- Package Contents
The first board we'll be checking out is the latest addition to Abit's MAX range, the AT7-MAX2. Inside the usual red, white and black box are: two ATA133 cables, one floppy cable, a USB 2.0 backplate enabling extra ports, a driver CD, a detailed User's Manual and a bag of cable ties and cable routers that allow you to clean up the cabling inside your case.
As far as free software goes, the driver CD contains a copy of Norton Anti-Virus 2002, which compared to the other boards in this roundup, isn't much. That said, Abit are not known for including extravagant software bundles as their boards are directed at enthusiasts who most likely already own any software they could include. Instead, Abit try to make up for this with extensive overclocking features.
- The Board
Upon removing the board from its anti-static packaging, the first thing we noticed was its sexy black PCB - ideal for case modders that like to flash their PC's innards using window kits, etc. However, there is much more to the AT7-MAX2 than just aesthetics. Firstly, the board supports 4-channel ATA133 RAID through the Highpoint HPT374 controller. We have always found Highpoint RAID controllers to be of excellent quality, far superior to those manufactured by Promise.
As well as this, the board also supports SerialATA through the Marvel 88i8030 controller. As mentioned earlier, at the moment it is quite difficult to find a SerialATA hard drive on store shelves. Realising this, Abit have developed their "Serillel" technology, which is simply a converter that allows you to run parallel ATA devices off your Serial ATA controller. Very handy indeed.
One thing we were disappointed to see was that Abit have decided to utilize the Realtek ALC650 AC97 audio controller on the AT7-MAX2. Although still providing 5.1 audio, the quality of the AC97 controller is rather lackluster when compared to CMedia controllers used on the other boards in this roundup.
Onboard 10/100 Ethernet support is available through the Realtek 8100B controller. This controller is quite common nowadays as its quality ranks up there with the cheaper PCI solutions.
The board features a whopping six USB 2.0 ports as well as two IEEE1394 ports. Furthermore, there are five PCI slots and four DIMM slots, supporting a maximum of 2GB DDR400 memory. We were actually quite surprised that Abit managed to fit so many expansion slots on the board, considering the amount of onboard controllers that are already taking up plenty of real estate.
The overall layout of the board was great, with all components and connectors positioned logically and out of the way of wiring.
In usual Abit style, the AT7-MAX2 features all of the overclocking and tweaking options that even the most hardened enthusiast would be pleased with. The FSB can be adjusted from 100MHz all the way up to 250MHz in 1MHz increments. As well as this, the FSB:AGP:PCI ratio can be set from the options 3:2:1, 4:2:1 or 5:2:1. This allows you to increase the FSB while leaving the AGP and PCI speeds at their default values.
Furthermore, the multiplier can be adjusted from 5x all the way up to 22.5x+ and the core and DIMM voltages can be set up to 2.325V and 3.25V respectively. We were able to overclock our AthlonXP 2200+ processor all the way up to an FSB of 200MHz. Any further and the board would not remain stable. This is very impressive and certainly up to the standards we're used to from Abit.
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