AOpen's first Athlon 64 motherboard, the AK86-L, was based on the VIA K8T800 chipset. After going through several BIOS updates, the AK86-L emerged as our Editor's Choice for Best Value in Athlon 64 motherboards. When AOpen's second Socket 754 board began appearing in the US market, we were interested in taking a closer look.

The AOpen AK89 Max, as suggested by the model number, is a premium board compared to the AK86-L. Based on the nVidia nForce3-150 chipset, the AK89 Max is loaded with features, including 4-drive SATA, Firewire, and the dual-chip die-hard BIOS. For those not familiar with the company, AOpen is the components division of Acer, the huge company that has their hand in many consumer electronics markets. They produce motherboards, chipsets with their ALI brand, optical drives, displays, memory, and many other components.

Just to clear the air from the start, we were very disappointed with the AK89 Max when we first began testing. The Front Side Bus was limited to 250, and the Clock Gen utility for nForce3 from www.wcpuid.com would not even work with the shipping BIOS. The AGP/PCI lock present in the BIOS seemed to stop functioning as soon as multipliers were selected. While the AK89 Max with the shipping BIOS was very stable, the most interesting options either didn't work or they exhibited very limited ranges.

However, AOpen supplied 2 BIOS upgrades during the course of the review, and this dramatically improved the flexibility and capabilities of the board. It was almost as if the AK89 Max grew from the ugly duckling into a swan.

AOpen AK89 Max: Basic Features
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  • GooFy - Sunday, May 30, 2004 - link

    Could you somehow test some other memory modules with this board, i have a pair of Adata PC4000 that will not go over 230mhz @ original (Cas 3 8-4-4) or any other timings either yet they are stable @ 230 mhz fsb and Cas 2 6-3-3.
    I'm going to buy some new memory modules and i would like to know what options there are as it seems there are some other memories that will not go to 250+ fsb.
    Anyway i'm sure that it is the memory that's stopping me because i ran alot of tests with different timings and lower multiplier and so on.
    Reply
  • TrogdorJW - Tuesday, April 27, 2004 - link

    What the crap... lost my post. Grrrr.... Okay, here's a recap of what was supposed to be in that last one:

    You're cruel, showing us scores of 200 * 10 and 250 * 8 and then holding out on the scores for the "Extreme Overclocking" setups. I don't want a screenshot, but I would have been curious to hear what sort of performance difference there was between the 233 * 10 and the 345 * 6.5 setups. Do the asynchronous RAM timings hurt performance a lot, or can the integrated memory controller deal with that okay? Would be nice to find out. Oh, well...
    Reply
  • TrogdorJW - Tuesday, April 27, 2004 - link

    Reply
  • MadAd - Sunday, April 25, 2004 - link

    thanks wesley, they did look nice and clear in this one, thats why I asked - ill wait for your review. Reply
  • NegativeEntropy - Saturday, April 24, 2004 - link

    cnq,

    I know if I had to program Cool'n'Quiet there would be, at minimum, a sanity check to make sure the Hyper Transport (~FSB) frequency was 200 MHz and the multiplier is where it should be for that model CPU prior to doing anything. It's what Cool'n'Quiet would do after that that is up in the air (or so goes my reasoning):

    1) abort any attempt to engage Cool'n'Quiet (most likely given ease of programmability and official disdain for overclocking)
    2) override any current settings, do its thing, and not reimpliment the pre Cool'n'Quiet settings upon an increase in CPU usage (thus effectively 'undoing' any overclock)
    3) note the current state, engage Cool'n'Quiet, and then return to the pre Cool'n'Quiet state when CPU usage demands it (this is the scenario we dream about :)

    As long as I get confirmation Cool'n'Quiet works on this mobo (even w/o overclocking), I may get it and answer the other questions myself :)
    Reply
  • cnq - Saturday, April 24, 2004 - link

    NegativeEntropy,

    Weird, I was about to ask the *exact* same question!

    ***This should be a FAQ.***

    Everyone likes to overclock the snot out of their boards, and everyone likes cool 'n' quiet to kick in when they are just web browsing. (Naturally, when we stop web browsing and resume gaming, we want the system to return, automatically, to the fully overclocked settings we were using before.)

    But is it technically possible for Cool'n'Quiet to coexist with overclocking? Just by reading AMD's technical docs (BIOS Guide), there is no answer on whether this will work. My fear is that overclocking can confuse the hell out of cool'n'quiet. Cool'n'quiet works by switching between P-states, which are combos of CPU frequency and CPU voltage. Problems could be:

    a) Cool'n'Quiet is ignorant of overclocking in general. The possible P-state transition values are supplied by the BIOS, who in turn gets them from AMD documentation. Naturally, there won't be a P-state setting for an overclocked system in the official tables. But it would be possible for this to work: the BIOS could use your overclocked settings to create an additional P-state that isn't part of the official docs.
    b) Even if this works, underclocking via Cool'n'Quiet is limited. P-states just define CPU speed and CPU voltage. There's nothing about FSB speeds in a P-state (and there should be, imo, along with RAM voltage). So, for example, when Cool'n'Quiet ramps down your CPU, does it also ramp down the FSB speed? If not, then it's pretty easy to see how things could crash here: a drop to (for example) 1000 MhZ might be done by setting the CPU multiplier to 5, on the (incorrect) assumption that your FSB is 200MHz, the "usual" value. But if you overclocked by lowering the CPU multiplier (already) and jacking up the FSB to outrageous amounts, then this CPU multiplier might actually _increase_ CPU speed rather than decreasing it. Not so much with a multiplier of just 5, but you get the idea.
    c) Even if this works (the CPU multiplier is set to 5 in the above example, your FSB is overclocked to, say, 250 instead of 200, so you get 1250MHz instead of 1000MHz)...fine, except that the P-state contained a CPU voltage that is only guaranteed to work well with 1000MHz. Such a low voltage (whatever it is) might not be enough to power 1250MHz, causing a crash. If it is enough to power 1250MhZ, it's just blind luck, and not very stable.

    Naturally, I hope I'm wrong on all of these points, as the combo of serious overclocking and cool'n'quiet would be fantastic.

    Can someone speak from experience on this? In general, can you enable cool'n'quiet yet overclock huge amounts? Wes?
    Reply
  • NegativeEntropy - Friday, April 23, 2004 - link

    Wesley,

    Does Cool 'n' Quiet work on this MoBo?

    If it works, does it still work when overclocking (or is it borked because of the lower than stock multiplier or for some other reason)?

    The reason I ask: looking to build an HTPC -- CnQ would come in handy to reduce power usage, and this board would be more fun than the K8V :)
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Friday, April 23, 2004 - link

    #13 and #14 -
    Just skip Extreme Overclocking 1 and 2, then it's a standard motherboard review. ALL performance charts, like always, are at default speed and default ratios. Since this is the first A64 board we have tested with a working AGP/PCI lock and working ratios that are available on the A64, it was the perfect opportunity for a "how-to" and why of high FSB overclocking. These features will be the most important thing about this board for many Enthusiasts, and of little interest to others.

    #15 -
    I normally use a Pentax *ist D digital SLR with a 50f1.4 or 28-105f2.8 lens - at 800 ISO, no flash, and adjusted color temperature. However, most of the shots in this review were with a $300 Kodak 5 megapixel digital we will be reviewing on AnandTech in the next few weeks.
    Reply
  • MadAd - Friday, April 23, 2004 - link

    Its a bit of an OT question, sorry Wesley, what kinda of camera do you use to take the pictures of the board layouts/chips to use in the reviews please? Reply
  • retrospooty - Friday, April 23, 2004 - link

    By that I mean, there are so many levels of OC, so many different ways to look at it. I am unclear what was screenshot stable, and benchmark stable, and I am unclear exactly what speed the final tests were run at. Maybe its just too early in the morning for me. :D Reply

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