The SC242 Slot-1 connector features the now popular universal CPU retention kit that is built on to the motherboard.  The retention kit, hence the name universal CPU retention kit, supports all Slot-1 CPUs, including the SEPP Celeron.  Around the SC242 slot are nine 2200 uF capacitors and three 1000 uF capacitors.  While the good ol' "bigger is better" policy doesn't necessarily apply to capacitors on motherboards, AOpen obviously did some research into the design of their original AX6B and AX6BC that forced the removal of the 1500 uF capacitors (which are now only present by the memory banks) and the placement of these new 2200 uF caps.  In AnandTech's stability tests there wasn't an obvious increase in overall stability, however when you already have a board like the AX6BC, it's very difficult to improve on its stability.

Other than the new capacitors, the only other physical change to the motherboard is the new gold plated AOpen heatsink on the Intel 443BX North Bridge controller.  Supposedly implemented to help conduct heat in a more efficient manner, the new heatsink does little more than make the motherboard more attractive.  While the 443BX chip does tend to get warmer than previous Intel chipsets, the standard aluminum heatsinks have been doing fine with cooling it.   However, as long as AOpen doesn't bump up the cost of the AX6BC Pro just because of the gold plated heatsink, there's no harm in having it. 

There is no excuse for making a motherboard without a jumperless setup these days, ABIT is no longer the only option for an easy setup.  AOpen is no exception, the jumperless CPU configuration of the AX6BC Pro is identical to that of the AX6BC.  The available FSB settings on the AX6BC Pro are the 66 / 68 / 75 / 83 100 / 103 / 112 / 117 / 124 / 129 133 / 138 / 143 / 148 / 153 settings that have been present since the AX6BC's release.  As far as how useful those overclocked FSB settings are, that is up to you.  For most gamers, anything above 124MHz is usually out of the question as the BX chipset is still limited to only the 1:1 and 2:3 AGP clock ratios.  Translation?  Generally speaking, all FSB speeds greater than 124MHz push most AGP graphics accelerators to the limit as far as their overclocking tolerance levels are concerned.  Regardless of whether or not you'll use them, the settings are present for you to play with.  Keep in mind that this may result in damage to your graphics accelerator, in the past AnandTech has lost graphics cards while attempting to push the FSB frequency of a system in excess of 150MHz (resulting in an AGP frequency 50% higher than the specification allows for).  

A 6 pin jumper block determines the AGP ratio - options include Auto, 1/1, and 2/3. While this jumper is not documented in the Quick Installation Guide, but is on the board and in the full manual. Unfortunately, the Auto setting is not very intuitive. AOpen listened to Intel's suggestion that the AGP ratio be linked to the state of BSEL, the CPU pin that determines whether a 66 or 100 MHz FSB speed should be used. This is the AJ33 for Socket-370 CPU's or the infamous B21 on a Slot-1 CPU. When BSEL indicates 66MHz operation, the AGP ratio is set to 1/1 by the chipset and when BSEL says 100MHz, a 2/3 ratio is selected instead. AOpen's Auto setting links the CPU's BSEL pin to the chipset and lets it select the AGP ratio. The 1/1 and 2/3 jumper settings simply force the state of BSEL. Wouldn't it be a lot easier to just make the Auto setting automatically select 2/3 when 100MHz or higher FSB speeds are used and 1/1 otherwise? Better still would be a BIOS controlled setting.

The last feature that sets the AX6BC Pro apart from it's predecessor, the AX6BC, is the ability to configure the core voltage of your CPU by adding either 0.1v or 0.2v to the default core voltage setting.  This setting is finally being explored by manufacturers other than ABIT, unfortunately it comes at a time when its importance is not as great as it once was.  The days of the overclockable Celeron 300A are now gone, and the usefulness of the 0.1v or 0.2v core voltage additions depend on exactly what you hope to achieve by overclocking.  For some users that enjoy tweaking their system to the max, this feature is very well desired and appreciated, for others, it holds no importance.  At virtually no cost to the end user, the ability to adjust the core voltage on the AX6BC Pro just makes this even more of a motherboard. 

Following in what has become AOpen's tradition, the AX6BC Pro features a Quick Installation Guide as well as a complementary copy of Symantec's popular Norton Anti-Virus and their own hardware monitoring utility.   For a motherboard that should retail at around the $120 price, any software bundle at all is a welcome addition, and for AOpen, it's an expected one.

The stability of the AX6BC Pro is relatively unchanged from the AX6BC, which is among the highest out of the 160 motherboards AnandTech has reviewed thus far, however it is slightly improved in overclocked situations and when all memory banks are populated.  AOpen takes a back seat only to Intel in terms of motherboard stability, and not by a great margin either.  What the AX6BC Pro brings you is workstation/server stability, in tweaker form...what more could you ask for? 

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