iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






AOpen AX4SPE Max (i865PE) Mainboard

The board is top in AOpen's line of the i865 based boards, and it's a bit strange that the BIOS version with the PAT support was released last for this model. The board has rich functionality and respective components. The company also offers other i865PE based models but all of them are based on a different PCB and do not support the following peripherals: AX4SPE-L comes without an additional SATA RAID controller and FireWire, AX4SPE-N is also deprived of the chipset support of the Serial ATA (ICH5 south bridge used) and Gigabit LAN (external chip Broadcom 10/100 Mbit), and the entry-level model AX4SPE has no network controller in addition. 

The designers paid special attention to stability of operation and put voltage regulators in the place of FDD and IDE connectors. What also affects handling of the components is that the audio connectors are placed in front of the PCI slots, SATA connectors behind them, and some connectors are crowded along the left edge. Also, it can be difficult to reach some jumpers when the board is already installed. Their functions are indicated on the PCB in very unexpected places which makes difficult to use jumpers without a printed manual. The 4-phase switching voltage regulator incorporates 4 capacitors of 3300 uF, 4 of 1200 uF and several less capacious ones. There are also voltage regulators of the AGP bus (1 1000 uF and several less capacious) and of the memory (4 of 1000 uF). 

The board measures 305x245 mm ("wide ATX", 9 screws fastens it). 

AOpen technologies supported: 

  • Jukebox (you can play Audio CDs without booting the OS);
  • DieHard BIOS (backup Flash EEPROM chip for recovery of the BIOS contents and a jumper to regulate it);
  • Dr.Voice (voice warning about problems during the system startup);
  • Dr.LED (an onboard connector for an external module indicates the POST procedure (the module itself is not supplied)).

No wasted space for components that didn't get included in the final design. The PCB design doesn't imply a different arrangement of the components. +5 V supplied in the StandBy mode is indicated with a LED. There is one more LED that blinks during the POST procedure and goes steady on its completion. A LED located in front of the AGP slot prevents installation of old video cards of +3.3V power supply voltage. System monitoring is supported by ITE IT8712F-A (which also functions as LPC Super I/O). It controls: 

  • processor voltages: +3.3, +-5 and +-12 V, VBAT and +5 V Standby
  • rotation speed of 2 fans; 
  • temperatures of the processor (built-in sensor) and the board (built-in sensor). 

The PAT technology (let me remind you that Intel doesn't rate it as a standard feature in the i865x chipsets) is named PBE (Performance Boost Engine) and can be only turned on or off. It's typical of AOpen to sacrifice variety of overclocking features for the sake of stable and flawless operation of boards. 

Ports & connectors onboard

  • Socket 478 with preinstalled CPU cooler holder;
  • 4 slots for DDR SDRAM DIMM (for the dual-channel mode pairs of the memory modules must be inserted into the slots of the same color);
  • AGP slot (not Pro, with a retention clip and protection from old video cards of increased power supply voltage);
  • 6 PCI slots (32bit, 33MHz);
  • Standard power supply connectors (ATX and 4pin for 12V);
  • FDD;
  • 2 IDE (Parallel ATA) - on chipset;
  • 4 Serial ATA: 2 on chipset, plus 2 at the expense of an additional controller;
  • 2 connectors for a bracket with additional FireWire ports;
  • Connector for a bracket with a Game port (combines with the one for USB ports);
  • Connector for a bracket with additional USB (2.0) ports;
  • Connector for audio-out from CD/DVD drive;
  • Connector for AUX1 audio-out;
  • Wake-On-LAN;
  • Case open detection header;
  • 3 connectors for fans (2 with rotation control, 1 without it, all are free  (the north bridge has only a heatsink)).

Rear panel (left to right, units)

  • PS/2 ports for keyboard & mouse;
  • 4 USB (2.0);
  • COM ports (2) and LPT port;
  • 2 USB (2.0) and 1 RJ-45 (Ethernet);
  • 3 audio connectors (Line In/Out & Microphone).

This is a standard set of connectors; noteworthy are 2 COM ports (many other boards have only one) and 6 USB ports. 


  • Package of the standard design; 
  • Documentation: user manual in English, poster with brief installation steps, booklet with the EzRestore technology description (in English);
  • Cables: 2 SATA (with a power supply adapter), 2 ATA66/100/133 and FDD;
  • Bracket with 2 FireWire ports;
  • Bracket with 2 USB and Game ports;
  • Bracket with S/PDIF-In/Out (TosLink & Coaxial);
  • I/O Shield;
  • 2 diskettes with drivers for SATA RAID;
  • 2 CDs with software:
    • drivers;
    • user manuals for several AOpen boards in PDF;
    • system monitoring programs;
    • AOConfig;
    • AOModify;
    • AOpen EzSkin;
    • AOpen WinBIOS;
    • AOpen WinDMI;
    • ProMagic 6.0;
    • DirectX 8.1;
    • Adobe Acrobat Reader 5.05;
    • E-Color;
    • Norton Antivirus 2003.

Integrated controllers

  • audio controller based on the Avance Logic ALC650 AC'97 codec; 5.1 audio system supported, front audio-outs and S/PDIF connector provided;
  • network controller based on the Broadcom BCM5702WKFB chip supporting 10/100/1000 Base-T  (Gigabit Ethernet); 
  • Additional Serial ATA RAID controller on the Silicon Image Sil3112ACT144, RAID 0 and 1 supported on the SATA150 protocol;
  • FireWire on the Agere FW323-06 chip with 2 ports supported.


jumpers and switches Jumper to clear the CMOS  
DieHard BIOS function jumper  
Jumper selecting Dr.Voice mode line-out/speaker
Dr.Voice language jumpers English/ Japanese/ Chinese/ German 
Jumper for starting up PC from PS/2 keyboard/mouse  
BIOS based on Phoenix AwardBIOS 6.00PG  Setup of memory timings + CAS Latency, RAS Precharge, RAS to CAS Delay, Active to Precharge Delay
Setup of memory frequency + FSBx1,33, x1,6, x2 (at FSB 800 MHz)
Setup of AGP bus -  
Setup of PCI bus -  
AGP/PCI frequency setup + AGP(PCIx2) = 66.67-98.68 MHz in 1.33 MHz steps
PCI IRQ manual assignment -  
FSB frequency setup + 100-400 MHz in 1MHz steps
CPU clock ratio + x8-x50 (of no use for processors with the locked multiplier)
CPU voltage control + 1.1-1.85 V in 0.025V steps up to 1.6 V and then in 0.1V steps
DIMM voltage control + 2,5-2,675 V in 0.025V steps
NB voltage control -  
AGP voltage control + 1.55-1.7V in 0.05V steps

BIOS R1.01 & R1.02 (latest) were used for the tests, BIOS R1.02 has the special acceleration mode (PBE) enabled. 


Traditionally high build quality, proper functionality of this top model and its overclocking features makes the AX4SPE Max good solution for reliable high-performance systems and for enthusiasts of new technologies. The only disadvantage is a bit scanty accessory pack. 

Test results: 


Dmitry Mayorov (destrax@ixbt.com)

Vladimir Rybnikov (puree@ixbt.com

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