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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [03.07.05]
Manufactured by: Soltek

Lowest Price Finder $122

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Plug n' Play

To the delight of motherboard manufacturers all across Taiwan, VIA has made it exceedingly easy to quickly offer the new models based on their latest chipsets. A case in point would be the board we're looking at today; the Soltek SL-K890 Pro939. This board makes use of VIA's PCI-E chipset for dual channel A64 CPU's, the K8T890 Northbridge. On the SL-K890 Pro939, paired up with the VT8237 Southbridge, which is a previous-gen chip.

The SL-K890 Pro 939 is almost identical to Soltek's SL-K8TPro-939 (VIA's AGP chipset for A64 CPU's). The only differences being the Northbridge used, and PCI-E slots in place of the AGP slot and some PCI slots. Even the box is the same! Since AGP is being left behind at a fast pace, we'll only be paying attention to the K8T890 version of the board.

This board is already available at for around $122, putting it at the low end of the PCI-E spectrum.

The Specs

One of the side effects of having such a modular system, is that while the Northbridge is the latest available, the Southbridge sometimes lags behind a bit. In this case, the VT8237 was first paired up with VIA's K8T800 from last year, so is a bit outdated compared with the latest competing chipsets of today.

Let's take a quick look at how this board/chipset compares to other Socket 939 PCI-E chipsets, such as the NFORCE4:

Northbridge VIA K8T890 NVIDIA NFORCE4 ATI XPress 200
NB PCI-E Lanes 20 20 22* (see below)
Chipset Interconnect Ultra V-Link (Single Chip) 2 Lanes PCI-E
Peak NB/SB Bandwidth 1.06 GB/s 4 GB/s (Direct HT link) 1 GB/s
Southbridge VIA VT8237 NVIDIA NFORCE4 ATI XPress 200
SB PCI-E Lanes 0 (Single Chip) 0
SATA Ports 2 4 4
RAID Support Yes (-R version) Yes Yes
SATA Speed 150 MB/s 300 MB/s 150 MB/s
NCQ Support No Yes No
Audio Support AC/97 AC/97 AC/97

* = 2 lanes are used for NB/SB communication.

As you can see, this particular combination is quite outdated compared to the latest from NVIDIA and ATI. Only two SATA ports are supported, NCQ is not to be found, and while the other SB's certainly don't excel in the type of audio support, Intel's ICH6 does call for High Definition audio.

Later on, we'll see the K8T890 boards paired up with a newer chipset from VIA; the VT8251. This is the same Southbridge we spoke about in our VIA PT Series preview. It will add two more SATA ports, supporting SATA-II speed of up to 300 MB/s. It also supports NCQ, RAID5, and RAID morphing, so in a way it is even ahead of NVIDIA in that regard.

Sound will also be beefed up, being the first AMD chipset to natively support High Definition specs of 24 bit resolution, and 96 KHz sampling rate.

Alas, for now, we're stuck with a Southbridge that is somewhat lacking compared to that of an NF4. We'll see how this Soltek board compared against an NF4 Ultra later on. For now, let's have a look at the board layout.

Next Page: (Board Layout)