815 Is Catching On
Over the course of the next few months, the 815 chipset will slowly replace the venerable BX chipset in most motherboard manufacturers lineups. While it may not match BX clock-for-clock, the added features supported by the 815 chipset (133MHz system bus, AGP 4X, and ½ AGP divider being the most important examples) and slight performance advantage over Apollo Pro133A make it the preferred choice for many people in search of a new motherboard.
Enter ABIT. Their SE6 motherboard was one of the first 815 solutions available on the market, and, to be honest, this showed in the final design. We discussed the shortcomings of the SE6 in our 815 comparison article back in September, so we won't rehash that again here, but the SE6 is by no means a bad motherboard. Rather, it was a good motherboard that didn't quite live up to ABIT's history of making high-performance motherboards with endless tweaking options.
Obviously senior management at ABIT realized this and gave the green light to a successor that truly lived up to the ABIT name. The result? The motherboard we're reviewing today, the SA6R.
SoftMenu III is back!
One of our chief problems with the SE6 was its bus speed support. While other 815 motherboards (and even previous ABIT products) offered bus speeds in 1MHz increments, the SE6 didn't. As a result, you couldn't fine tune your overclocking results as precisely with the SE6 as you could with other 815 motherboards.
With the SoftMenu III implementation on the SA6R however, 1MHz bus increments are back! In fact, with the SA6R, you simply type in the bus speed you want, and presto, that speed is yours. We'll discuss this in more detail on the BIOS implementation page, but needless to say, the SA6R has one of the most powerful BIOS interfaces we've ever seen.
Another primary addition to the SA6R's feature list is support for IDE RAID. Via the HighPoint HPT370 chip, all the latest protocols are supported, including ATA/100. Coupled with the 815E's 82801AB ICH chip, the SA6R supports up to eight ATA/100 hard drives. Both the HighPoint and Intel chips are backwards compatible with previous IDE protocols, so those of you with older hard drives should have no problems installing them on this motherboard.