AOpen has long been the second largest motherboard manufacturer in the world, second only to Intel. They've gotten there by making extremely stable, reliable, and feature filled boards. This is evidenced by the fact that AOpen's last two i440BX boards to come through the AnandTech lab, the AX6BC Pro Gold and AX6BC Pro II Millennium Edition, have received AnandTech's prestigious Editor's Choice Award.

Not only does AOpen make excellent products, but they're also lead this market with innovation. They were one of the first on the market with a Super7 board, the AX59Pro based on the VIA MVP3 chipset. Since then, they've continued to support VIA's chipsets as the Pentium II gained popularity.

Now, we see the rise of the 133 MHz FSB Pentium III "Coppermine" CPU's, and AOpen is there yet again. Intel's intended solution for these CPU's, the i820, had some trouble getting out of the gate and was confronted with extremely high RDRAM prices. That leaves the door wide open for VIA and their Apollo Pro 133A chipset to gain some market share. AOpen, of course, continues their series of boards with VIA chipsets with the MX64, based on that very Apollo Pro 133A.

New Anand Tech Report Card Rating

Motherboard Specifications

CPU Interface Slot-1
Chipset VIA Apollo Pro 133A
(VIA 694X / VIA 686A)
L2 Cache N/A (on-chip)
Form Factor microATX
Bus Speeds 66 / 75 / 83
100 / 105 / 110 / 112 / 115 / 120 / 124
133 / 140 / 150
Clock Multipliers 2.0x - 8.0x
Voltages Supported Auto Detect
Memory Slots 3 168-pin DIMM Slots
Expansion Slots 0 AMR Slots
1 AGP Slot
3 PCI Slots (3 Full Length)
0 ISA Slots
BIOS Award 4.60PGA

The Good

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We were quite surprised to learn that AOpen's first VIA Apollo Pro 133A board would be designed around the microATX form factor. AOpen already had great success with AX63, based on the the Apollo Pro Plus, and the AX63 Pro, based on the Apollo Pro 133 - both of which are full ATX motherboards. However, this isn't too surprising considering the rise to popularity that "micro towers," which require microATX boards, have seen in the retail market.

Nevertheless, AOpen has blessed the MX64 with virtually the best expansion options possible for a microATX board. A 3/0/1 (PCI/ISA/AGP) slot configuration and 3 DIMM slots cover expansion opportunities. They decided not to take advantage of the AMR capabilities of the VIA 686A south bridge, but did take advantage of its support for an AC97 audio CODEC that provides host based audio.

The AC97 audio will get you by if you just want basic Windows sound feedback, but anyone serious about audio or interested in gaming will definitely want to add a dedicated PCI sound card. Fortunately, the CODEC adds virtually nothing to the cost of the board, and as such will be a standard feature on all MX64's as well as most other upcoming motherboards. The AC97 audio can be disabled by a jumper at the left edge of the board.

The MX64 also features 2 USB ports in the standard location, but also adds a header for 2 more ports, a feature that comes, once again, courtesy of the VIA 686A south bridge. A small cable leads to the 2 ports, which are mounted in a bracket designed to take the place of an expansion slot cover. With a little ingenuity, they could easily be mounted anywhere else in the case, such as on the front panel. Finally, the 686A provides dual channel Ultra ATA 66 support without the need for additional controllers.

As far as layout goes, the MX64 meets all recommendations from the microATX specification. That means the FDD, HDD, and ATX power connectors are all located right at the front of the board to keep things nice and neat inside the case. Seven 1500uF capacitors sit behind the Slot-1 connector, while 3 more are positioned adjacent to the DIMM slots. The 694X North Bridge is covered with the good old green heatsink that we've come to know and love from the i440BX days. This time it's adorned with the AOpen logo and is attached by thermal tape.

More Good

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