ABIT AA8 DuraMAX Closeup
Esthetically, ABIT's new AA8 DuraMAX is a sharp-looking board laid out in orange PCB material. The build quality of the board is excellent, and ABIT has brought back their patented overclocking strips to supposedly bring stability around the CPU socket area during overclocks. You can see these in a few of the shots below. They are the thicker solder plated strips around the socket area by the array components.
The board has a dense back I/O panel configuration with a 7.1 Surround Sound setup, along with mic in, line in and line out jacks, and SPDIF for pure digital connections. The panel also has four USB ports, Gigabit Ethernet, printer, PS2 mouse and keyboard, serial and Firewire ports.
There are four DDR2 DIMM sockets that support up to 4GB of RAM, which is more than enough for all but high-end server configurations. Additionally, ABIT decided to add a bit of "bling" to their design with a custom fansink on the i925X Northbridge that is carved out to the shape of the company name and logo. This sink did a good job of cooling the Northbridge chip under load, and the fan was relatively quiet.
Realtek's RTL8110 chip provides a single Gig-E link, and Windbond's Health Monitoring chip allows for system vital sign status such as temps and fan speeds. Additionally, in one the shots above, we see a new PLL chip for the Alderwood platform from IDT (Integrated Device Technology). IDT's new PC and Server PLL clock products have been showing up in more and more Intel-based designs, along with the old standby ICS chips that many Taiwanese OEMs have been using for years.
ABIT also includes a diagnostic alphanumeric LED readout for system error diags. This is a nice feature that adds a bit more intelligence versus the standard single LED diag setups we've seen in the past.
Finally, component placement on this motherboard is very clean, with plenty of keep-out area around the CPU socket and good placement of the various connector types for power, drives, and fans. Users should be able to configure neat and orderly cable routing schemes inside most ATX chassis.