The Candidates In Detail
BIOS version: 1.6
At first glance, the IC7-Max3 already looks like an extravagant motherboard that could offer more than the other candidates in a number of ways. Thus we find no less than five fan connections on the board, two of which are already hooked up to provide power to the fans for the Northbridge and OTES.
The name OTES (Outside Thermal Exhaust System) refers to a plastic air duct located above the power converters. The small fan mentioned above is meant to dissipate heat out the back of the computer, and in practice it works quite well. One could argue though about whether the two fans are really necessary, even if they do operate fairly quietly. All you modding fans will like this: the OTES system lights up in green.
A look at the motherboard reveals an amazing variety of features. In addition to the different chipset options, such as Intel Gigabit Ethernet via the CSA interface and two serial ATA ports with RAID functionality, Abit also has a four-channel SATA controller type Sil3114 from Silicon Image implanted. Next to it is a FireWire controller from Texas Instruments, which provides a total of three ports. Unfortunately, these are not yet 1394b capable.
Today, one can safely call the AGP Pro slot unnecessary, as high performance graphics cards like their power supply via additional Molex connectors anyway. The fully functional AC97 sound system is nice though, offering optical digital inputs and outputs.