NF4 Ultra Shoot-Out: Abit vs. MSI vs. ECS
The Fatal1ty AN8 is the Socket 939, nForce 4 Ultra based counterpart to the original Abit Fatal1ty AA8XE which was for single-core LGA775 Intel processors. When we reviewed the Fatal1ty AA8XE back in February, we were impressed by its performance, and especially liked the hardware monitoring and overclocking capabilities incorporated into the board. In fact, we gave the AA8XE an Editor's choice award. But, because the Fatal1ty line was targeted squarely at hardcore gamers, at the time we were left wondering when Abit would make a Fatal1ty board for AMD processors. Since then though, Abit has expanded their line of Fatal1ty motherboards, and now has a few Fatal1ty motherboard available for AMD fans.
The Fatal1ty AN8 shipped with an elaborate assortment of accessories, cables and literature. Along with the board itself, we found three different user's manuals that outline the installation, features, and RAID functionality of the AN8. We also found with two "Quick Reference" sheets, a note from Johnathan Wendel, an Abit case badge, and a sticker that highlights the location of all of the AN8'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, two rounded cables (IDE and Floppy), and a custom I/O shield.
There were also a couple of rather unique (at least to Abit) items included with the board. The Fatal1ty AN8s integrated 5.1 channel audio codec is complimented by a mini, daughter card that houses all of the audio inputs and outputs, including S/PDIF and optical connectors. Abit claims that having these connectors on a separate PCB reduces electrical noise, but it also has the side effect of cleaning up the Fatal1ty AN8's backplane.
Also included with the Fatal1ty AN8 was Abit's "OTES RAMflow" cooler. The OTES RAMflow apparatus is clipped to the DIMM slots, and is supposed to help to cool the system memory installed in the board. We like the general idea of the OTES RAMflow, but can't vouch for its effectiveness when installed in a closed mid-tower case that will inevitably be filled with warm air. We're also not too fond of the RAMflow's spring clips. The spring clips that hold the OTES RAMflow in place are quite firm, and can be tough to install.
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