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Appeared on: Wednesday, January 05, 2005
Abit SV-1A AMD Athlon 64 Server Board


1. Introduction
Abit SV-1A AMD Athlon 64 Server Board

Introduction - Retail package

Over the past years, Abit has been the brand of choice for hardware enthusiasts worldwide. Fairly recently, Abit released a new series of motherboards for the 939 socket series of AMD processors. Along with the desktop motherboard series AV8 and AX8, Abit released a server motherboard series as well. One of the entry level server motherboards is the Abit SV-1A server board that arrived at our labs for review.

- Features

Click for larger image!!

The SV-1A is positioned as an entry level storage server with maximized compromise between price and performance. It is designed for the AMD 64-bit architecture to enhance overall system performance. The on-board Marvell 88SX-6081 SATA II controller and VIA 8237 chipset support up to ten SATA devices to improve server performance in dealing with large amounts of information transfer and frequent data access. Furthermore, three 64-bit PCI-X backward compatible PCI bus expansion slots bring the benefits of upgrade flexibility.


Processor Support AMD Athlon 64 socket 939 processor
Chipset - VIA-K8T800 Pro/VIA-8237/VIA VPX II
- Supports Advanced Configuration and Power management Interface
Memory - Four 184-pin DIMM sockets
- Supports 144-bit wide dual channel DDR 400/333 memory
- Up to 8GB, un-buffered with ECC/Non-ECC memory capacity
VGA - On board ATi Rage XL, default 8MB local memory (4MB optional)
Serial ATA - 4 channel Serial ATAII 3 Gb/s data transfer rate (Marvell 88SX-6041)
- Or 8 channel Serial ATAII 3 Gb/s data transfer rate (Marvell 88SX-6081) (optional)
- 2 channel Serial ATA 1.5 Gb/s data transfer rate VIA-8237
System Bios - Support Plug-and-Play (PNP)
- Support Advanced Configuration Power Interface (ACPI)
- Write-Protect Anti-Virus function by AWARD BIOS
- 4MB flash ROM
LAN - Broadcom 5704 dual port 64-bit Gigabit Ethernet controller
Expansion Slot - PCI-X*3, (3.3V)
- PCI*1, 32bit/33MHz (5V)
Internal I/O Connectors - 1 x Floppy port supports up to 2.88MB
- 2 x 40-pin IDE Ultra DMA 133/100/66/33 connectors
- 1 x Printer port header
- 1 x COM port header (COM2)
- 6 x Serial ATA connectors (4 port 88SX-6041, 2 port VIA-8237)
- 1 x USB 2.0 header (each header support two USB 2.0 devices)
- 1 x NIC-LED header
- 1 x FPIO SATA-LED header
- 1 x SM bus header (for SM bus and I2C)
Back Panel I/O - 1 x PS/2 keyboard and mouse connector
- 1 x Printer port (optional)
- 1 x COM port (COM1)
- 1 x VGA port
- 1 x Dual USB 2.0 connector
- 1 x Dual RJ-45 with transformer LAN connector
Miscellaneous - ATX form factor (305x265mm)
- Hardware monitoring ? including fan speeds, voltages, system environment temperature
- Chassis intrusion detector
- 3.3V/ 5V riser card supported (optional)

- Retail Package

The package that arrived at our labs contained:


2. Board Layout
Abit SV-1A AMD Athlon 64 Server Board

Board Layout

Click for larger image!!

- Fist Look

As this is a server board, one's expectations are going to be a little different from those for a desktop board. The main keywords that come to mind are "system stability" and "reliability". This should translate, in terms of manufacturing, into the use of better components, since systems based on these kind of boards will usually operate 24/7.

The first thing you might notice about the SV-1A, is the abundance of heatsinks. For those who like numbers, there are five heatsinks covering all the major chips on the board, not including the one that will be used on the CPU itself. This helps the proper conduction of heat away from critical system components, ensuring both increased stability and lesser chances of malfunctions due to overheating.

- CPU Socket

Click for larger image!!

The SV-1A does not come pre installed with the plastic base around the CPU socket for the heatsink and fan assembly. Instead, the plastic base needs to be installed by the user along with the CPU. The process is quite straightforward though, and requires a screwdriver to fasten two screws on the board.

- Memory Banks

Click for larger image!!

The memory module slots are color coded in pairs. One blue and one purple pair to highlight the mainboard's Dual Channel memory support and to aid in the correct installation so as to achieve proper dual channel configuration. So, by placing two identical memory modules into either both blue or both purple slots, we can achieve a dual channel configuration. The board as depicted through the specs, can accommodate up to 8GB of RAM.

As you can see from the picture above, the memory module slots are very tightly spaced, and this could pose a problem with airflow when all slots are filled. This is not an issue that can be easily solved by placing an extra fan.

- Back Panel

The rear panel input / output provides the following connections:

From left to right and top to bottom:

There is also one extra header on the board that when connected with the appropriate bracket can supply two more USB connections. Also there are headers for an extra COM port and an extra parallel port. Also on the board, you will find connections to leds that indicate network activity from any one of the NICs and the SATA discs. Also you will find on the board 6 connections for cooling fans!!

- Connectors

Below you can see the hard drive connectors. 2 IDE channel and 6 SATA connectors makes it possible to connect of up to 10 devices, four IDE, and 6 Serial ATA.

Click for larger image!!

Out of the 6 SATA connectors, 4 (optionally 8) are provided by a Marvell 88SX-6041 chip that supports the SATA2 standard (3 Gb/s transfer rate), twice as much as the standard SATA. The other two, are provided by the VIA-8237 chipset and support the SATA standard. RAID 0,1,0+1 configurations are supported.

Click for larger image!!

- ATX PSU connector

As you can see, the board uses a 20-pin ATX connector.

- Expansion Slots

The SV-1A features 1 PCI expansion slot, and 3 PCI-X expansion slots.

- Sensor chip

This is the chip that is responsible for monitoring different aspects of the system's health, such as voltages, fan speeds etc. As we will see on subsequent pages, the amount of information offered is quite impressive.

- BIOS chip

- Onboard graphics processor


The SV-1A features an onboard graphics processor, based on the ATI RAGE XL chip. The total video RAM is 8 MB, which might seem little compared to the 128MB and even 256MB of current video cards. For a server board though, where high performance in 3D graphics is not required, this amount of video RAM will not pose a problem.


3. Installation
Abit SV-1A AMD Athlon 64 Server Board

Installation

Installation of the SV-1A in our test system went without a hitch. Since many features are offered onboard, there is really no need to install extra cards in order to get a working system up and running.

Click for larger image!!

We installed an Athlon 64 FX 55 processor to power our test system. The heatsink and fan you see in the photos, are stock standard as provided by AMD. We also installed 2 x 512MB OCZ EL DDR PC-3200 Dual Channel Platinum Revision 2 memory modules to make a dual channel configuration.

Click for larger image!!

Below is the output from the well known diagnostics program, CPU-Z








4. Performance
Abit SV-1A AMD Athlon 64 Server Board

Performance

PCMark04

PCMark04 is an application-based benchmark and a premium tool for measuring overall PC performance. It uses portions of real applications instead of including very large applications or using specifically created code. This allows PCMark04 to be a smaller installation as well as to report very accurate results. You may download a shareware version of PCMark04 from Futuremark.

 
AMD Athlon 64 FX-55
PCMarks
-
File Compression
3.3 MB/s
File Encryption
36.9 MB/s
File Decompression
28.7 MB/s
Image Processing
14.6 MPixels/s
Virus Scanning
1925.0 MB/s
Grammar Check
3.7 KB/s
File Decryption
73.6 MB/s
Audio Conversion
3166.1 KB/s
Web Page Rendering
5.5 Pages/s
WMV Video Compression
56.1 FPS
DivX Video Compression
66.2 FPS
Physics Calculation and 3D
87.6 FPS
Graphics Memory - 64 lines
68.7 FPS

We could not get a PCMark score because the tests regarding the graphics processor could not be performed. This has to to with the "weak" onboard graphics processor and the low amount of video RAM (8MB). Same goes for other tests like 3DMark and Aquamark.


5. Bios & Overclocking
Abit SV-1A AMD Athlon 64 Server Board

Bios & Overclocking

The SV-1A features a Phoenix-Award BIOS, as you can see from the POST screen below

One thing lacking from the BIOS menus is the ability to overclock the CPU. This was expected, since the SV-1A is a server board and stability should come first. The board will automatically detect a new cpu and set the appropriate settings for FSB frequency and multiplier accordingly.

Below is a screenshot from the onboard SATA controllers.



A feature that could prove handy for low level remote system management of the board is the "Remote redirection" feature. This allows for remote management of the board via an RS-232 serial cable or a modem.

Another feature of the SV-1A is the Watch Dog function. This feature automatically reboots the system in case of a crash, and automatically resets the BIOS settings to default values in case of a wrong setting that prevents the system from booting.



In the PC Health status menu, we can see the sensor information available for the board. The information available is impressive, and allows for a total overview of the board's status. We could not find on the installation CD-ROM, any utility for displaying this information from within the operating system, and it would be nice to have a solution from ABIT.

Cool'n'Quiet Technology automatically adjusts fan speeds according the the system components temperature. This feature helps reduce system noise and prolongs the lifespan of the system fans.


6. Conclusion
Abit SV-1A AMD Athlon 64 Server Board


Conclusion

The Abit SV-1A is an entry level storage server motherboard with maximized compromise between price and performance. It features the new VIA VIA-K8T800 Pro chipset for the 939 socket series of AMD Athlon processors. Abit has a long track record for producing good quality motherboards along with excellent support for their products. This is also evident in the 3 year warranty that covers the SV-1A.

The Abit SV-1A retail price is around $380 . The price might seem high, compared to boards aimed at desktop systems, but there is no base for comparison since server boards are destined for 24/7 operation while offering increased storage capabilities and advanced features like PCI-X..

- The Good

- Quality Design
- Support of SATA2 standard
- 2 Gigabit NICs onboard
- Up to 10(14 optionally) drives can be connected
- Remote management via RS-232 port
- 3 year warranty

- The Bad

- Sensor monitoring software from within the operating system not included
- DIMM sockets are tightly spaced and may not allow enough airflow

- Like To be fixed

- Retail package could be better
- A firewire port


 

Features
Performance
BIOS/Overclocking
Value for money


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