As we mentioned in our Computex 2006 coverage, the rejuvenation of Abit was one of the more welcome surprises of the show. Abit was the top manufacturer of enthusiast level boards just a few short years ago and catered almost exclusively to the overclocking community. However, Abit found itself in serious trouble over the past couple of years as its product portfolio expanded to include video cards and a wide range of motherboards from the low end value segment to the upper end enthusiast sector. In essence, Abit tried to expand into areas where it did not have the manufacturing expertise or cost advantages to compete with the larger tier one manufacturers. As a result, Abit lost focus on its core competence, the enthusiast and overclocking market, and allowed DFI to become the number one brand name in an area where users are highly passionate about their products.


Toward the end of 2005, Abit was close to ceasing business operations as their product lines did not offer any real price, performance, or product differentiation from others except for their µGuru technology. Fortunately, Abit entered into a long-term partnership with USI this past January that ensures their financial health for the future and a change in the company name. Universal Abit is the successor to the Abit motherboard brand and has partnered with USI for their manufacturing and engineering expertise.

The Abit name will remain as the main identity for products but expect to hear more from Universal Abit as the company transitions itself from strictly IT manufacturing to leading technology design and brand management. This strategic partnership also signals a return of Abit to their roots as a company driven to provide the computer enthusiast and extreme overclocker with the highest performance solutions available. While we have not received their new Max or Fatal1ty product lines for review yet, Abit was generous enough to send us their mainstream Intel performance board -- the AB9 Pro -- based upon the new Intel P965 Express chipset.


Intel released the P965 Express MCH and ICH8/R chipsets during Computex 2006. While we will take a closer look at this new mainstream chipset in future articles, the highlights of the P965 MCH include Intel's new Fast Memory Access technology, 1066MHz front side bus support, 800MHz DDR-2 memory support, and full support for the new Core 2 Duo processor lineup. The integrated graphics versions, G965 and Q965, will ship with the new GMA X3000 graphics engine for the ViiV and Corporate markets respectively. The new ICH8/R chipsets offer ten USB 2.0 ports, up to six 3Gb/s SATA ports, Intel's new Quiet System Technology, and the removal of Parallel ATA support.

While one could argue that the removal of PATA support is a needed step forward in technology, we firmly believe that Intel should have waited until the next generation ICH for this change. The Optical Drive market is still about 98% PATA based and does not seem to be changing anytime soon. While this development might spur the optical drive suppliers into offering additional SATA drives in the near future, it does not address the requirements of the current PATA installed base. This most likely means there will be additional costs and complexity on the motherboards using ICH8 as the manufacturers will have to add an additional chipset for PATA support. (Manufacturers could simply choose not have any PATA ports, but at present we feel such a motherboard would be doomed to fail.)

Abit will be one of the first manufacturers to market with a P965 based board and we will take a quick but strictly preview look at the AB9 Pro today. While this motherboard is a production release unit, the BIOS is still undergoing almost daily revisions at this time. We will state at this point that our current BIOS release offers significant functionality, very good base performance, but will not yet allow us to change memory speeds or timings. Please keep this in mind as you compare the performance results against our Asus 975X based board. We will give this board a more in depth review during our forthcoming Intel Core 2 Duo motherboard roundup. Let's see what this board has to offer at this time.

Board Layout and Features
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  • Anemone - Monday, July 03, 2006 - link

    Yes this is quite interesting, thank you very much Anand and Gary!

    Things are heating up and getting very interesting. As the windup to Conroe gets underway a lot of folks are out buying mobo's now. I want to see more testing first, not really being yet committed more to the 975 or the 590. Have to be honest and say the 590 is proving to be more than I thought it was, but that's a good thing.

    Thus I'm taking all this information in, and am grateful for your previews!
    Reply
  • Calin - Monday, July 03, 2006 - link

    If the supply of Conroe processors will be much lower than the demand, one can expect the mainboard prices to decrease - if the supply of mainboards will be much higher than the supply of retail Conroe processors. So, buying mainboards in advance might prove a not so good idea. Reply
  • mine - Monday, July 03, 2006 - link

    most interesting reading of the last 4 weeks

    this 965 vs. 975

    thanks anand
    Reply

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