Abit IT7-Max2 i845E Motherboard

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The Abit IT7Max2 i845E Motherboard - Page 2

The Abit IT7-Max2 i845E Motherboard
A New Addition to Abit's "Legacy-Free" Product Line...

By, Marco Chiappetta
December 5, 2002

Quality and Setup of the Abit IT7-MAX2
Straying From the Norm...

       

Just by looking at the IT7-MAX2's black PCB, it's obvious Abit put considerable thought into this board's design and layout.  Even with the wide array of integrated components, Abit equipped the IT7-MAX2 with four PCI slots, along with the obligatory AGP slot, which should allow for plenty of expansion.  In the external I/O ports on the back plane, six of the available USB ports are visible, along with the PS/2, LAN, IEEE-1394 (Firewire) and audio connectors.  We should note that some of the USB ports are powered by VIA's VT6202 controller, the IEEE-1394 controller is made by Ti, and Realtek's ALC650, and 8100B 10/100 controllers handle the audio and Ethernet duties.

       

ATA/133 RAID and Serial-ATA functionality is handled by High-Point's excellent HPT374 controller  We have tested quite a few different IDE RAID controllers and to this point, the HPT374 has been the most impressive.  As you'll see later, RAID 0 performance was very good with the IT7-MAX2.  Until we're able to appropriate some Serial-ATA hard drives, we can't comment on the board's Serial-ATA capabilities, but remember that Abit included a Serillel adapter that allows the use of standard IDE drives on the Serial-ATA controller.  Just below the IDE RAID connectors, the very useful POST debugger LEDs are visible.  These LEDs generate codes that make diagnosing some hardware related issues a breeze.  In the event of a problem, simply look up the debug code being displayed in the included manual and you'll know which subsystem is malfunctioning.  Abit has also installed two, small reset and power switches on the IT7-MAX2.  These switches are useful for testing a board prior to taking the time to mount it a case.

There is also plenty of room around the CPU socket, so installing an oversized CPU cooler should not be a problem.  The Northbridge is cooled by a large aluminum heatsink, held in place by a strong metal clip.  We normally prefer active cooling on the Northbridge, but throughout testing the passive heatsink barely got warm to the touch.  Simply put, active cooling would have been overkill.  Overall, we were very pleased with connector placement, and, as you can see in some of the shots above, all of the ports and headers are clearly labeled on the IT7-MAX2.

THE BIOS:

                 

                 

The Abit  IT7-MAX was equipped with a very complete Phoenix / Award v.6.0 BIOS derivative.  All of the standard BIOS menus are visible above.  From within the BIOS, all of the on-board components can be enabled or disabled, something users who plan on installing high-end audio or NIC card will be happy to know.  There are also a slew of options for tweaking memory timings for optimum performance, that allow CAS latency settings as low as 1.5.  User's worried about overheating can also set a specific shut-down temperature, and can even specify what percentage to throttle down their CPU should things get a little too toasty...

           

Something else we were happy to find in the IT7-MAX2's BIOS was Abit's popular SoftMenu III.  Within the SoftMenu III, users can adjust the FSB (Front Side Bus) between 100 and 250MHz in 1MHz increments.  The IT7-MAX2 also has a wide assortment of dividers that allow for better stability at higher bus speeds, but the most useful feature allows users to lock the PCI clock at 33, 37 or 44MHz, regardless of what FSB is being used.  This feature will no doubt make this board a favorite amongst hardcore overclockers.  Another great "feature" gives users the ability to run their memory using a 4:5 bus to memory speed ratio.  Using the 4:5 setting in conjunction with a 133MHz FSB, effectively runs the memory at 172MHz (+33%), or DDR354.  This is a feature designed to allow owners of CPU with 100MHz FSB to run their memory at DDR266 speeds, but luckily it works with any CPU that is installed.  The Vcore and DDR voltages are also user adjustable, but unfortunately the I/O voltage cannot be altered.  The Vcore can be set as high as 1.7v in .25v increments, which is a little low, but we suspect future BIOS upgrades will change this limit.  The DDR memory voltage can be set to any voltage between 2.5v and 2.8v in .1v increments.

OVERCLOCKING:

We had very good luck overclocking our 2.4GHz "Northwood" P4 on the IT7-MAX2.  With the Vcore voltage set to its 1.7v maximum, we slowly raised the FSB until the system was no longer stable.  We hit our limit at an FSB of 160MHz, which brought our CPU up to 2.87GHz.  This was the highest we have ever been able to take this particular CPU with simple air-cooling (so far only the MSI 845E Max2 and IT7-MAX2 have been able to take this CPU that high).  Actually, we were able to boot into Windows with a 168MHz FSB, but the system could not reliably complete any benchmarks.  We'd be willing to bet that breaking the 3GHz barrier would have been possible had we been using a more exotic cooling solution.

Overclocking & Some Numbers

Tags:  Motherboard, X2, Abit, board, AR

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