ATX Nforce2 boards at 9 1/2 x 12 inches, which is good news for those of you with smaller tower cases.

What this board lacks in looks, it makes up for with added features.  Epox definitely had the overclocker in mind when designing this board.

Now if you remember my FRN-L review, one of my big beefs was the lack of mounting holes around the CPU socket.  Epox has not only included these mounts, which are essential to many hardcore overclockers, but they have gone the extra mile and also included two mounts around BOTH the north bridge and south bridge chipsets. 

The heatsink is adequate for those who are not ramping up their voltages, but anyone planning on seriously overclocking this board is going to want to look into a better north bridge cooling solution.  On a side note, we found that the north bridge cooler does and excellent job of keeping the chipset cool.

An especially very nice feature that's been included with the 8RDA+ is this little onboard diagnostic LED. 

This LED displays real-time feedback on the systems status taken directly from I/O port 80H. This is a great tool for helping to diagnose and repair non-responsive systems.  My only problem is that it is located directly to the right of the Floppy Controller.  Anyone not using rounded cables is probably going to find that the diagnostic LED is at least partially, if not completely, covered by their floppy cable.

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