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Reviewed by: Kevin Luck [10.06.01]
Manufactured by: ECS Elitegroup


Installation Cont'd

I put my video card (ATI All-In-Wonder Radeon) and Promise Ultra66 cards in, and fired it up. Nothing on the screen. I tried reseating the card. Also nothing...I tried another AGP card (a Matrox Millennium) and encountered the same problem--a blank screen followed by 8 beeps. A quick check online (thank goodness there were other computers in the house) showed this to be a video memory error. I tried an old PCI card, on a hunch, and it came up fine. I tried the ATI card a couple more times, fiddling with it, making sure it was fully seated, and finally it decided to fire up. I suppose it may have been an error on my part, but it did seem terribly finicky. Since that time, however, it has behaved itself.

I spent a few moments, acquainting myself with the BIOS settings. The K7S5A uses an AMI BIOS, with its traditional text-based interface. I enabled the Ethernet and sound adapters, detected my drives, and saved. It came up into windows 98 and, with help from the drivers CD that came with the board, I was fully operational about two hours after I had begun, not bad time, considering the fight one usually goes through to get a new system together (an unusual thing I noted later when installing Windows 2000 to my system was that the motherboard drivers CD includes win2K drivers, but the "Install Drivers" option on the CD's front-end menu disappears, leaving you to set everything up manually. A minor annoyance, really, but still a bit odd).

Testing Procedures

I ran SiSoft Sandra to get a look at the system's performance. Performance was about as to be expected; the system handled itself well. Two things I did notice were that if I left it idle too long, the system would hang. Also, one of my drives--an ATA66 hooked to the mainboard--was really surprisingly slow. Fortunately, these problems were both easily fixed--I had merely forgotten to toggle "ACPI Aware OS" on the Power Management Setup page for the first, and for the second, I had unthinkingly used my old 40-pin ATA33 cable to hook the ATA66 drive to the board. I exchanged it with the ATA66 cable supplied. Much better. (DUH! -Geoff The Goat)

As you'll see below, the 1.4GHz Thunderbird continues to give a good account of itself, not only outpacing its predecessors, but even the 1.6GHz Pentium 4 by a considerable margin. This has been the cause of some contention in the business, as it is sometimes difficult for the consumer to understand why a 1.4GHz chip can outperform a 1.6GHz one. I understand that with its new XP line, AMD is going to start branding them not by clock speed, but by performance; for example, the 1.5GHz XP is expected to be branded as the XP 1800, to reflect the fact that it performs similar to a 1.8GHz P4. While this sounds like a good idea at first blush, I can't help but think back to Cyrix and their PR ratings, which essentially tried to do the same thing. Unfortunately, the PR rating didn't really go over well with the rest of the industry, and it was eventually scrapped. And as for naming their new line XP, well, don't even get me started....

Marketing numbers aside, the K7S5A shows off the Thunderbird to good effect. The multithreaded I/O and parallel transaction memory channels in the 735 help churn data in and out of the CPU quickly, keeping the whole system moving at a brisk pace (up to 1.2GB/s from I/O devices). The P4's FPU still outperforms the T-bird's in this comparison, but in the multimedia benchmarks, once you kick in the 3DNow! enhancements, the T-bird pulls ahead again, by quite a margin.

Test system specs.

Athlon 1.4
256MB PC2100 CAS 2.5 DDR Supplied by Crucial
256MB PC133 CAS 2 SDR (Mushkin)

CPU performance with a 1.4GHz Thunderbird & Windows ME

Multimedia benchmark, again with 1.4GHz & Windows ME

I gave the system a good, long-term burn-in, to see how stable it stayed. Unfortunately, it seemed to be prone to the occasional lockout in a way that very much suggested faulty memory. The Mushkin sticks I had should have been more than equal to the task, but just to be on the safe side, I put in a couple of 256MB Crucial DDR2100 sticks to see if that helped. Apparently that did the trick, since I haven't had a lockup since. In fact, the whole system--after a fresh OS reinstall--has proven itself quite remarkably stable, even when I've deliberately tried to overload it.

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