Abit AI7 865PE Motherboard
Not What You Would Expect
The board itself
has a clean layout with a well thought out floor plan.
The board doesn't suffer from any of the common issues found
with motherboard designs. The ATX power connector is
situated nicely on the edge of the board which helps route
the cabling away from the CPU. The Northbridge came
with active cooling to help maintain acceptable temperatures
which is critical, especially when overclocking the AI7.
Notice the position of the CPU socket which allows for
shorter paths to its key components. The AGP slot has
the preferable hinged locking mechanism for keeping the card
seated while adequate spacing was provided to allow the DIMM
hinges to move freely even when a video card is in place.
The board's DIMM slots are situated in banks of two, each
grouping with their own memory channel. With a stick
in one of each bank, Dual Mode is enabled. The AI7 is
equipped with an ample 5 PCI slots which should be more than
sufficient for expansion, especially with the integrated
components included on the board.
Next to the ATX
power connector, the board's IDE connectors are situated yet
the floppy connection was shifted to the edge of the board,
adjacent to the 5th PCI slot. This particular board
comes with dual SATA connectors driven by the Southbridge.
There is a blank space available for an additional SATA
controller with future versions of the AI7. One of the
more useful options on this board is the Post Code Display
which can offer clues if the system is experience errors.
The User's Guide has a full list of common codes that help
to translate what is happening with the system at any given
time. The board has the standard PS2 ports for mouse
and keyboard as well as one LPT1 and one Serial port.
Next to the Serial connection lies two Optical SPDIF
connectors followed by sub-woofer and center channel
outputs. The next cluster housed the Line-In, Line-Out
and Mic connections. The board also has a total of 4
USB ports, a FireWire port and Gigabit Ethernet port.
behind the brawn of the AI7 is a robust Phoneix AwardBIOS.
This version of the popular BIOS has a lot of options
available for manipulating and tweaking the board's
performance. The bulk of the features are located in
the SoftMenu Setup screen which houses most of the advanced
performance settings. This is the first stop for the
overclocker for access to the FSB setting as well as
component voltage controls. The FSB of the AI7 has a
broad range from 100MHz to 412MHz. To help reach the
maximum balance of performance, the CPU voltage can be
adjusted from 1..525v to 1.9v in increments of .25v.
The DDR voltage can be go from 2.5v to a hefty 3.2v in .10
increments while the AGP voltage ranges from 1.5v to 1.65v
in .05 increments. Lastly, the DRAM Ratio can by
adjusted for By SPD, 1:1, 5:4, and 3:2. To round out
the overclocking features was the F8 key for overclocking
the system on the fly, making the settings take effect
instantly. The use of this however is limited since
you won't notice if there is a problem until you attempt to
fully boot the system into the OS..
The Advanced Chipset Features
page has more memory related settings including advanced
timings and AGP aperture settings. For system
performance enhancement, the Game Accelerator option
provides several profiles for increased performance.
The default option is Auto, followed by Turbo, StreetRacer
and F1, with each stage increasing the memory performance by
tightening the timings. The final two options are very
aggressive with few memory modules actually able to run
under these conditions. When everything is all set,
you have the option to save up to 5 BIOS profiles that can
easily be toggled with the F6 and F7 keys.
Overclocking the ABIT AI7 865PE Motherboard
Turning Up the MHz.
Now that we've
covered the standard performance of the ABIT AI7, it's time
to see what extra performance lurked within the heart of the
board. It's no secret that the Pentium 4-C at 2.4GHz
is an excellent overclocker, with typical results exceeding
3GHz. With the AI7, we didn't waste any time, pushing
the FSB to 250MHz at the start and the system booted without
error. We did set the memory divider to 5:4 knowing
that the Kingston HyperX modules would not hit the 500MHz
the 1:1 setting would demand. We continued raising the
FSB until we finally had failures at 270MHz. We could
boot into Windows but most programs would not load and the
system would eventually hang. We toned things down to
265MHz FSB and the system stabilized quite nicely. All
this and we were able to leave the Game Accelerator setting
in "Turbo" mode for the memory timing setup. When we
put this to the test, we loaded Comanche4 and let the
default test run with "No Audio" selected and we saw
performance gains in excess of 25% over the standard results
found on Page 4, hitting 69.71FPS.
Time For Sandra & Futuremark's Finest