MAX was equipped with a very complete revision of the
Phoenix / Award v.6.0 BIOS that populates most of the
motherboards that are shipping today. We
captured screenshots from within almost every section
so demonstrate just how complete this BIOS really was.
There are toggles for all of the on-board components,
and various settings are available for tweaking memory
for optimum performance.
All of the
more interesting settings can be found under the
SoftMenu III menu. In the SoftMenu III menu,
Abit consolidates all of the most useful overclocking
features. Providing you have an unlocked CPU,
the BIOS on the AT7 allows multiplier adjustments from
5 to 13 in increments of .5. You can also adjust
the FSB (Front Side Bus) in 1MHz increments between
100 and 250MHz. In the past, these excessively
high bus speeds were not a reality, but the AT7 has an
assortment of FSB:AGP:PCI ratios that make hitting
200MHz+ FSBs possible, providing users have high
quality DDR RAM. The FSB/AGP/PCI ratios
available are 3:2:1, 4:2:1 and 5:2:1. The Vcore,
I/O and DDR voltages are also user adjustable.
The Vcore can be altered between 1.1v and 1.85v, in
.25v increments. The I/O voltage can be set to
either 3.5v or 3.65v and the DDR memory voltage can be
set to any voltage between 2.55v and 2.85v, in .1v
increments. At default settings, according the
PC Health status screen, the AT7 was slightly over-volting
our CPU to 1.76v. When we maxed out the Vcore
setting to 1.85v though, the PC Health screen was
"only" reporting 1.82.
Layout and Quality
This Ain't Your
It seems that
Abit put considerable thought into the design and layout
of the AT7 MAX. Physically, there are quite a few
interesting features to point out. When you
initially look at this board, its immediately apparent
that something is different about the AT7...
The first thing we noticed was
the apparent lack of slots on the AT7 MAX. There is
1 AGP slot and 3 PCI slots available on this board.
I know some of you are saying, "Only 3 PCI Slots?"...well,
yes, but keep in mind this board has a ton of useful
integrated features. Looking at the backplane yields
some more "weirdness". As we mentioned earlier, the
MAX branded boards are "Legacy Free", so the PS/2, Serial
and Parallel ports are all gone. Replacing them are
two USB 1.1 ports, four USB 2.0 ports, two IEEE-1394
ports, digital audio output and 5.1 channel analog audio
outputs. There is also a 10/100 Ethernet connector.
Another physical feature that
stands out is the amount of IDE connectors. The
integrated HPT-374 ATA/133 capable RAID controller allows
the connection of up to 8 IDE devices, hence the four
connectors at the lower, left corner of the board.
Two more ATA/133 capable IDE channels come by way of the
VIA Southbridge, bringing the total number of IDE devices
that be connected to the AT7 MAX to 12! The HPT-374
proved to be a great performer too, as you'll see on the
next page. The only legacy feature that found it's
way onto the AT7 MAX is a standard floppy controller, the
connector is placed just below the four IDE RAID
There is ample space around
the Socket A, so fitting an "Alpha Sized" cooler onto this
board should not be a problem. Also visible is the
picture at the left is the 3-Phase power circuitry.
The 3-Phase power circuitry spreads the current load
across 6 M.O.S.F.E.T.s (Metal Oxide Semiconductor Field
Effect Transistor) whereas a 2-Phase array, found on some
other boards, spreads the load over 4 M.O.S.F.E.T.s.
Simply put, less load per component equates to less heat
which in turn yields cleaner power and a longer component
lifespan. Four DIMM slots are available, allowing
for a maximum of 2GB of RAM when using unbuffered DIMMs,
or 3GB using registered DIMMs. ATX Power connector
placement was also very good. The ATX Power
connector is at the top of the board, between the DIMM
slots and Socket A, so the power supply cable won't drape
over your CPU cooler. The Northbridge has an active
cooler, that had a smooth layer of thermal paste applied
(something we were glad to see). Some features not
visible in the above pics are the five 3-Pin fan headers
available at various locations around the board, and LEDs
that show whether or not power is being supplied to the
board. All of the headers are clearly labeled, which
made connecting our case LEDs and switches easy, without
having to open the User's Manual.
Let's Check Out the