EPoX supplied two AMD motherboards for this group test, the first being the 8KRA2+ and this, the 8RDA3G, based on the nVidia nForce2 Ultra 400 chipset. What impressed us the most about the 8RDA3G was the phenomenal Sysmark 2002 score, beating its nearest competitor by five points overall. But raw speed isnâ€™t everything when youâ€™re looking for a motherboard, there are a features, layout, documentation and a myriad of other considerations to take into account.
Comparing features is never easy as it depends on what your personal needs are, but we would expect certain base features on a modern motherboard and sadly the 8RDA3G doesnâ€™t quite deliver.
EPoX has cut a few corners on this motherboard, although this has helped keep the cost down. As a result the 8RDA3G is the cheapest nForce2 based board on test.
The first thing missing is the MCP-T, which means that there is no hardware support for Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. EPoX has however tried to make up for this by including a C-Media CMI9739A audio codec that offers software Dolby Digital 5.1 support. But this means that the CPU will be doing the Dolby Digital decoding instead of the MCP-T.
The other omission is the lack of S-ATA support, although this is not natively supported by the nVidia chipset, it is still a feature all the other boards apart from Biostar and Gigabyte offer. On the plus side, the 8RDA3G offers dual 10/100Mbit LAN, one being the integrated nVidia and the other from Realtek.
As with the DFI NFII Ultra this makes the 8RDA3G a good platform for Internet connection sharing if you have an Ethernet based broadband modem.
EPoX has also fitted a Firewire controller that is capable of supporting three ports, although the supplied bracket only features two ports. There are no serial ports around the back of the board, but you get one on a separate bracket together with a game port. There are also four USB 2.0 ports around the back and an internal connector for two more, but no bracket is supplied.
As with most EPoX motherboards this one features Post80 debug LEDs that can help you locate any problems that might occur with the board.
The supplied documentation is similar to that of the 8KRA2+ and is very technical, although not that helpful to inexperienced users. The software bundle is also the same as that of the 8KRA2+, which includes a copy of PC-cillin 2002 and Norton Ghost.
As we stated in the beginning of the review, the 8RDA3G took the top place in Sysmark 2002 and managed to put in some excellent numbers in the rest of the benchmarks. If raw performance is all you want then the 8RDA3G might just be what youâ€™re looking for and at the asking price itâ€™s hard to fault.
Overall this is a quality motherboard that falls a bit short on features. But with an amazing price tag and excellent performance, we have to recommend this board to anyone who canâ€™t afford the DFI or Leadtek boards.