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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  • LoneWolf15 - Friday, September 08, 2006 - link

    My MSI K8N Neo-4 Platinum came with eight SATA ports, FireWire, dual gig nics, and a full complement of every port and feature I can think of, as a top-of-the-line Socket 939 board.

    I bought it very shortly after first release --for $140 from ZipZoomFly. That was going on two years ago, but by then, top-of-the-line boards all had onboard sound, network, USB, and multiple hard drive controllers with raid capability. And while that price is two years ago, a $100 price hike for flagship boards (Intel, ASUS, Abit, and the like) isn't just inflation taking its toll.

    Current mainboard prices truly are a joke. I think it is truly an attempt to capitalize on Intel's really cool new processor --the idea that we all want to run it badly enough that we'll pay beaucoup bucks for a new flagship board.

    The review was good, but any company who thinks I'll spend $200-plus for a mainboard with only one PCI slot (blocked in a dual-vidcard scenario, so useless in that case) needs a major reality check. Abit did a lot right with this board, but that one slip makes this board utterly useless as an enthusiast product, IMO. The only way they could have rescued it was to put a real sound chip on the riser card instead of an ALC solution, and they failed that too.
    Reply
  • yyrkoon - Friday, September 08, 2006 - link

    You get what you pay for, and usually for ABIT boards thats stability / performance. Not to mention that RIGHT_NOW, this platform is the top perfomer. I also hav a problem with paying too much for current tech motherboards, however, you dont really have much of a choice, you can buy one now, at a premium, or you can wait 6 months, when the prices have come down alot.

    Look at ABITs top AM2 motherboard, it was in the $200usd range not long ago when released, but because of shipping issues damaging the boards, and bad publicity because of this, the boards are now down to around $150usd. Anyhow the ABIT AN9 32x (non fata1ity) has features comparable to this board, and some (mainly because of chipset) that are better. However, I think we all know which platform is preffered by enthusiasts at the moment. . .
    Reply
  • LoneWolf15 - Saturday, September 09, 2006 - link

    However, I think we all know which platform is preffered by enthusiasts at the moment. . .
    Yep, that'd be the ASUS Core 2 Duo boards. ;)

    Seriously though, if I bought now (which I have no need to do, but for sake of argument) I could buy an ASUS board with all of Abit's features, great performance, and the PCI slots enthusiasts need for the same price. I really think that if Abit wants to regain lost market share, they either have to not miss silly things like this, or if they make that decision, to beat their competition in price. Failing to do either, I can't see why one would choose them.
    Reply
  • Madellga - Friday, September 08, 2006 - link

    True, but the difference is much smaller than the CPUs or GPUs. You need almost 100 bucks to go from E6400 to E6600. That's the mobo difference. And without a good mobo, you can't do 50% overclock - look at ASRock, for example: cheap but low overclock. Reply
  • Madellga - Friday, September 08, 2006 - link

    Hi Gary,
    It seems most people didn't get your joke.

    Nice review and thanks for posting VCore and MCH. I think it is essential in the current socket 775 platform to inform the readers about such settings.

    I noticed also on the pictures that the board has only solid capacitors, like the Gigabyte DQ6/DS4/DS3 family. That's a good trend.

    I use myself a SB Audigy 2 ZS and would be a pitty to give up using it.

    This new board seems to be available for sale next week:
    http://www.alternate.de/html/shop/productListing4C...">http://www.alternate.de/html/shop/produ...evel2=In...

    This store is pretty reliable for delivery lead time (currently 3 working days).

    I might give it a go with an E6600. I'm also thinking about a pair of 7950GT's and hacked drivers.....if the 7950GT price is around 250 bucks.
    Reply
  • Doormat - Friday, September 08, 2006 - link

    Any chance that this board selling for $225 or so would push the prices of other 975X boards down? I see the Asus P5W for $270+ everywhere and its just rediculus to spend that much money on a motherboard. I'm holding off on Conroe until motherboard prices go down.. Reply
  • Madellga - Friday, September 08, 2006 - link

    It is listed at 219 euros, above 270 dollars. I hope you guys can get it at a better price. Reply
  • yyrkoon - Friday, September 08, 2006 - link

    Parts in Europe often cost more than in the states. Compared to US prices, Europe purchases seem to cost an additional 20-30% premium. I find it highly unlikely that this board will be more than $230-$250 USD, if so, it wont sell good for awhile (until the price comes down). Reply
  • Gambit2K - Friday, September 08, 2006 - link

    What's the retail color theme? Black and red or Black and blue? Im hoping for red, it looks wicked. Reply
  • Gary Key - Friday, September 08, 2006 - link

    The official color scheme will be blue and black. http://www.abit-usa.com/products/mb/products.php?c...">Abit Link Reply

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