A Closer Look at the Abit AL8 945P
The AL8 comes equipped with a ton of integrated peripherals, some not commonly found on most 945P motherboards. The AL8 supports all current LGA775 dual-core Pentium D and Pentium 4 processors with 1066, 800 and 566MHz FSB speeds. The board also sports ABIT's OC strips, which are copper strips situated on the underside of the board to help draw heat away from the underside of CPU socket. The Northbridge is equipped with a custom Abit cooler, which is essentially active cooling with a vertically mounted fan that draws air across the chipset, exhausting in the direction of the CPU before exiting the case through the PSU and/or case fan. The ICH7R Southbridge is backed with a stylish passive cooling heatsink that is more for show than functionality, as the ICH7R doesn't typically get very warm at all. In the end, these features clearly show the AL8 is designed to be overclocked, which is something we'll test for sure in the pages ahead.
With four DDR2 DIMM slots, the AL8 can support up to 4GB of dual-channel DDR2 clocked at 667 and 533MHz. The AL8 offers a fair amount of expansion flexibility as well with two PCI slots, three PCI Express 1x slots and a PCI Express 16x slot for graphics support. Storage is handled by both the ICH7R and Silicon Image PCIE SATAII 3G RAID. The ICH7R brings support for RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10 along with native command queuing and hot-swap capability with a total of four SATAII ports. The Silicon Image controller drives two additional SATAII ports situated oddly near the CPU and Northbridge, capable of RAID 0 and 1, adding to the board's overall RAID capabilities.
The AL8 brings Intel HD 7.1 integrated audio to the table, with excellent input and output options. The rear console has Line-In, Line-Out and Mic ports as well as Forward, Rear and Center Channel outputs. Additionally, the AL8 provides a SPIDF-01 port for optical output while a second SPIDF-11 port provides optical input. There was also standard PS/2, serial and parallel ports for legacy support, while four USB and one IEEE1394 ports are also provided. The AL8 also comes equipped with integrated Gigabit Ethernet driven by a Broadcom LAN controller.
To help with troubleshooting, ABIT provided a post code LED display which helps diagnose the nature of abnormal behavior. By cross referencing the code with a master list in the back of the User's Manual, the LED display can be a real asset when problems arise. The goal is to never need the LED, but when that day comes when you turn on your system and get a black screen, the LED feature can be an invaluable tool in helping determine what the problem is.
Rounding out the AL8's features in ABITs GURU processor that works in conjunction with the ABIT uGuru utility as well as a dedicated BIOS menu to offer advanced control and monitoring capabilities. What is even more impressive is ABIT's latest feature, the uGuru Clock, which is an optional component that allows you to monitor board health and overclock the system externally. This facilitates the ability to apply overclocking settings while running a game, without needing to exit to Windows to make the changes. The uGuru clock is optional, and comes standard with the AL8-3rd Eye II model.