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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [02.20.02]
Manufactured by: Shuttle


Better Than Ever

While VIA's Pentium 4 chipset has run into a few snags on its way to become probably the best choice for your Pentium 4 system, their Athlon "KT" chipsets have been successful all the way through, and the DDR version (KT266) can even be attributed AMD's successes over the past year.  Without a solid platform, the Athlon doesn't stand a chance against the P4.

Luckily, the KT266 brought that to the table, and has been considered to be the best choice for people wishing to go the AthlonXP + DDR SDRAM route.  As with almost every other VIA chipset produced, there is a new revision of that chipset, the KT266A.

KT266A uses the same VT8233 southbridge as the original KT266.  Rather than waste an entire page of your life with specs cut and paste from the manufacturer's site, I'll just point you to their page, where you can have a look for yourself if you are so inclined.

Like I said, I'm not about wasting a page with PR fluff, but here are some features I think you will be most interested to know about:

-Supports PC200 & PC266 DDR SDRAM
-Supports newest AMD CPU's, such as Morgan-based Durons, and the AthlonXP & MP.
-Up to 6 USB ports (it's up to the mobo manufacturer to provide extra headers)
-Other features available if the manufacturers choose to include them: Integrated sound, modem, and Ethernet adapter.

VIA did a great job with their Northbridge design, allowing motherboard manufacturers to upgrade their products with minimal effort.

The Board

Enough about the chipset in general; let's talk about the AK35GTR! As I said above, the KT266A was designed in a way that allowed motherboard manufacturers to easily upgrade their current products.  Shuttle did exactly this with their "AK31" AMD motherboard.  Revision "3.1" uses the new KT266A chipset, where "2.1" and below use the older KT266 chipset. 

The AK35GTR, however, is based off Shuttle's newest motherboard platform.  We saw this exact same platform in the AV45GTR P4 motherboard we reviewed last week.  in fact, the boards look nearly identical! Again this is one advantage VIA offers to manufacturers, allowing them to easily support all chipsets.

I have no major complaints about the motherboard layout, and in fact Shuttle has made a few improvements which I will get to very soon.  I personally prefer the RAID IDE ports to be vertically aligned, but I can see there's not much room for that.  I have seen worse; on a Soltek KT266A board I installed for a friend last week, ALL the IDE ports were horizontal, and mounted UPSIDE DOWN! This made for a rather messy installation.

Some things to mention are the fact that the DIMM slots are placed far enough away from the AGP slot so that the video card will now get in the way of the DIMM tabs being opened.  Nothing major, but really worth mentioning; you know what I mean if you have a board where you have to remove your video card every time you want to take out a stick of RAM!

Another thing is the 3-Pin Molex connectors.  In my opinion, boards can't have enough of these! Shuttle doesn't disappoint, with 4 connectors on board.  One is being used by the chipset cooler, which I actually like, because you can always use it again if you decide to upgrade your cooler.  The placement of a connector below the AGP slot is a bit odd, but I have seen worse.

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