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ABIT FATAL1TY AA8XE — a Motherboard Based on Intel 925XE Chipset

April 5, 2005




It's no secret that gamers, who try to keep up with the ever increasing requirements to system resources, make up a significant share of people buying hardware for desktop PCs. That's why it's not surprising that Abit decided to sign a contract with a famous figure in the world of virtual sport, namely Johnathan (Fatal1ty) Wendel. This alliance has yielded fruit — a series of computer hardware under the title Abit Fatal1ty, which should draw gamers' attention to Abit products. In fact, there have appeared only motherboards with the nick of this famous gamer so far. The first such model is Abit Fatal1ty AA8XE.

As soon as you have a look at the package (which is not only beautiful but rather convenient as well, by the way), you will see right away that this motherboard is designed specially for gamers and modding fans. The same impression is produced when you install this motherboard into a PC case and press the Power button. The abundance of red illumination and the overall blood-red color of the motherboard blend with its title, which produces a complete picture of a concept product "born to kill". The abundance of coolers is also striking (5 of them), they cool all this splendour. Despite the number of coolers, the overall noise background is not that high. But nobody will guarantee that in six months, when they wear out a little, you system unit will not resemble a turbine of a taking off plane.








Good PCB layout, a lot of field-effect transistors in the CPU voltage regulator, a lateral IDE slot, lack of the usual queue of connectors along the bottom edge of the motherboard — everything produces a very nice impression. It's just that the FDD connector is located right at the bottom edge of the PCB. So the FDD cable may fail to reach a floppy drive in a high tower. However, is a floppy drive such a critical thing these days? Extra room on the motherboard due to small PCI-E x1 slots definitely has a good effect on the PCB layout. Access to some of the jumpers may be hampered when the motherboard is in a case, there in no brief description of their functions on the PCB. The motherboard is equipped with a POST code display in the form of two seven-segment LEDs. A plastic air-duct near the processor socket is a tad irritating, it hampers cooler installation. The 4-phase switching voltage regulator of the processor incorporates four 1000 uF capacitor, five 680 uF capacitors, and several ones of a lesser capacitance. The motherboard also contains voltage regulators for PCI-E x16 (four 1000 uF capacitors reinforced with L elements) and memory (eight 1000uF capacitors reinforced with L elements). Abit seems to try and implement some BTX form factor ideas of air flow control inside a PC case with its fan on the vertically installed Northbridge heatsink.

The PCB contains no empty seats for chips and connectors. Motherboard dimensions — 305x245 mm (full-sized ATX, nine-screw mount, all motherboard edges are firmly fixed). It should be noted that Abit Fatal1ty is an obvious leader in system monitoring due to µGURU.

System monitoring (Winboard W83627H-AW):

  • CPU voltage, memory voltage, FSB voltage, 3.3V, 5V, 12V 5V Standby
  • RPM of 5 fans
  • CPU temperature (by the embedded CPU sensor). Automatic power off at overheating
  • Board temperature (by the on-board sensor)
  • Memory temperature
  • Temperature of the CPU voltage regulator

Onboard ports, sockets, and connectors:

  • Processor socket (Socket LGA775, for Intel Pentium 4, Prescott/Gallatin, Intel Celeron (Prescott), Pentium 4 Extreme Edition)
  • 4 x DDR2 SDRAM DIMM (up to 4 GB DDR2 400/533/600/667)
  • 1 x PCI Express (x16) (with a latch)
  • 2 x PCI Express (x1)
  • 2 x PCI
  • One connector for a bracket with 6 x audio
  • Power connectors: 24-pin ATX and 4-pin for 12 V
  • 1 x FDD
  • 1 x UltraDMA100/66/33 Bus Master IDE (supporting up to 2 ATAPI devices)
  • 4 x SerialATA 150 supporting RAID 0, 1, and Matrix RAID
  • Connector for a bracket with a network socket
  • 1 x CD/DVD audio connector
  • Connector for a bracket with a COM port
  • Headers for a bracket with additional Audio-Outs and S/PDIF-In/Out
  • 2 connectors for a bracket with 2 additional FireWire ports
  • 2 connectors for brackets with 4 additional USB (2.0) ports
  • 5 x fan (all of them have rpm control, one of them is 4-pin — for a CPU cooler).

Back panel (left to right, blockwise)




  • 1 x IEEE1394a
  • PS/2 mouse and keyboard
  • 2 x USB and 1 x RJ-45 (Intel Gigabit Ethernet)
  • 2 x USB and 1 x RJ-45 (Intel 10/100 Mbit/sec)



  • 6 x Audio (Center/Sub, Rear, Side, Mic-In, Line-In, Front) on a special board installed to a special slot.

Package Contents




Package Contents:

  • Package: originally designed box
  • Documentation: User's manual and µGURU guide in English, a short motherboard installation and configuration guide in 20 languages, including Russian
  • Cables: 1 x ATA 66/100/133 and an FDD cable — both are black with company logo, 4 x Serial ATA
  • SP-DIF cable
  • Rear panel bracket with 2 x USB and 2 x FireWire
  • Rear I/O shield
  • Floppy with SATA RAID drivers
  • RamFlow cooling system
  • CD with software:
    • Motherboard drivers
    • User's manual in PDF format
    • Adobe Acrobat Reader
    • ABIT FlashMenu
    • ABIT µGURU
    • DirectX 9.0b

Peculiarities:

  • ABIT µGURU (system finetuning).
  • VRM active cooling system.
  • Memory active cooling system.

Integrated Controllers:

  • Audio, based on HDA codec Realtek ALC880 supporting 7.1 channel audio, with front line-in/out and S/PDIF
  • IEEE 1394 controller based on the TSB 43 AB 23 chip
  • Network, based on 10/100 features of Intel 82562EZ chipset
  • Network, based on Gigabit Ethernet features of Intel 82541 PI chipset.

The integrated audio quality was tested in 16bit, 44 kHz using the RightMark Audio Analyzer 5.4 test application and the Terratec DMX 6fire sound card:

Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB:
+0.14, -0.27
Good
Noise level, dB (A):
-81.6
Good
Dynamic range, dB (A):
79.9
Average
THD, %:
0.0049
Very good
Intermodulation, %:
0.026
Good
Channel crosstalk, dB:
-80.7
Very good

General performance: Good (Details).

Proprietary technologies

  • ABIT µGURU (system finetuning).

Settings

Jumpers and switches Clear CMOS jumper
Jumpers to enable system wake up on USB devices
PS/2 keyboard power jumper
In Award BIOS v6.00PG
Memory timings CAS Latency, RAS Precharge, RAS to CAS Delay, RAS Act. To Precharge Delay, Write Recovery Time
Memory frequency selection
Auto, DDR2-400, DDR2-533
PCI-E bus setup
-
PCI bus setup
-
PCI/PCI-E frequency divider setup
PCI-E = Auto, 99—255 MHz at 1 MHz steps
PCI = 33.33 MHz, 36.36 MHz, 40.00 MHz, Auto (modify in accord with the PCI-E frequency), CPU (modify in accord with the FSB frequency)
PCI IRQ manual assignment
-
FSB frequency setup
100—400 MHz at 1 MHz steps
CPU multiplier
X12—x13
CPU core voltage control
-
Memory voltage control
-
Chipset voltage control
-
PCI-E bus voltage control
-

We used BIOS AA8_13.b00, the latest available BIOS version at the time of our tests.

Performance

Abit Fatal1ty AA8XE demonstrates good test results, which is quite expectable from a high end motherboard. We liked the impeccable stable operation of this motherboard. Differences between motherboards' test results are insignificant, so it's hard to say for sure which motherboard is faster. And a couple of seconds must not play a pivotal role when choosing one of these motherboards.

Test
Foxconn 925XE7AA (DDR2 533)
ASUS P5AD2-E Premium (DDR2 533)
Abit Fatality AA8XE (DDR2 533)
MSI 925XE Neo Platinum Edition (DDR2 533)
Archiving with 7-Zip, min:sec
7:53
7:53
7:33
7:34
Memory read rate, MB/sec
2978
3021
2995
2992
Memory write rate, MB/sec
1246
1362
1230
1220
MPEG4 (XviD) encoding, min:sec
5:25
5:43
5:24
5:25
MPEG 4/DIVX Encoding, min:sec
3:57
4:14
3:56
3:56
Processing images in Photoshop, min:sec
35:20
35:16
34:30
34:36
UT 2004 (Fast@800x600x32), fps
69
67
69
68
UT 2004 (High@1280x1024x32), fps
64
63
65
64

Conclusions

Abit Fatal1ty AA8XE — is specially designed for professional gamers who have heard of Johnathan Wendel. Though, even if you are worlds apart from cybersport, you should pay your attention to this motherboard — aside from its title and illuminating bijouterie, it's an excellent product, which will certainly do fine for a state-of-the-art high-performance computer.

References




Senchihin Vladimir (sench@ixbt.com)
April 5, 2005


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