We recently previewed the Abit AB9-Pro motherboard based on the P965 chipset and were impressed with its stock performance even though we had difficulty overclocking it with the early production BIOS. Abit has released a new performance oriented BIOS and we will be revisiting its performance in our upcoming P965 shootout. In the meantime Abit has been busily preparing their flagship Intel motherboard based on the 975X chipset. Abit recently provided us with a production level AW9D-MAX motherboard along with a beta BIOS that is undergoing final quality assurance and performance testing prior to going into production next week. We were hoping to have a production level BIOS available in time for a full review of the board against its competition from ASUS, DFI, Foxconn, and MSI. However, due to amount of comments and emails we received asking about the performance of the board we decided to provide a short preview utilizing a subset of our current benchmark suite.

Although the AW9D-MAX will be going on sale shortly, Abit is still optimizing their BIOS code and we expect to see further options along with additional performance enhancements before shipment. We are very glad to report the current BIOS is in significantly better shape than we expected as is the excellent µGuru overclocking utility. The latest beta BIOS does have a few issues that we will discuss later but overall the board worked as advertised during our benchmarking session. More importantly the current BIOS code is very stable based upon our stress tests and easily overclocked to levels that matched or exceeded our ASUS P5W-DH. We expect to see any BIOS issues resolved by Abit before public release of the motherboard. While Abit offered a previous 975X based motherboard under the AW8D-MAX moniker (which lacks Core 2 Duo compatibility) we can ensure you that the two boards are world's apart in performance, design, and overclocking capabilities. While the AW8D-MAX was a solid board with very good performance, it was too late to market and just did not seem to deserve the MAX logo. We knew Abit could do better in the performance area and at first glance they have certainly succeeded.


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 financial and market troubles over the few years as its product portfolio expanded 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. 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.

Intel 975X Chipset

Click to enlarge

The chart above lists the standard feature set available to manufacturers using the Intel 82975X chipset that has been available for almost a year now. The 975X chipset offers 16 PCI Express lanes that can be configured as a single PCI Express X16 graphics port or two PCI Express X8 ports for multi-view or dual-GPU capability. The 975X fully supports ATI CrossFire technology at this time. The chipset features Intel Memory Pipeline Technology (MPT), Intel Flex Memory Technology, 8GB memory addressability, and ECC memory support. The Intel MPT has been enhanced over the 955X iteration to offer improved pipelining. This enables a higher utilization of each memory channel resulting in better performance through increased transfers between the processor and system memory. Intel Flex Memory Technology allows different memory sizes to be populated and still remain in dual-channel mode. The architecture also supports both asynchronous and isochronous data traffic, with dedicated internal pipelines and specialized arbitration along with improved electricals for better memory latency compared to the 955X chipset.

The ICH7R chipsets offer eight USB 2.0 ports, up to four 3Gb/s SATA ports, six available PCI Express Lanes, six PCI ports, Ultra 100/66/33 Parallel ATA support, and HD audio support. When compared to the newer ICH8R chipset utilized in the P965 motherboards, the ICH7R offers two less USB 2.0 and 3Gb/s SATA ports but offers native PATA support. This leads us into today's preview, so let's take a closer look at the Abit AW9D-MAX features and performance.

Basic Features
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  • johnsonx - Saturday, September 09, 2006 - link

    Thanks Gary. Those look interesting; I don't imagine they're overly effective given complete the lack of airflow behind the mainboard in 99.9% of systems. However I suppose just the additional radiative area is enough; in most system layouts they'll be near the upper edge of the mainboard, so convection will carry the heat into the air flow around the power supply and back fan(s).

    Presumably Abit didn't put them back there just to amuse themselves.

    Reply
  • hibachirat - Friday, September 08, 2006 - link

    Thanks Gary, but...i could have sworn that i saw strips like that on the back of my 775i65 . I didn't pay them any attention...or maybe it was it the motherboard i installed the week before--a Gigabyte. Crap, now i have to disassemble and look... Reply
  • Gary Key - Friday, September 08, 2006 - link

    Pictures will be up later this evening. Sorry about the delay but we had a technical issue. Reply
  • hibachirat - Friday, September 08, 2006 - link

    Yeah, I wanted to see that too. Plus maybe a night shot or mpeg of the disco diodes in action. :-p
    Seriously Abit, scrap the light show and give me back my old school serial and parallel ports! Once or twice a year I need my PC to talk to old hardware. And one PCI slot? This isn't a mATX board.
    Reply
  • StrangerGuy - Friday, September 08, 2006 - link

    Drop the multipier to 7x when testing mobo overclockability. Think for the E6300 users, besides you may hit the CPU ceiling before the mobo one with 9x. Reply
  • Gary Key - Friday, September 08, 2006 - link

    We dropped the X6800 down to 8X and again to 6X. As stated our board and bios combination would not post past 460FSB. Abit is getting near 480 in their labs now and we hope to see a new bios spin in the next couple of days for our board. The same limitation holds true with our E6300/6400 processors, very stable up to 448FSB at this time but we hit a hard lock at 460FSB. I will provide an update once the new bios arrives. Reply
  • imaheadcase - Friday, September 08, 2006 - link

    Anyone remember top of the line boards used to cost less than $150?

    These boards are way to expensive, the preminum your paying for a board to OC kinda defeats the purpose of OC to get better performance for cheap imo.
    Reply
  • mostlyprudent - Friday, September 08, 2006 - link

    It's all about market share. Even in the good-ole days (6/8 months ago) of AMD 939 and nVidia nForce4, the top boards occassionally debuted above $200, but did not stay there long. 975X chipset based boards were ridiculously priced even when there was no real reason to choose the platform. We NEED more competition! Reply
  • GoatMonkey - Friday, September 08, 2006 - link

    Top of the line boards for a long time didn't include decent sound, network, usb, multiple hard drive controllers with raid capability. You can still get a good board for less than $150, but they sometimes cut some of the high end features that are so nice to have. Reply
  • Jedi2155 - Friday, September 08, 2006 - link

    Same with the DFI Lanparty NF4-Ultra only $130 for pretty much everything you listed along with extra's. SLI was $160 or so. Reply

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