- Package and Contents
ABIT is well known amongst the hardware community as being one of, if not, the top motherboard manufacturer when it comes to overclocking. ABIT has put some very impressive motherboards on the market with a variety of options. The AG8 is the first I915 based motherboard that ABIT has manufactured.
Inside the package you get two user manuals, one is for the motherboard itself with all the functions of the onboard features, BIOS and jumper settings. The other explains the usage of the uGURU system that has now become a major part of the ABIT line.
Along with the manuals are a driver CD and floppy. The driver CD contains all the drivers needed for Windows. The floppy disk contains the drivers needed to get Windows installed with the Serial ATA RAID controller since these drivers aren't integrated into the Windows install as of yet.
A USB2.0/Firewire combo bracket is included for you to make use of the additional onboard Firewire and USB ports as well as IDE and FDD cables. Four Serial ATA data and Serial ATA power cables are supplied for you to get the full use out of all Serial ATA ports as well as an I/O shield.
- The Motherboard
Now we get to see the motherboard itself. ABIT has done quite a good job in the layout with only one major gripe, which we will get to in a few minutes. The 24 pin ATX power connector and 4 pin CPU voltage power supply are located quite sensibly; the 24 pin power is located behind the DIMM sockets, which is the preferred place to have the ATX connector. The 4 pin CPU voltage supply is located on the upper left top corner of the board behind the PS/2 ports; this does keep the cables out of the heatsink area, allowing a much better air flow.
ABIT uses a 4 phase voltage regulation system that requires no additional cooling. Though they do tend to get quite warm when the Pentium 4 560 was placed on the board and clocked to the max.
The expansion slots are 1 PCI Express x16 slot for graphics, three PCI Express x1 slots and three PCI slots. This gives the end user enough expansion capabilities to add just about any device they wish, and with PCI Express based RAID controllers and sound systems coming, its better to be prepared. The single IDE connector is placed on the lower right of the motherboard on the 90 degree angle that ABIT has been using for some time, and in point of fact does reduce cable clutter. Our only major gripe is the placement of the FDD connector, at the very bottom below the PCI slots. This does make routing the FDD cable quite hard and in some cases, impossible to get a working FDD.
ABIT has chosen to use the I915P chipset for its first I915 series board. This chipset supports 800MHz FSB, PCI Express x16 graphics port, DDR and DDR-2 memory controllers as well as the 2.0GB/s DMI link for the ICH6. Unlike the I915G that Albatron uses, it doesn't have the GMA900 core built in, so you will need to have your own PCI Express graphics card to make this system work. While the I915P supports DDR and DDR-2, ABIT has decided to use only the DDR memory on this board; with a 128bit bus you can get a maximum of 6.4GB/s with DDR-400 memory. ABIT uses a rather unique heatsink on its North and Southbridges, with the Northbridge being actively cooled.
The AG8 uses the ICH6R Southbridge which mean it includes all the features we explained with the Albatron motherboard but also supports RAID 0, 1 and Matrix. ABIT also chooses to use the Realtek RTL850 Audio codec for its Azalia onboard audio.
Firewire support comes in the form of the Texas Instruments IEE1394A PCI Firewire chip. ABIT has been using VIA Firewire solutions for some time, though the VIA and TI controllers have been showing up equal to each other, and the VIA chip costs a bit less, so it's unknown why ABIT choose to go TI rather than VIA, still the Firewire support is there.
When it comes to the Gigabit Ethernet, ABIT has taken the cheaper option. The Realtek RTL8110S-32 controller chip is used. While it does do Gigabit Ethernet, it is attached to the PCI bus rather than being a PCI Express solution. This means that when you run Gigabit Ethernet traffic, you had better not have anything on the PCI bus, as the Gigabit traffic will take the full 133MB/s of the PCI bus and cause problems for you with bus flooding.
ABIT has now added a dedicated hardware monitoring system that doesn't rely on the CPU or other onboard devices to give its hardware monitoring system cycles. The uGURU chip is included which can monitor voltages, temperatures and fan speeds as well as control fan speeds and various other hardware systems. This also allows users to access all the monitoring systems from within Windows as well as do overclocking on the fly under Windows. This is very handy as it requires no restarts for the overclocking settings to take affect, and any options saved in Windows updates the clock settings in the BIOS so the system will boot up with the setting you choose in Windows, making software overclocking just a bit more convenient.
ABIT uses a new menu called uGURU in the BIOS. Gone is the Softmenu system that ABIT has used successfully for the past 3 years or more and a new and improved system allows you to change your overclocking settings as well as monitor your temps, voltages and fan speeds as well as set profiles for fan RPM settings based on the systems temperature.
When you open the uGURU menu you are first sent to the overclocking menu. From here you can adjust all the overclocking settings. ABIT supplied a BIOS that locks both the PCI and PCI Express to 33MHz for PCI and 100MHz for PCI Express. While we don't have a unit to confirm this, when locking the buses the system still boots up unlike the Albatron.
FSB adjustments can be made from 200MHz up to 355MHz in 1MHz increments. In tests we managed to hit 256MHz. This is above the 10% overclock that has been put on I9xx series chipsets.
CPU voltage is another important factor which you can adjust from 1.38v up to 2.0v in 0.025v increments. For Northwood based processor users, you will only want to go to 1.85v max and 1.6v max for Prescott based.
DDR voltage can be adjusted from 2.5v up to 3.2v; ABIT has set the benchmark for DDR voltages.
Northbridge voltage can be adjusted from 1.5v up to a maximum of 1.9v which gives the I915P chipset the ability to move beyond the 10% overclocking barrier.
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