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Soyo SY-KT400 DRAGON Ultra Platinum - getting acquainted
UPDATED 25 November 2002 - read update

Soyo have been around for longer than most people give them credit for. Turning 17 earlier this year they have put a concerted effort in becoming a big name in the motherboard industry. About 18 months ago we saw a push from the then lesser known manufacturers such as Epox, ECS, QDI and Soyo to take on more seasoned competitors such as Asus, Abit and Gigabyte.

Epox took the initial kudos with their 8K7A board and then the 8K3A which provided a number of great overclocking features and performed well, leaving companies like Soyo slightly behind. This really was a wake-up call to the other manufacturers. The likes of Abit and Asus knew that trading on their name wouldn't work with companies offering feature filled products at low prices. This was the end of dull motherboards. Since then ECS, QDI and others have made good headway into the UK market, however it's easy to see that Epox and Soyo are commonly mentioned amongst the ranks of Abit, Asus and Gigabyte.


Soyo take every opportunity to show the world they can't be outdone in terms of style and features. This is the current flagship Socket A board from Soyo. Based on VIA's KT400 Northbridge chipset and is aptly given the name SY-KT400 DRAGON Ultra Platinum. The marketing dudes at Soyo have even worked a meaning for DRAGON and it goes a little something like this :-
D: DDR400/333/266 Memory
R: Optional Serial ATA / Embedded Hipoint IDE-RAID chip, providing ATA-133 IDE-RAID 0,1,and 0+1
A: 4 Channel Hardware Audio On Board
G: Universal 8X AGP Pro With Adjustable Voltage, Enabling Computer Graphics At Its Best
O: Smart Overclocking Options Including Adjustable CPU, DIMM and AGP Pro Voltages, Higher PCI Divider and Flexible IRQ Sharing
N: Integrated 10/100 Mbps Ethernet, High-Speed Internet Ready
Ultra: On-board USB 2.0 Interface, 4-Port USB 2.0 Cable Included
So a couple of them aren't quite perfect, but it certainly gets the main features across quite nicely. As with most motherboard these days there is a number of value-added features to entice you. Initially we'll look at the exterior fixtures and fittings.

  

From the outset you are hit with a large box giving you the impression that there is a fair few bits 'n bobs inside. The outside packaging is very good and illustrates the main features that are encompassed on the SY-KT400. Inside you see a different style of packaging which is welcoming. With most motherboards we get to review, the packaging leaves at lot to be desired. Considering these things have to come from Asia and then survive your local courier a 0.5cm thick sponge can leave you with a sour taste in your mouth.

  

Fair dues, egg carton packaging isn't the best solution but it's a step forward from having nothing to hold your bits in place during transit. From the well packaged box you get this spread :-


It's quite easy to see that along with the board Soyo have done almost everything in their power to add features to entice you. You aren't just buying a motherboard, rather a motherboard package. We are pretty sure manufacturers are moving towards this value added package in the near future, trying to cram in as many goodies with their motherboard as is possible. It beats having 20 motherboards being virtually identical with only brand name and imaging seperating one from another.


The SY-KT400 DRAGON Ultra Platinum is, unsurprisingly, platinum in colour. Initially many of us had reservations about coloured PCBs (purely through personal tastes) however the platinum finish has a brilliant understated quality about it. The extra box that is present contains the Sigma box. This front panel connects up to the motherboard and gives the user a compact-flash and smart card reader coupled to two USB 2.0 sockets. The caddy supplied allows you to fix it to both 3.5" and 5.25" drive bays without hassle.


Along with the complementary IDE cables you are offered a SPDIF audio connector, whose PCB is coloured platinum to keep with the styling. Even capacitors, which are usually coloured black or green have been transformed into mini silver towers. The purple/pink PCI slots may not be to everyone's tastes however it certainly beats dull old grey any day. Coupled to the bright yellow IDE sockets it's obvious that a top Taiwanese styling guru is present on the Soyo payroll. Rarely have we seen such attention to aesthetics on a motherboard.


The layout has a few issues. The main one being the location of ATX power connector. There is ample space at the bottom of the top corner (next to the RAM sockets) for the connector however it's been placed next to the sound/serial ports. Couple to that the 4 pin power connector for the AGP Pro slot being right next to the slot you can expect some problems if you wish to hastily install hardware.

It's not all doom and gloom though. RAM slots are a fair distance away from the AGP slot, so people owning Geforce 4 Titanium cards will not have any problems installing RAM once their VGA card is in place. The four fan headers are positioned well, with two at the top of the board and another two placed near the bottom.

Although it is fairly easy for us to moan about the layout of a motherboard considering the amount of extra on board electronics this motherboard has, Soyo can be forgiven to a certain degree. It has to be said that reviewers bear the brunt of less than perfect design since they are the people who end up having to reset the test machines every few days.