abit was the top manufacturer of enthusiast level boards a few short years ago, but after they expanded into areas where they didn't have the manufacturing expertise or cost advantages to compete with the larger tier one manufacturers they fell on hard times. As a result, abit lost market share as well as mind share. Fortunately, abit entered into a long-term partnership with USI about a year ago that ensures their financial health for the near future, and they also had a minor name change. Universal abit is the successor to the Abit motherboard brand name and represents a partnership with USI for their manufacturing and engineering expertise. Along with the name change comes a grassroots movement to return the company to the forefront of the computer enthusiast, extreme overclocker, and high performance markets.


The first wave of products last summer from Universal abit was interesting to say the least. In some cases like the abit AW9D-MAX they released a top performer that reminded us of the old Abit; in other areas, however, we found boards like the AB9 Pro represented a crossroads in abit's new product launch. Would this series of motherboards continue the downward spiral of being late to market with average performing products like the previous product launches, or would the new Universal abit have products that would capture the minds and hearts of the enthusiast community once again?

The AB9 Pro held great promise in our early looks, but it quickly turned into disappointment at launch and finally redeemed itself near the end of its product cycle with the 1.6 BIOS. abit took tremendous criticism for the AB9's poor layout and early BIOS issues when the product launched. The layout and hardware component issues could not be addressed after product release but after several BIOS releases most of the initial performance and compatibility issues were solved. While the board layout and pink BIOS setup screen did nothing for us (or probably anyone else for that matter), the fact that abit engineering took the time to properly address performance and compatibility issues impressed us. They also promised to correct the mistakes of the past with the next P965 product release.

The $64,000 question once again is: Did they learn from history and thus avoid repeat condemnation?" The answer is yes and no. The abit AB9 QuadGT's layout, choice of components, feature set, and BIOS options appear to have been developed in an alternate universe when compared to the AB9 Pro. Sadly, the BIOS engineering and quality assurance groups appear to have taken two steps backwards and remain firmly stationed in the current universe. We will discuss these issues shortly but for now let's take a first look at the board's feature set and initial performance results.

Feature Set
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  • yyrkoon - Monday, January 22, 2007 - link

    Oh, Gary, and Jarred, if you're thinking we, your readers are being harsh on you, well perhaps we are to an extent, but speaking for myself, this is because we care, and often look forward to your articles. So think of this as constructive criticism, and not outright flaming, please. Reply
  • Gary Key - Tuesday, January 23, 2007 - link

    You are not being harsh. I changed the article back to "Conductive Polymer Aluminum Solid Capacitors" as abit finally confirmed the majority of the capacitors on the board are this type (I looked up the capacitor part numbers before hand but edited the article back the other way). I will update it when they confirm the three capacitors that did not match, they are solid but I have two boards each with different part numbers/suppliers on those three items. At times the manufacturers want us to use their marketing terminology as they might change components during production lot runs based on engineering changes or spot market pricing or to use layman's terms on the website. My previous articles on the Gigabyte boards used the correct terminology based on the capacitors on the board and we had an enormous amount of email and forum traffic asking why we stated something different than on Gigabyte's website at the time. We dumbed it down a little this time after a discussion and should not have. ;) Thanks for the comments and we do listen. Reply
  • yyrkoon - Monday, January 22, 2007 - link

    Like the man said, Solid State is used when referring to Integrated Circuits, not Capacitors. The end result, is that you end up 'looking' like a fool, when someone who knows better sees this ( and possibly spread a minor form if 'mis-information).

    Think about it like this, what is the difference between a NAS, and a SAN ? Would you call a SAN, a NAS, in the company of enterprise IT geeks ? Probably not, at least, not without causing some confusion, or being corrected several times in the process . . .
    Reply
  • Operandi - Monday, January 22, 2007 - link

    Well they (caps suitable for motherbards) are either AL electrolyte or solid polymer based.

    Electrolyte caps are the more common type an actually contain electrolytic fluid which can leak when the cap fails. Polymer caps avoid that problem and also last longer -- to the laymen that would be the key difference.
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Monday, January 22, 2007 - link

    I have used the terminology, "Conductive Polymer Aluminum Solid Capacitors" in past articles and received several emails asking why we do not use what the manufacturers state on their websites as that term was deemed confusing. :) Reply
  • Stele - Monday, January 22, 2007 - link

    Part of the problem lies in the confusion about the various kinds of capacitors of that category.

    Amongst the kind that we're concerned with on motherboards, graphics cards etc, we have the most basic: the aluminium electrolytic capacitor. Because this type started out with liquid electrolyte, the word "liquid" is generally omitted from the name as it is understood.

    Then came the solid aluminium electrolytic capacitor, which replaced the liquid electrolyte with, well, a solid one - usually based on aluminium oxide. These are the type that we're nowadays excited about - the lack of liquid makes them more resistant to blow-outs and electrolyte leakage/dry-out, especially under prolonged, high temperature use. For short, they're sometimes referred to as merely "solid electrolytic" ("aluminium" is sometimes left out because, as noted above, the solid electrolyte is usually based on aluminium oxide and hence is understood as such) capacitors. To call them "solid capacitors" isn't totally useful because most capacitors are indeed solid objects :)

    In conductive polymer capacitors, on the other hand, the dielectric is made from polymer foil (e.g. polypropylene, polyester, polystyrene, polycarbonate) coated with a layer of metal deposited on the surface. It follows that the basic conductive polymer capacitor has no liquid electrolyte inside - indeed there is no electroylte as the dielectric is purely the polymer foil.

    However, manufacturers can and do mix in aluminium electrolyte with the polymer foil to improve certain performance characteristics; the electrolyte is often solid (rather than liquid) aluminium-based, hence "conductive polymer aluminium solid electrolytic capacitor".

    As such, the exact names can mean quite distinct types of capacitors, and are not merely loose permutations of words like "electrolytic", "aluminium", "solid" and "polymer"... so if one wants to accurately describe a capacitor being used, one would need to double-check exactly what dielectric is being used in that capacitor :)
    Reply
  • Marlin1975 - Monday, January 22, 2007 - link

    quote:


    The JMicron fiascoes have hit every board manufacturer at one time or another and if you want to blame somebody then start at the doorstep of Intel for shipping a chipset without native IDE support before the market was ready for it.




    Thats a understatement. The only thing i don't like about my 965 board is lack of IDE and the use of the jmicron junk.
    One of the reasons I am waiting for more 650i boards and the ?last? ati chipset for Intel chips.
    Reply
  • LoneWolf15 - Monday, January 22, 2007 - link

    It's one of the reasons I'd still chose i975x rather than i965 for a chipset. i975X still has native Intel IDE.

    Due to recent nVidia chipset/board issues, and past issues with heat production, I'm not sure I'd choose them for an Intel board either, so that leaves the i975X as the only chipset I'd be comfortable with.
    Reply
  • Numb3rs - Thursday, January 25, 2007 - link

    quote:

    It's one of the reasons I'd still chose i975x rather than i965 for a chipset. i975X still has native Intel IDE.


    Honestly, what in a new build would require and IDE interface..? eSATA is important and I am glad it's included. Abit has always made mobos dropping legacy devices no longer used by enthusiasts. Look at their old Abit "MAX" boards.

    Why, in 2007 are manufacturers still using serial and parrallel I/O's..? Remove them completly and free the backplane for more useful eSATA, USB..etc








    Reply
  • LoneWolf15 - Friday, January 26, 2007 - link

    Obviously, you've never configured a Cisco router through its console port (which usually requires a serial port). And perhaps I don't want my list of optical drives confined to only SATA (currently Plextor and LiteOn are my only options, and I don't want one due to price and the other due to writing quality reasons).

    There are also some known issues with using Symantec Ghost on the JMicron chipset. Unless I hear they are worked out, that's an important thing to me too, and so IDE is still important to me. Just because it isn't useful to you doesn't mean it isn't to a lot of others.
    Reply

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