As we move into the third quarter of 2005, dual-core processors are gaining ground in the mainstream market. Both Intel and AMD now offer competing dual-core processors in the form of AMD's Athlon X2, and Intel's Pentium D and Pentium Extreme Edition. As we've touched on in recent articles, AMD's strength lies in their backward compatibility with existing platform hardware, while their price can be a bit steep for some higher-clocked models. On the flip-side, some of Intel's Pentium D processors come in at an attractive price point, well within reach of users on a more reserved budget, but may have other hardware upgrade implications. Intel's Pentium Extreme Edition weighs in as the priciest of all dual-core desktop processors, averaging over $1000 each, making it a tough sell for most.
Being the most attainable price wise, the Pentium D is an attractive option for some consumers, as are the wide variety of 945 chipset based motherboards that have recently hit the market. While the 845 chipset is marketed to the average user and corporate workstation crowd, as of late, we've seen several quality options come along from Gigabyte, Foxconn and now ABIT, all of which bring some high-end enthusiast class features to the table.
The latest 945 based product to reach our test bench comes in the form of the ABIT AL8. Along with support for the Pentium D and all Pentium and Celeron single core offerings, the AL8 aims to deliver best-of-class performance with a host of advanced features...
- Designed for Intel Pentium 4 / Pentium D LGA775 processors with 1066/800/533MHz FSB
- Supports Intel Hyper-Threading / XD-bit / EM64T / EIST Technology
- Intel 945P / Intel ICH7R Express Chipset
- Four 240-pin DIMM sockets
- Supports Dual channel DDR2 667/533 Un-buffered Non-ECC memory
- Supports maximum memory capacity up to 4GB
PCI-E X16 graphic
- Delivers up to 8GB/s per direction for 3.5 times more bandwidth than AGP8X
SATA 3Gb/s RAID
- Intel Matrix Storage Technology supports RAID 0/1/5/10
- Supports SATA AHCI, providing native command queuing and native hot plug
2nd PCIE SATA 3Gb/s
- On board Silicon Image PCIE SATA 3GB/s RAID controller
- On board PCI-E Gigabit LAN controller supports 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet
- Supports 2 ports IEEE 1394a at 100/200/400Mb/s transfer rate
In typical ABIT fashion, the retail packaging accompanying the AL8 is well organized, and full of accessories. With regards to software and documentation, the AL8 comes well equipped, with a detailed User's Manual, oversized Quick Installation manual, and a another User's Manual that covers the AL8's complementary software. A quick reference case sticker is also provided to help quickly reference the board's jumpers and case connections, without having to locate the User's Manual. Lastly, ABIT includes the necessary RAID drivers on two floppy disks as well as an Installation CD that includes drivers for the AL8's chipset, Gigabit Ethernet and integrated audio as well as several proprietary software titles that we'll touch on shortly.
When we look at the other components included in the retail packaging, we find that ABIT bundled a good collection of items to help end-users make full use of the AL8's features. Along with a standard Floppy and IDE ribbon cable, ABIT provided four SATA cables and a SATA power splitter. Additionally, an I/O shield was included as well as a case bracket that connects to the board's USB and FireWire headers to add two more USB ports and two FireWire ports.