In terms of standard and optional features, the ASUS A7V333 ranks pretty high on the KT333 list. These include USB 2.0, a Promise 20276 ATA-133 RAID controller, C-Media 8738 6-channel hardware audio, and dual 1394 Firewire ports. This last option is the most intriguing, especially since more home entertainment devices (like digital cameras and camcorders) include Firewire outputs. Having Firewire built into the motherboard is a great feature, not only for current functionality, but it also makes the board more future-proof. On a different note, given that the A7V333 includes such a wide selection of onboard hardware, the absence of any LAN functionality is quite strange. Home networks are growing in popularity, as are DSL and Cable Internet access, and ASUS could have placed the cherry right on top of the A7V333 feature list by including onboard LAN.
The ASUS A7V333 retail box contains as veritable cornucopia of items. Along with the basic ingredients like the motherboard, Floppy cable, two ATA-66/100/133 EIDE cables, one ATX I/O backplate, a driver/utility CD, and a hardcopy user manual, there are a few extras as well. You will also find a USB/game port bracket, a dual-port Firewire bracket and wire, a Quick Install Guide, and a "Powered by ASUS" case sticker. This is one of the more extensive component selections we've seen with a motherboard, and points once again to ASUS wanting to maintain its image as a high quality manufacturer. Judging by the motherboard, its features and included hardware, they have hit the mark with the A7V333.
The full ASUS user manual is excellent and includes potentially more information than even most enthusiasts would require. This is probably the rational behind the Quick Install Guide, as it includes all the information necessary to get up and running, but using a minimum of pages. ASUS doesn't stop there and includes both a motherboard settings sticker for your case and a rigid quick reference card with the basic settings (like ATX case connectors).
To coin a phrase, the layout of the ASUS A7V333 brings an "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times" mentality along with it. For example, the three DIMM sockets are nicely placed well above the AGP slot, but have also been shifted very close to the CPU socket. Coupled with the horizontal positioned of the CPU socket, this means you may have to remove your DDR memory to remove the HSF. The dual IDE and IDE RAID connectors are also well placed at the top of the board, adjacent to the DIMM sockets.
With the good, must come the bad, and the floppy connector is inexplicably located at the bottom of the motherboard, directly beside PCI slot 4. The ATX power connector is one of the few positives without a corresponding negative, and it is positioned perfectly on the outside of the board, right next to the IDE connectors. The chipset cooling is another, as it does not feature an active fan, but makes a great compromise by featuring a larger and more capable heatsink than is found on some of the other motherboards. The dimensions of the A7V333 are also dead-on with ATX standards and there is absolutely no board overhang.
This analysis is not even getting into the hybrid design ASUS likes to implement, thereby allowing both BIOS and jumper settings for virtually all major system options. This has worked quite well in other motherboards, but the A7V333 is quite a different animal. The BIOS holds most of the important selections, but a few have been left as jumper-only settings. These include a few undocumented features such as DDR voltage, CPU over voltage (which allows ultra-high voltage levels in the BIOS), along with a jumper setting being the only method of disabling on-board features such as IDE RAID. To give credit where credit is due, this design does work well for the initial installation, but those who like to open up the hood on a regular basis will likely have problems.
As we alluded to above, the A7V333 layout is a bit of a mixed bag, but the process of installation and software setup came off without a hitch. Finding a method of disabling the IDE RAID was the biggest concern (via jumper), but we had absolutely no real problems from start to finish. Further tweaking did bring out a few warts, especially as some of the jumper settings were not documented in the manual. To adjust the DDR voltage for the overclock testing, we had to find the information online and then test it out for ourselves.
ASUS is known for their impressive BIOS options and overclocking features, and we had high hopes for the A7V333. The vast majority of these expectations were met, especially in the area of CPU overclocking. The A7V333 system BIOS includes options for CPU multiplier, FSB speeds, and CPU core voltage, and from this perspective, it was one of the most impressive overclocking setups in the roundup. The DDR memory overclocking options are more limited and only memory frequency is selectable in the BIOS, while you'll need to use the onboard jumpers (undocumented) for any DDR voltage adjustment. High-end RAM timings are present and accounted for, as are the standard performance AGP and system settings. The overall BIOS setup is quite good with the A7V333, but we do take off a few marks for the lack of DDR voltage options and the inability to disable a few of the onboard hardware (like IDE RAID) via the system BIOS.
Motherboard Quick Specs:
AWARD Medallion 6.0
1 AGP Pro/5 PCI
Northbridge Cooling Fan
VIA KT333 (213CE)
100-227 1 MHz
Yes - BIOS & Jumper
up to 1.7V for TBRED or higher jumpered
The ASUS A7V333 had the potential to be the front-runner in any KT333 comparison, but design choices and layout issues knock it down a few pegs. The one that really sticks with us is having options that are hardware jumper selectable, but are simply not present in the system BIOS. The A7V333 is still a great performance and overclocking board and the faults shouldn't detract from recognizing the A7V333 as one of the best and most flexible KT333 options. But what a superlative product it might have been had ASUS given a bit more thought to its overall design.