UPDATE 3/30/2004:

AOpen has made a number of changes to the AK86-L motherboard since our initial review. The board was an excellent performer with outstanding features for the price, but there were several areas that were suggested for improvement. Many of our suggestions regarding those feature improvements have been added to the board with BIOS updates. Almost all of the updated features are available on all AK86-L boards, but there is also a new revision to the board that adds additional options to vCore adjustment. All other features are available on all revisions of the board.

AOpen has posted a special beta revision to the AK86-L on the AOpen download site. This is called Revision 1.08c Beta. Many of these added features are also incorporated into the latest release version 1.09. There will also likely be a further revision to 1.09 to incorporate adjustable CPU ratios in the 1.09 BIOS. Revised features of 1.08c Beta BIOS:


Adjustments for memory voltage have now been extended from 2.5V to 3.0v in 0.05v increments. This is an extremely wide and useful range for users trying to get the most from their memory.


In the original shipping BIOS, FSB adjustment was only available to 255. In the 1.08c revision, FSB can now be adjusted from 200 to 300 in 1MHz increments.


CPU ratios can be adjusted down in the 1.08c BIOS. Available ratios are from 4 to 16, but only values equal to or lower than the CPU shipping ratio will work. For example, the 3200+ has a ratio of 10 (10x200), so values of 10 and lower will work.


A new revision of the board has been released to allow a greater range of vCore settings. The new revision, which AOpen says is now in production, allows vCore to be adjusted from 0.8v to 1.8v in 0.05V increments. All revisions allow adjustment from 0.8v to 1.55v. The default voltage for a 3200+, for example, is 1.5v. We have not had much success overclocking Athlon 64 chips by increasing processor voltage with air cooling, but those with water or phase-change cooling will appreciate the added vCore options on the new revision of the AK86-L.

As stated in our review, the AK86-L is a fast and stable Socket 754 motherboard that represents outstanding value. With the recent changes, AOpen has certainly broken away from the pack in the value segment and deserves to be recognized as an AnandTech Editor's Choice.
We are pleased to recognize the AOpen AK86-L with the AnandTech Editor's Choice as the best value in Socket 754 motherboards. At a price of about $100, the AOpen AK86-L offers genuine value for those building an Athlon 64 system.

Almost all of the current Athlon 64 boards are limited in overclocking by the inability to fix the AGP/PCI bus. The AK86-L does not break new ground in that area, but the performance is very fast at stock speed and the available options are as good as you will find in almost any Athlon 64 board. The Shuttle AN50R and Gigabyte K8NNXP are currently the darlings of the serious overclocking community because they apparently do have working AGP locks and great FSB flexibility, but they cost a great deal more than the AK86-L. If you want the best overclocking available on current Athlon 64 boards then you should choose one of these motherboards. However, the AOpen with the new BIOS delivers standout speed at stock plus overclocking as good as you will see in a VIA chipset board for Socket 754.
Introduction
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  • howminn - Thursday, May 20, 2004 - link

    I've got that board and am having hell with it. No matter what agp card, no matter what memory and in which memory slot, the board won't switch the monitor back on after restart. Which means it is not possible to install an OS onto it.
    I've returned the original board and bought another one, both boards have displayed the same trouble, and have both displayed cmos checksum error, default values loaded. Batteries have been changed, still no solution.
    The vendor to whom I RMA'd the board have not given me any feedback as to what is wrong.
    Has anybody else seen this before? Please!
    Reply
  • cowdog - Sunday, April 04, 2004 - link

    Good to see the update with information that AOpen "opened" up the bios options! Good job AOpen!

    Ditto what #14 said about the AK89 Max. Come on AOpen, don't overlook your nForce3 150 board!! DDR to 3.0v, cpu to 1.8v, fsb to 300Mhz. That would make my day, esp if AOpen also put that hyper-active watchdog on a shorter leash.
    Reply
  • Ronnie - Wednesday, March 31, 2004 - link

    Hey TrogdorJW, I also have the MSI K8T Neo and found that OCZ pc3200 works great for my setup, I tried some kingston hyperx pc-4000 with no luck. Reply
  • elixia - Wednesday, March 31, 2004 - link

    Hey AMD4ME2, I had that problem on an old FIC motherboard. I simply pinned the power cable to the power supply and plugged it in. It will not hang in front of the CPU and block airflow this way Reply
  • Resh - Wednesday, March 31, 2004 - link

    There was mention of a new board revision (as opposed to BIOS version). Could AT post the number codes for the new and old rev. to help us in purchasing?

    Thanks!
    Reply
  • AMD4ME2 - Tuesday, March 30, 2004 - link

    I'm a bit confused by the wording of the location of the ATX power connectors. they look to me like they are behind the processor blocking air flow, at least in my case they would be. Reply
  • Chuckles - Tuesday, March 30, 2004 - link

    There is an error on page one (Index).

    "Adjustments for memory voltage have now been extended from 2.5V to 3.0v in 0.5v increments. This is an extremely wide and useful range for users trying to get the most from their memory."

    Should be 0.05V instead of 0.5.
    Reply
  • Pumpkinierre - Tuesday, March 30, 2004 - link

    I posted my question on Feb.16(#12) and got my answer on March 30th (#13). Its never too late. Thanks for the follow-up.
    Reply
  • Venomous - Tuesday, March 30, 2004 - link

    Westley, re: the AK89MAX.. Have them do the same kind of BIOS mods they did on the AK86. If they can bring those voltages up to AK86 specs, im sure hitting 280 fsb wont be hard. The watchdog thing IS annoying. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, March 30, 2004 - link

    Pumkinierre -

    1.06Q was never a BIOS published by AOpen, so 1.08c is the first published BIOS that has multipliers. Ratios are the same as 1.06q, which is whole numbers - no option of 0.5 multipliers.

    As I discussed in the PCI lock article and comments, the AK86-L seems to float the PCI/AGP up to 233, then at 234 it drops back to 33.3. This is a ratio arrangement very similar to what we saw in the Abit K8T800 motherboard we reviewed, and is much less flexible than a true adjustable PCI/AGP lock. If you look at the new screen captures you will see PCI/AGP now reports the rising frequency in the BIOS.

    As mentioned in the update, the nForce3-150 based Gigabyte K8NNXP and the Shuttle AN50R, both nF3-150 based, are the only 2 Athlon 64 boards that I am aware of that are reported by respected writers to have AGP/PCI lock. I have not tested either with the PCI Geiger, so I can not personally confirm this. If you want fine adjustments for OC, then either of these would appear to be a better choice, at a higher price.

    The AOpen AK89 Max, which is a very late nF3-150 board, also appears to have a working PCI/AGP lock, but there are some issues with high settings prematurely invoking the watchdog feature and resetting the frequency - requiring a CMOS clear. We have asked AOpen for help in resolving this issue with the AK89 Max, and if it is fixed we will post a review on Anandtech.
    Reply

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