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The Boards

The Economical Way to a Pentium 4 System: Five Motherboards with the SiS648 Chipset

AOpen AX45-8X Max

Board Revision: ?

BIOS Version: 0.05E (Sept. 16, 2002)

AOpen has tied an altogether well-executed package toegther with the AX45-8X Max - it can stand out in many ways from the competition. First mention goes to the generous hardware provided: in addition to the basic features (UltraATA/ 133 interface, six PCI slots, USB 2.0, AC97 sound system), AOpen has thrown in another couple of treats. These include the IEEE1394/ FireWire ports, a 100 MB network controller and digital inputs and outputs for the sound system - both optical and coaxial.

Upon closer inspection, experienced users will be sure to notice the connections for floppy and IDE cables. For one thing, they are positioned so low that ribbon cables of average length can hardly reach (assuming you have a large tower case). Furthermore, they also take up the entire area in front of the PCI slots. This makes it more difficult to use long plug-in cards.

In any case, the cooling unit on the Southbridge is useless. At least this makes the board look as if it were faster - which it didn't really need to do, because the AX45-8X Max makes a good showing in our benchmarks.

The overclocking capabilities are also an advantage: the FSB can be set well beyond 200 MHz - this is actually a utopian rate, because in real life the latest Pentium 4 systems become unstable even at 150-160 MHz. In order to ensure that the processor core runs reliably at the increased speed, its voltage can be raised by 0.025V increments.

AOpen has found a good solution to the sensitive issue of the BIOS update: if it becomes necessary, the BIOS can be updated directly in Windows using its own software.

The controller chip by Realtek (RTL 810BL) is a reliable and widely distributed chip. It can work with 10 or 100 Mbits per second.

Optical and coaxial inputs and outputs for the sound system are ready for action for use with this adapter board. This allows for loss-free recording from CD or MD players or playback using high-quality receivers or amplifiers.
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