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Life in the Fast Lane: New Boards for the Athlon 64

Conclusion: Abit And MSI Take The Lead

One thing that's always important for running a modern system - whether based on the Athlon 64 or Pentium 4 - is a sufficiently high-capacity power supply. For this reason, more and more motherboard makers already demand a device based on the ATX 2.0 standard. The plugs on these supplies have 24 instead of 20 connections, giving them the capacity to deal with the greatly increased requirements of systems created in the last few years. Power supplies based on ATX 1.3 also work in the larger sockets, but may lead to problems that cannot always be traced back to them.

Before telling you our decision, we have to congratulate all the manufacturers of boards in this test, as none of the candidates presented us with problems with regard to stability. In fact, all makers now offer useful overclocking options, which can generally clock up the speed of an average Athlon 64 to good effect. Apart from the Jetway and the small board from Winfast, the system clock speed, multiplier and CPU core voltage can be changed on all the boards. A Gigabit network chip, a surround sound system and lots of options for connecting hard drives and DVD devices are included across the board.

Jetway, MSI and Winfast still offer four PCI slots, which is certainly a buying argument for folks looking to upgrade. Three PCI slots are usual, but Abit, DFI and the Winfast board in µATX have only two. Jetway, meanwhile, was the only company to send us a board with an integrated graphics unit, which is adequate for the odd game or two. We still anticipate this board together with the Chaintech's VNF4 Ultra will be the cheapest available. DFI offers the option of controlling up to four displays through the use of two graphics cards. Albatron and MSI provide a x4 PCIe port for operating high-grade storage controllers.

At the end of day, two motherboards receive our recommendation: both the Abit Fatal1ty AN8 and MSI K8N Neo4 Platinum Edition offer well-appointed and flexible boards based on top-grade components. These units shine above all through their range of functions and overclocking abilities - the wealth of experience of both manufacturers in the enthusiast market is obvious.