Things are looking up for ABIT after its recent merger with Universal Scientific Industrial Co. (USI), a large OEM that makes notebooks, desktops and servers for IBM. The merger, which essentially solves the financial problems that started late in 2004, frees up ABIT's mainboard team and allows them to focus on what the company has done so well in the past - that's make enthusiast motherboards that enthusiasts crave.
With boards like the KN9 SLI on the horizon, we are sure that there are exciting times ahead for ABIT's motherboard division. As an enthusiast who's seen ABIT go from one of the greats to a company with so much financial strain, it's great to see the company making steps back toward its roots, by designing motherboards with enthusiasts and overclockers at heart.
Today, we have a look at the company's latest nForce4 SLI implementation, based on NVIDIA's flagship nForce4 SLI x16 platform. The AN8 32X is a board with a few surprises up its sleeve and it shows signs that ABIT is already heading back to the right tracks. The question is, does this board satisfy the needs of the budding hardware enthusiast and go that extra step to cater for the experienced overclocker in one fell swoop? Read on to find out...
ABIT µGuru and Silent OTES technology;
Supports all socket 939 AMD Athlon 64/FX/X2 processors with Cool 'n' Quiet technology;
Four DDR memory slots supporting up to 4GB of DDR400;
Two full-bandwidth PCI-Express x16 slots with SLI support, two PCI-Express x1 slots and two PCI expansion slots;
7.1 channel Realtek ALC850 AC'97 audio with auto jack sensing and optical S/PDIF-In and Out;
NVIDIA SATA II RAID, supporting 0, 1, 0+1, 5 and JBOD;
Silicon Image 3132 PCI-Express SATA II RAID controller supporting RAID 0 and 1;
Support for ten USB2.0 ports (four on back I/O panel and six via on-board pins/expansion brackets);
Two IEEE 1394a Firewire ports;
Two IDE ATA133 connectors;
One floppy drive connector.
Six red 'clip lock' SATA cables;
One black ATA133 cable;
One black single ended floppy cable;
SLI bridge and retention bracket;
Rear I/O bracket;
PCI bracket for two extra USB2.0 ports and two additional IEEE 1394a Firewire ports (6-pin and 4-pin mini-port);
Installation manuals, drivers & utilities CD and floppy disks.
The bundle with the AN8 32X is generally pretty good, but there are a few things that we feel are missing from it. There is a complete complement of 'clip lock' SATA cables - these cables are brilliant. You must think I'm a bit strange getting excited about SATA cables, but these are the dogs dangly bits. To cut a long story short, I've had my fair share of SATA problems in the past, where SATA cables have worked their way loose causing a hard drive that is no longer recognised by the system. The best part of the SATA cables that ABIT has included is that they feature a 'clip lock'. This means that it's virtually impossible for these cables to fall out without the intention to remove them from the drive or board.
The documentation is good and it's great to see that ABIT has included a hard copy of the user manual for its µGuru software suite - that is something that many manufacturers don't seem to do. They'd rather give you a soft copy, or hide the documentation away inside the main motherboard manual. If you're having problems with something, you'd rather not have to look for the solution to the problem. There are also driver disks for the Silicon Image 3132 disk controller and also NVIDIA RAID drivers for both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows.
It's not all high and mighty though, as we feel that ABIT could have included a second (and maybe third) USB2.0 blanking plate, and an additional IDE connector too. We're of the opinion that it's nice to have enough connectors and cables to make use of everything on the motherboard. Having said that, this board is an SLI board so space is at a premium if you're considering running a pair of GeForce 7900 GTX video cards, as they come with dual slot coolers. There simply may not be room on the back of your case for any more than what has been included.