Holiday Buyer's Guide 2006, Part 1: PC Components

For Core 2 Extreme: Universal Abit AW9D-Max

The AW9D-Max is Abit's high-end offering for Intel platforms. It is based on Intel's 975X chipset and supports all current processors at up to FSB1066 speeds, including Celeron, Pentium 4, Pentium D and Core 2 Duo. Universal Abit focused on highest-quality components and overclocking, which makes the board a perfect candidate for Intel's Core 2 Extreme processor.

You need two DDR2-800 memory modules to get the system going, and two x16 PCI Express slots are available to power a pair of graphics cards. However, you need ATI cards to run dual graphics modes (running x8 link speed each). Seven SATA/300 ports are available to connect your hard drives, and an eighth port is available as an eSATA (external SATA) port for high-speed external storage devices. Abit integrated two Firewire/1394a ports and two Gigabit Ethernet controllers as well as eight USB 2.0 ports for maximum connectivity, and there is an AudioMax High Definition audio chip.

Thanks to Abit's µGuru technology, overclocking is a piece of cake. Cooling is accomplished by a heat pipe design, which the vendor calls Silent OTES 2. Similar to what Gigabyte did, this design connects the Northbridge, Southbridge and the voltage regulators. Thanks to this implementation, we found the board to be extremely overclockable - but be prepared to fork out at least $229 for this premium product.