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Sharky Extreme :




Price: $94 Street

Availability: Now

Choosing a motherboard for the AMD Athlon is quite different from finding one for a corresponding Intel processor. Fewer manufacturers produce Athlon boards, which translates into far less choice for buyers. The available motherboards are also heavily influenced by the AMD "Fester" design, including the Gigabyte 71X, MSI MS-6167 and Biostar M7MKA. These boards are both functional and stable, but have few surprises or innovations present in their design. The only two boards to stray far from the AMD reference design are the FIC SD11 and the ASUS K7M. While the K7M in some way resembles the AMD "Fester" design, the FIC SD11 goes quite a bit further and differentiates itself not only from the Athlon competition, but from just about any other motherboard you'll ever see.

If they say that good things come in small packages, then the FIC SD11 is a definite contradiction in terms. The board is absolutely huge (12" H, 9.6" W), and is definitely the largest ATX board I have ever seen. It even beats the relatively large ABIT BX6 2.0, which is approximately 11.5"x8.5". In fact, when I first opened the retail box, I was not sure how it would fit into a standard ATX case. This large PCB would seem logical if the SD11 design actually needed the extra board space. Instead you have a very barren motherboard layout, with the standard expansion slots and sockets but few additional on-board components.

The FIC SD11 also has one of the most distinct motherboard designs as well. This starts with the board's one AGP/five PCI/one ISA slot arrangement, which is quite rare for any motherboard, let alone an Athlon board. The ISA slot of the 1.6, 1.7 and 1.8 revisions is actually an optional component, so please check for new revisions if you require one for an ISA legacy device. The Slot A and three DIMM slots are standard ATX issue, and the ATX power connector is positioned right between them. This format allows a lot of room for CPU and memory installation or upgrades. FIC changes gears with the IDE connectors, instead of placing them parallel to the DIMM slots (as in other ATX boards), they are actually perpendicular to the DIMM slots. This can cause problems maneuvering and positioning the IDE cables over the top of the SDRAM and makes upgrading memory an unnecessarily arduous task. In rotating the position of the IDE connectors, they also come a lot closer to the AGP slot than in other designs. I didn't experience issues with my AGP reference cards, but some users have reported problems with larger AGP video cards.





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