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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  • 8KCABrett - Wednesday, February 7, 2007 - link

    1. "loading the JMicron RAID driver instead the standard XP IDE driver" is a one time thing that can be done at installation and not worried about after that right?

    2Does this lead to any other issues. . . is it still possible to use and IDE optical once this is done?
  • takumsawsherman - Wednesday, January 24, 2007 - link

    Gigabyte may have had BIOS issues with the early releases, but their memory guide also gives a pretty good idea of what will work with the board. I have put in 2 P965 DQ6's recently). Both times I got the recommended Kingston kits, and everything works fine and is blazing fast. For the same price as this Abit is selling, it has 2 more SATA ports, 2 internal firewire headers (though I honestly don't know how many the abit has, both the abit and the gigabyte have a rear port built in), the DQ6 seems to have a better cooling system, a better floppy port location, better PCI-Express auxiliary power location, and it comes with 2 eSATA brackets, each with two ports, and 4 eSATA cables.

    Speaking of Kingston kits, one of the above posters was correct in asserting that many manufacturers ship an immature bios with their boards, and this has proved true for many P965 boards (1.8V only, etc.). A P965 is definitely not a platform on which I would want to muck around with enthusiast memory.

    BTW, you should review the i-Star S-8 Storm Series enclosure. Best case I have used in a while, though they always seem to be trying to play some cruel prank by shorting you some screws. Luckily, building all of those Supermicro 750 and 760 based workstations years ago has left me with quite the surplus.
  • yyrkoon - Friday, January 26, 2007 - link

    Its pretty much in-excusable, releasing a motherboard, using an enthusiast chipset, that doesn't support the best enthusiast memory chips. At least, from the enthusiasts perspective, thats all we were saying.
  • RippleStrip - Tuesday, January 23, 2007 - link

    Ok, so I've been out of it for a while. I remember reading on reviews for early 975s and 965s that it was possible to change the cpu multiplier (although sometimes only one way). Did Intel bop this on the head, or do some motherboards still do this? What about the nvidia boards?

  • SignalPST - Tuesday, January 23, 2007 - link

    This has nothing to do with the article, but nevertheless, I'm dying to ask.
    Will AnandTech do a roundup of non-refrence nForce 680i motherboards once they are all out? So far, the guys that are or will be making them are ASUS, ABIT, GIGABYTE and DFI.
  • Gary Key - Tuesday, January 23, 2007 - link

    Yes, finally received the new ASUS boards yesterday and the Gigabyte/abit boards are due this week.
  • SignalPST - Tuesday, January 23, 2007 - link

    Great! I'll be looking forward to the review, and I'm sure alot of people will be too.

    I get a sense that everyone is still tight-liped about the DFI nForce 680i motherboard :)
  • yyrkoon - Monday, January 22, 2007 - link

    Heh, Gary, was that you on the ABIT forums that smoked the set of Corsair 6400 memory ? (because of the uGuru issue)
  • Gary Key - Tuesday, January 23, 2007 - link

    That was me. :)
  • Heidfirst - Monday, January 22, 2007 - link

    there's a new beta BIOS available for it already (the board hasn't even made it to retail in the UK yet).

    Tbh with market pressure & shipping schedules I think that many mobo mfrs are shipping boards with an initial slightly buggy BIOS hoping to have a better 1 available for download by the time that the boards hit retail.
    e.g. look at Gigabyte's BIOS development for the P965 series or the fact that the Asus P5N-E SLI is still on the release BIOS & that could use more work too.

    Is that ideal?
    Of course not but it's commercial pressure driving it...

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