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Big Business: 18 P4 boards In Price / Performance Face-Off

AOpen AX4PE Max

Board Revision: ?

BIOS version: 1.1b (May 23, 2003)

The AX4PE Max package is so full of accessories, the little box in which it is delivered seems like it's about to burst open by itself. In addition to a very good manual and quick-start guide for installation, drivers, Norton Anti-Virus 2003, and a Serial ATA driver diskette, there are also two IDE cables and a floppy cable, a FireWire adapter, a USB adapter, and an audio adapter, which provides both optical and coaxial digital input and output.

The hardware included is extremely generous too. There are six PCI slots on the board, although there are plenty of components available on-board too: a network controller from Realtek, sound system from Realtek, Die-Hard-BIOS (2nd Flash ROM), FireWire controller from Texas Instruments, an IDE and SATA-RAID chip from Promise, and a CNR slot.

The AX4PE Max is the only board that got perfect marks for completeness. The board allows time-controlled startup of the computer (wake-on-timer), offers a case opening sensor, an infrared port, and a piezo speaker.

Even the BIOS is done right. This board handles overclocking with style, can be booted from the USB drive, and moreover, offers various AOpen features like the CD player integrated into the BIOS (playback without starting the operating system) and SilentTek, the manual or dynamic fan control for reducing operating noise.

The performance is not as impressive as its list of functions, but is a starter among 845PE boards and overall makes it into the upper half quality-wise. Unfortunately this is made possible in part by the slight overclocking of the system (536 rather than 533 MHz FSB speed), which we had to reveal under our fair-testing procedures.

Although the AX4PE Max is the third-most-expensive board in this comparison, it does offer many features. Aopen, however, succeeds in the domain of feature generosity.

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