Fatal1ty AN8 SLI: The Board
The Abit Fatal1ty AN8 SLI has some very distinct physical attributes, like its dark-red PCB, active OTES (Outside Thermal Exhaust System) VRM cooling, and POST code error reporter...
For the most part, the Fatal1ty AN8 SLI has a good layout. There are two PEG (PCI Express Graphics) slots, two PCI Express x1 slots, and two standard PCI slots on the board, plus a custom slot for the proprietary audio riser card pictured on the previous page. The ATX12v and ATX power connectors are located just above the CPU socket, and just behind the 4 DIMM slots, respectively. Follow the front edge of the board, below the ATX power connector, and you'll see the two horizontally mounted IDE connectors, four SATA 3.0Gb ports, and three additional USB headers (the board has a total of 10 USB ports). All of these ports are powered by the nForce 4 chipset. Just below the SATA connectors is the board's useful POST code error reported display, which is a handy tool for diagnosing problems upon initial start-up.
To the left of the POST reporter, along the bottom edge of the board beneath the slots, you'll find the Fatal1ty AN8 SLI's floppy connector and an additional power connector. These two items aren't in ideal locations in our opinion, and may difficult for some users to contend with should their floppy drives be mounted at the top of their case, or if their PSU's cables aren't long enough to reach the bottom of the board without being draped directly over all of the componentry.
The Fatal1ty AN8 SLI's nForce 4 chipset and VRM are both actively cooled. The nForce 4 is adorned with a circular, slim-line copper cooler, that resides just behind the first PEG slot, and the VRM is equipped with a pair of aluminum heatsinks and a fan shroud. At the front of the shroud are two 60mm fans that pull air over the heatsinks and exhaust it from the rear of the system.
Between the two PEG slots you can see another small slot which accommodates the board's SLI PCI Express lane configuration switch. Insert the switch card one way and one of the PEG slots get's configured for full-bandwidth, 16-lane operation, but flip it the other way and the pair of PEG slots each get 8 PCI Express lanes. Newer nForce 4 SLIX16 based motherboards don't require this switch because each PEG slot always has 16 lanes available, and some boards have solid-state switches, but the manual switch card is not an issue to us. Once it's configured properly, you never have to go in and change it unless you change the number of graphics cards in the system
Because the audio ports reside on the AudioMax 7.1 riser card, and the bulk of the real-estate if taken up by the OTES exhaust fans, the Fatal1ty AN8 SLI's I/O backplane is relatively devoid of ports. In the backplane you'll find a pair of PS/2 ports (mouse & keyboard), four USB ports, a single Firewire port, and an RJ-45 Gigabit LAN jack. Firewire functionality comes by way of a Texas Instruments controller, but the USB and Ethernet capabilities are controlled by the nForce 4 chipset.