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


A word or two about DDR RAM

As I mentioned earlier, one of the main factors that led me to choose this board was its ability to support both SDRAM and DDRAM. DDRAM, or Double Datarate RAM, theoretically provides a marked improvement over the old SDRAM. As you probably know, SDRAM is generally tied to the motherboard's FSB (the SiS 735 lets you specify different FSBs for the CPU and memory, but traditionally, they've been one and the same). This meant that most SDRAM is running at either 800MB/s (for 100MHz FSB) or 1.06GB/s (for 133Mhz). Now this isn't too bad for machines in the 1GHz range, but once you get too far past that, it does begin to be something of a bottleneck.

Enter DDRAM. DDRAM works at the same speed as the memory FSB as defined on the board, but it goes twice per clock cycle, once at the beginning, once at the end (I sometimes like to describe this as being like hitting the memory at the "tick" and the "tock"). This allows machines running at the same FSBs as above to pull down 1.6GB/s (for 100MHz) or 2.1GB/s (for 133MHz). Furthermore, at least one manufacturer is readying 2.4GB/s (for 150MHz FSB systems) chips for market.

DDR Test Results

As a quick look at the graphs below will show, the move from SDRAM to DDRAM is a significant improvement, though not exactly double (hence the age-old struggle between real world and theoretical max). RAMBUS' RDRAM still holds out as the top contender currently available, but RDRAM's expense, coupled with the fact that there are as yet no Slot A chipsets to support it (And the fact that Rambus sucks ass as a company - Geoff The Goat), do not make it a realistic contender for your T-Bird/Duron system. The later is mostly due to RAMBUS' extensive partnering with Intel, and the latter's heavy promotion of it (the i850 chipset for the P4, for example, supports RDRAM exclusively). QDRAM--Quad Datarate RAM, which works on a similar principle to DDRAM but with 4 hits to the clock cycle--will probably start seeing the light of day soon on the next generation or so of motherboard chipsets, and this should go a long way towards closing the memory bandwidth performance gap. In the meantime, however, DDRAM does an excellent job handling memory for the higher-speed Slot A systems.

Memory performance, 2x128MB Mushkin PC133 SDRAM & Windows ME

Memory performance, 2x256MB Crucial PC2100 DDRAM & Windows ME

As the results on the previous screen show, this is a speedy board. The SiS735 chipset, combined with a fast T-Bird and DDRAM, turns in some very impressive numbers. Benchmarks aside, the performance of the system on a totally subjective scale is impressive. Not so much difference in games--that being increasingly up to the GPU these days--but in raw data-crunching (encoding files and so forth), it really does perform impressively well.

On the downside, those looking to overclock their system may find it difficult; the BIOS autodetects most of the information about the CPU, including core voltage and multiplier. You are allowed limited customization of CPU & DRAM FSB frequency, but it's not enough to offer the sort of control many overclockers want (in fairness, though, I should note that this board is not really aimed at overclockers anyway, as they will be more inclined to offerings by Asus & Abit).

In conclusion, I feel that this is an extremely suitable board for someone just looking to put a good, swift, reliable system together without breaking the bank. Tweakers and OC'ers will be frustrated by its limitations in that area, but as a get-up-and-go solution it succeeds admirably. It's got plenty of features onboard, sets up relatively quickly, and once going stays up, doing a good, solid job. If you are fighting off the upgrade bug yourself, you may want to look the K7S5A over, especially in one of the many T-bird bundles that are available online. A K7S5A with a 1.4GHz Thunderbird will keep the upgrade bug at bay for a long time.

If you're looking for a system that will let you get in and tweak to your heart's content, this board isn't going to give you what you want. But if you just need to set up a good, fast, solid working system for not a lot of money, the K7S5A delivers in spades.

  • Fast and stable
  • Awesome price! Can be found for around $60 if you look in the right places
  • Enough integrated peripherals to get you up and running quickly
  • ATA/100 supported out of the box
  • Can use old SDRAM as long as you need to, then switch to DDRAM when you're ready

  • Tight spaces right where you need room, esp. the CPU area
  • Only 2 DIMM slots can be used at a time, no mixing of SDRAM and DDRAM
  • VERY limited tweakability. This is not an overclocker's board.
  • Yo Mamma

Final Score: 85%