Athlon64 Boards Found Lagging in Memory Support


Board Revision: 1.1

BIOS Version: November 27, 2003

Unfortunately, the KV8-MAX3 did not arrive in time for the first Athlon motherboard test. As it turned out, this was a loss, as Abit has not scrimped on features.

Like most of its rivals, Abit has opted for VIA's K8T800 chipset, which is certainly a good choice. There are five PCI slots on the board and the AGP slot; there is plenty of room in between to insert a graphics card with a large cooler as well.

Abit has also given some thought to the placement of other components. If the floppy connection is not needed, all five slots can be equipped with long PCI cards. The four additional SATA ports of the Silicon Image Controllers Sil3114 are not exactly ideally positioned on the bottom edge of the board, but can be used without any problems due to the very flexible and up to one-meter-long cable. Unfortunately, this controller cannot be deactivated - Windows always finds it and wants to be operated with drivers.

An interesting feature is the placement of the Northbridge, as the module is located between the processor and the back panel. Unfortunately, there is also a fan on it, which increases the noise level. However it is probably indispensible for enthusiasts and overclockers. In doing so, Abit has provided a well thought-out cooling solution for the system and the processor, namely OTES.

This is a plastic hood, which is placed over the components to be cooled, together with a fan which can immediately extract the heated surrounding air. The plastic hood operates the voltage transformers (high qualilty four-phase modules) in the case of the KV8-MAX3 and leaves a big opening in order to also extract the exhaust air from the processor cooler. The fan for this is located on the left side of the back panel (see photo below).

As far as benchmarks go, Abit is in contention, but never reaches the top ranks. A BIOS reset produces the curious feature that the system has to be started with a mega 204 MHz HyperTransport clock pulse, which has to be reduced again manually. Another deficit is the lack of Cool & Quiet support, which could reduce the clock speed of the processor at times when there is little activity to 800 MHz, in order to minimize power loss and to facilitate lower fan speeds.

With a Gigabit Ethernet, a total of three firewire ports, intelligent fan control, a debug system (port 80 unit), good overclocking skills, the hard disk encryption Secure IDE (see photos), a luxurious range of accessories and the management system christened by Abit as µGuru (overclocking, monitoring, fan control, etc.), it should be a winner at any rate.

The fan on the left is designed to extract the waste heat from the processors and the voltage transformers and remove it from the system. It isn't loud, but, when combined with the fan on the Northbridge, the processor fan and another one in the mains power supply, the noise level is inevitably discernible.