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Life in the Fast Lane: New Boards for the Athlon 64

Albatron K8X890 Pro II

Board Revision: 1

BIOS Version: 1.09

Like the Abit AX8, the Albatron board is based on the K8T890 from VIA; in this case you can tell that just from the name. It is equipped with high-grade components, and among other things lets you upgrade the voltage transformer via an expansion board called mPower. This adds four further phases to the motherboard's three-phase transformer, with the effect of reducing the thermal load on each separate transformer. mPower is not needed to run the board, but makes sense with growing demand placed on the processor. For an Athlon 64 Winchester with 90-nm core the module is not needed, but mPower could prove its worth in the event of a processor upgrade to a dual core Athlon 64 X2.

Albatron goes its own way when putting together PCI Express support too, combining the four separate x1 ports into one x4 PCIe connection. This is even able to take on a high-quality mass storage controller for SATA or SATA II (at the end of the year). In addition there are three PCI slots.

A Gigabit LAN chip from Marvell takes care of the network connection and the sound system is based on a VIA Envy 24PT. Four USB 2.0 ports are ready for use; a VIA controller, meanwhile, has two FireWire connections.

The color codings of the plug-in sockets are good, and the layout is overall very tidily arranged. If you still swear by COM and LPT ports, Albatron offers two serial and one parallel. The board's package is abundant and includes WinCinema Pro as a bonus.

The high-quality sound system is delivered by an Envy 24PT (aka the VT1720 from VIA).

COM and LPT ports are somewhat unusual these days. This board saves you a PCI expansion card if you do need them.