Abit AW8-MAX i955X Motherboard

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Looking back over the course of PC history, as processor clock speeds have risen, we've seen larger and typically louder heatsinks, fans, and other cooling measures implemented, with the singular goal of keeping temperatures in check.  Some would say it's a small price to pay for the performance gained, but an increasing number of PC users are looking for ways to keep temps down without all of the extra noise.  

Abit has long been using the OTES name for the customized cooling components installed on their motherboards.  And their latest release, the AW8-MAX, combines a number of new methods that are effective, yet produce no noise.  Based on the i955X chipset, the AW8-MAX is situated at the top of the Intel food-chain, offering support for dual-core CPUs, DDR2-667 memory, SATA-II RAID configurations, and on-board 7.1 channel hi-def audio.  What makes the board stand out from the others are the innovative cooling concepts employed, such as a heatpipe running from the Northbridge to an externally located radiator, and specially designed copper heat strips placed within the board itself.  These methods are all passive, meaning no fans are used in the cooling process, which keeps the noise down.  Abit is also well known for their overclocking potential, so it will be interesting to see if their OTES cooling system helps or hinders our attempts with the AW8-MAX.  There's only one way to find out...

       

       
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Specifications of the Abit AW8-MAX Motherboard
It's full steam ahead for the i955x Express
Processor
- Supports Socket 775 for Intel
Pentium 4 / Pentium 4 EE / Pentium D / Pentium XE / Celeron D processors
- Supports 1066/800MHz FSB
- Supports Intel
Hyper-Threading / XD-bit / EM64T / EIST Technology

Chipset
- Intel 955X / Intel ICH7R Express Chipset

Memory
- Four 240-pin DIMM sockets
- Supports Dual channel DDR2 667/533 Un-buffered Non-ECC memory
- Supports maximum memory capacity up to 8GB

PCI-E Gigabit LAN
- On board Dual PCI-E Gigabit LAN controller supports 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet


PCI-E X16 graphic
- Delivers up to 8GB/s per direction for 3.5 times more bandwidth than AGP8X

SATAII 3G 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 3G
- On board Silicon Image PCIE SATA 3G RAID controller

IEEE 1394
- Supports 2 ports IEEE 1394b at 800Mb/s transfer rate and 1 port 1394a

Audio (Dolby Master Studio Support)
- Abit AudioMAX HD 7.1 channels Intel High Definition Audio with Dolby Master Studio
- Supports auto jack sensing and optical S/PDIF In/Out

ABIT Engineered
- ABIT uGuru™ 2005 Technology (ABIT OC Guru / ABIT EQ / ABIT Flash Menu / ABIT Black Box)
- ABIT CPU ThermalGuard™ Technology
- ABIT AudioMAX HD 7.1 Technology


Internal I/O Connectors
- 1 x PCI-E X16 slot, 2 x PCI-E X1 slots
- 2 x PCI slots
- 1 x AudioMAX slot
- 1 x Floppy port
- 1 x UDMA 100/66/33 connector
- 6 x SATA connectors
- 2 x USB 2.0 headers, 2 x IEEE1394b headers
- 1 x FP-Audio header, 1 x CD-IN


Back Panel I/O
- ABIT SilentOTES™ Technology
- 1 x IEEE1394a
- 1 x PS/2 keyboard, 1 x PS/2 mouse
- 4 x USB 2.0
- 2 x RJ-45 Gigabit LAN

Dimensions

- ATX form factor 305 x 245mm




The Bundle: For a board that comes with many integrated features, we expect that a healthy dose of reading will be needed to document how to use it all.  The AW8-MAX bundle has two User's Manuals; one for the board itself, and another that clearly describes how to use the various software components that truly make the package complete.  For a quick setup or refresher, another booklet covers basic installation steps and jumper settings with a handy decal that graphically displays some of the same information.  The decal can be applied to the inside of a sliding chassis door or another in-sight location for later reference.  Of course, there's a CD-ROM that contains the software needed to get the AW8-MAX up and running, including the device drivers and a few proprietary titles from Abit that we will take a look at later.

Abit was no slouch when it came to supplying the various cables for installation of the AW8-MAX either.  There were rounded cables for both P-ATA and floppy drives, which may almost be considered legacy devices in today's modern setups.  The focus instead is on SATA, as Abit has provided 6 SATA data cables, all with retention clips meant to provide a sturdier connection to the drive and motherboard.  To supply power to these drives, two SATA splitter cables were also thrown into the bundle, although most modern PSU's come with at least one set of SATA cables standard.  Rounding out the package were a bracket with USB and FireWire headers, an optical audio cable, and a specialized I/O shield, with an open grating to accommodate the OTES cooling.

 

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