Abit has a long and storied history as a top manufacturer of enthusiast level boards that catered to the overclocking community. Abit found itself in trouble over the past couple of years and for all intents and purposes, it was close to ceasing business operations. Fortunately, they entered into a long-term partnership with USI this past January that should ensure their financial health for the foreseeable future. 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. Although Abit just recently announced the AT8 32X motherboard based on the ATI CrossFire Xpress 3200 Northbridge (RD580) and ULi M1575 Southbridge, we will be looking at the AT8 motherboard based on the ATI CrossFire Xpress 200 Northbridge (RD480) and ULi M1575 Southbridge solution. More information about the entire line of Abit products can be found here.

Our initial impression of the AT8 upon opening the box was one of pleasant surprise in regards to the general layout of the board and the quality of components utilized by Abit. The accessory kit and documentation included in the package is extensive for a board in the US $115 range.

During our testing and general usage of the Abit AT8, we found the board's stability to be excellent and it delivered top results in the latest synthetic and game benchmarks once we were provided with an updated BIOS. However, our initial tests with the current 1.0 BIOS were not positive as the board suffered memory capability issues with our BH5/UTT chip based memory modules. The board refused to hold a CAS latency setting of 2 after reboot with the BH5 memory modules and would fail to post if the CAS latency setting was set to 3. The board also showed some post and incompatibility issues during testing with 1GB memory modules based upon Samsung UCCC chips.

However, the board worked fine with our Infineon based memory modules. We also noticed a disk corruption issue during RAID 0 operation with the stripe size set at 16k. We did not have this issue with the stripe size set at 64k.

We reported our issues to Abit and they promptly provided an updated BIOS, version 1.1, to use for our testing. We noticed our memory incompatibility issues were resolved for the most part and updated microcode for the ULi M1575 chipset solved our RAID setup issues. We have still witnessed a few memory issues that occur when switching memory modules without having set the DRAM setting in the BIOS to SPD. Also, the board requires a CMOS clear when extending the memory settings beyond the capability of the board or memory. The system will gracefully recover from errant CPU settings, but is still reluctant to recover from memory issues. We generally found that setting the memory settings manually or utilizing the SPD option had worked well as the Auto setting seemed to have the majority of issues when setting up the board or during overclocking.

However, the current iteration of the 1.1 BIOS introduced an issue that Abit is still trying to solve at this time. The board is an excellent overclocker when utilizing the stock multiplier. Our testing has revealed an issue with the beta 1.1 BIOS where the HTT setting does not like to be raised past the maximum HTT setting utilized with the stock multiplier. As an example we had no issue overclocking our AMD Athlon 64 4000+ to a 322 HTT setting at a 9x multiplier with the version 1.0 BIOS but could not reliably exceed a 256 HTT setting with the 1.1 BIOS which was the maximum setting at the stock 12x multiplier. We tried four different AMD processors and witnessed the same results in our testing. We tried various combinations of memory, video card, and power supplies along with numerous system settings without success. Abit is working on this issue currently and we expect to have an updated BIOS for further testing shortly. We would like to commend the engineers at Abit for their cooperation and diligence in working with us on these issues, but we sincerely hope that an optimized BIOS is released shortly for the existing users of this board.

The Abit AT8 offers a full complement of options including two physical PCI Express x16 connections (x8 operation in dual card or CrossFire mode), two PCI Express x1 connections, and two 32-bit PCI 2.3 connections. The board also offers HD audio via the Realtek ALC882D HD 7.1 codec featuring Dolby Digital Live, PCI Gigabit Ethernet via the Realtek RT8110SB LAN controller, eight USB 2.0 ports (utilizing two USB 2.0 headers), four SATA 3Gb/s connectors, two ATA133 Ultra-DMA IDE connectors, and IEEE 1394 support via the TI TSB43AB22 1394A capable chipset.

Let's see how the Abit AT8 compares to the competition.

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  • FireTech - Monday, April 10, 2006 - link

    Status Update - Revised 1.1 Bios

    Abit provided us a revised 1.1 bios tonight (3-9-06) for additional testing and it will be available on Abit's website shortly. We will update the article after our regression testing is completed.


    Hi Gary, it would be great if you could please do that promised follow-up review update for the AT8 especially now the AT8 32X is out. It has beeen a while since the initial review and so things should have settled down now or possibly even a new 'beyond 1.1' beta BIOS has been produced for you?
    Please update this review and maybe have a follow up on all the Crossfire boards you have reviewed. There seem to be quite a few owners talking on various forums who bought on the strength of these reviews and are relying on you to get things moving on the manufacturer support front...
    I'm personally just waiting to see if the AT8 can be the board it was advertised to be before I take the plunge. Why buy into trouble if you don't need to, I've done the 'early adopter' thing too often already?
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Monday, July 03, 2006 - link

    We are still seeing issues with Infineon based memory that is set to 2-3-2-5 in the SPD, the board will not boot. If your memory utilizes these IC chips, the only choice you is to install some Samsung TCCD, boot the board, manually change the CAS to 2.5, reboot, shutdown, install the other memory, and boot again. Hopefully, Abit will do another bios spin, otherwise, you are left with this hack. Reply
  • Zoomer - Tuesday, March 21, 2006 - link

    Wish you could plug abit's use of the 882D more, it seems to be an excellent realtek chipset. It matches the x-fi in the 3d rightmark tests and is competitive with it even in games. Excellent job!

    Another thing: Could you guys do some objective listening tests to the audio output? Blind A/B switches between the HDA and onboard audio using good quality speakers and/or headphones will be welcome. :)
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Friday, March 24, 2006 - link

    quote:

    Another thing: Could you guys do some objective listening tests to the audio output?


    Our next step in audio testing, besides subjective remarks, will be doing objective audio tests (besides sampling output from RMAA 5.5) on each new codec implemented on a board. We are still deciding how to do this and my personal preference is to provide a download link to a high quality audio output file from each codec tested. These files would be a standardized clip from a music selection, movie scene, and game sequence. The question is if we will receive permission from the involved parties to allow distribution and obviously what choice of equipment to utilize for the audio capture without distorting the file before playback through the on-board codec or discreet card. Something on the list to do besides new creating new benchmarks also....... :)
    Reply
  • Zoomer - Saturday, March 25, 2006 - link

    Oh sorry, I meant to say subjective blind listening tests. But that might be a good idea too. To avoid licensing issues, you could use public domain music. However, the quality of the client output hardware and the recording method used would taint results. Reply
  • Duplex - Friday, March 24, 2006 - link

    A suggestion to develop the audiotest is that you measure 1. the latency from input(ad) to "software" and 2. from input(ad) to "software" to output(da) with or without some well defined effect applied.
    Realtek: We don't support ASIO & GSIF directly in our driver.
    For ASIO, there is an "universal ASIO driver for WDM audio" available on ASIO4ALL. Please refer to http://www.asio4all.com">http://www.asio4all.com. It is free for end-users.
    Reply
  • Zoomer - Tuesday, March 21, 2006 - link

    If I am reading it correctly, you are saying the primary slot is the 4th from the cpu, or in the middle of the board and will cover 1 pci slot when used.

    If that is correct, I suspect this will be a deal breaker for many. It effectively transforms the board to having 1 PCI slot or even none at all, and 2 usable but useless pcie slots, 1 1x and another 8x.
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Friday, March 24, 2006 - link

    quote:

    If I am reading it correctly, you are saying the primary slot is the 4th from the cpu, or in the middle of the board and will cover 1 pci slot when used.


    Yes, the primary x16 slot is the lower x16 slot on the board. If you use a X1900XT (dual slot card) as an example you will render the PCI slot next to it useless.
    Reply
  • Zoomer - Saturday, March 25, 2006 - link

    Well, I think it was a bad decision on abit's part. Why leave the top part of the board free while overcrowding the bottom? End users are suffering from these strange board design because of nvidia's SLI now.

    PS: Yes, I do think SLI is a terribly bad idea.
    Reply
  • Operandi - Sunday, March 12, 2006 - link

    Excellent review I particularly liked the coverage on the fan control, good work. Reply

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