Abit's Fatal1ty AA8XE
Over the years, Abit has cultivated a well deserved reputation for building some of the most overclockable, and feature rich motherboards available. So, anytime a new core-logic chipset is released, knowledgeable enthusiasts inevitably wonder what Abit has in store. Abit tends to incorporate features that make their motherboards stand out among the competition. Usually they are extremely "overclocker friendly", or in some cases, Abit will innovate and try something new before most other motherboard manufactures are ready to test the waters.
Abit took a bold step in 2002 with their IT7 and AT7 "MAX" motherboards, that did away with legacy serial, parallel, and PS/2 connectors, but included a "Media XP" adapter to install in a 5.25" drive bay and gave users access to front mounted USB 2.0, IEEE 1394 ports and a wireless remote control. And with the IC7-MAX3, released about a year later, Abit incorporated an exhaust fan that helped cool the board's power array. Today, Abit has a new line of motherboards endorsed by world-class gamer Johnathan "Fatal1ty" Wendel that are both aesthetically pleasing and designed with overclocking and stability in mind. The first "Fatal1ty" branded board to arrive in the HotHardware labs is the Fatal1ty AA8XE. The AA8XE is based upon Intel's i925XE chipset which officially supports front side bus speeds as high at 1066MHz, DDR2 RAM, and incorporates Gigabit Ethernet, Hi-Definition Audio, and RAID functionality, as well as other useful features. This board also has a rather unique cooling apparatus installed on the VRM, and is equipped with heatsinks on both the Northbridge and Southbrige. Abit has a few other surprises on tap with the AA8XE as well...
Abit includes an elaborate assortment of accessories, cables and literature with the Fatal1ty AA8XE. Included with the board itself, we found three different user's manuals that outline the installation, features, and RAID functionality of the AA8XE, along with two "Quick Reference" sheets, a note from Johnathan Wendel, an Abit case badge, and a sticker that highlights all of the AA8XE's major components. Also included with the board was a USB/Firewire case bracket with a pair of connectors for both, four red SATA cables, a single 4-pin Molex-to-SATA power adapter, an optical audio cable, two rounded cables (IDE and Floppy), and a custom I/O shield. On top of this adequate batch of accessories, Abit also included two items that aren't quite as common.
The Fatal1ty AA8XE's integrated 7.1 channel Intel Hi-Definition audio, which also supports Dolby Digital Live, is complimented by a mini, daughter card that houses all of the audio inputs and outputs, including S/PDIF and optical connectors. Abit alleges that having these connectors on a separate PCB reduces electrical noise, but the actual codec still resides on the motherboard, so the noise reduction probably isn't all that drastic. Also accompanying the AA8XE was Abit's new "OTES RAMflow" cooler. The OTES RAMflow apparatus is clipped to the DIMM slots, and helps to cool the system memory installed in the board. We applaud the concept, but not this particular implementation. The spring clips that hold the OTES RAMflow in place are quite firm, and can be tough to install. And the fan header for the OTES RAMflow is clear across the motherboard. Abit needs to incorporate another fan header adjacent to the DIMM slots in future revisions of the AA8XE, and may want to devise another method for mounting the RAMflow.