975X Express Motherboard Round-Up: Foxconn, Abit, and MSI
Abit AW9D-MAX: BIOS and Overclocking
In a move typical of ABIT, the AW9D-MAX is equipped with a Phoenix / Award BIOS derivative that is fully loaded with options for tweaking performance and managing all of the motherboard integrated peripherals and features. And the slick black on grey color scheme is a hit on our book too.
After looking at all of the AW9D-MAX's BIOS menus, it's east to understand why ABIT has earned a reputation for configuring its motherboards with some of the most complete BIOSes in the industry. The standard BIOS menus listed above offer all of the tools necessary to enable, disable, or tweak all of the AW9D-MAX's integrated peripherals, but it's in the uGuru Utility menu where all of the hardcore overclocking and health monitoring options are available.
It's in the uGuru Utility where you'll find all of the AW9D-MAX's overclocking tools, which are quite extensive. In the uGuru Utility menu, users can manually adjust bus speeds, RAM dividers, the PCI Express clock and a slew of voltages. The PCI Express clock can be configured manually, and the DDR clock can be set for 533MHz, 667MHz or 800MHz operation. The memory can actually be run even faster without overclocking the CPU by altering the "N/B Strap CPU as" option. Front side bus frequencies as high as 600MHz are available, in 1MHz increments, and the CPU (up to 1.7v), DDR (up to 2.65v) and chipset voltages are all user configurable as well.
The AW9D-MAX's BIOS also gives user's control over all five of the board's thermally-controlled fan headers and it has a slew of hardware monitoring options built-in too. This board has one of the most complete BIOSes you'll likely come across. And if you prefer to stay out of the BIOS, all of the AW9D-MAX's overclocking and monitoring tools are available from within Windows as well. When using the included AbitEQ / uGuru software packages users can overclock and keep tabs on temperatures and voltages from within Windows.
When overclocking with the AW9D-MAX, we followed a similar procedure to the one outlined a few pages back. We dropped the processor's multiplier, lowered the memory speed, and raised the memory, chipset, and processor voltages to 2.2v, 1.6v, and 1.41v, respectively. Then we manually dialed in the PCIe frequency and raised the FSB until the system was no longer stable. In the end, we were able to hit a maximum stable FSB of 390MHz, and a final CPU clock of just over 3.5GHz.