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ABIT AI7 Springdale Motherboard - Pure Intelligence by ABIT

By: Cameron Johnson | Editorials in Motherboards | Posted: Nov 21, 2003 5:00 am
TweakTown Rating: 9.0%Manufacturer: ABIT

Features of the ABIT AI7


- Package, Contents and What You Get



As always we first have a look at the package, after all, this gives you a fair idea if this is going to be a winner or simply a try hard. While aimed at the overclocker, ABIT's AI7 is aimed at the overclocker on a budget. Inside the blue, black and white box that ABIT is now using for its I865PE range of boards, you find yourself face to face with what goodies you get on your budget. You get your motherboard, manual, USB bracket, two port Firewire bracket and Driver CD. This is all that ABIT includes within the box.


- Layout - High's and Low's



This is where we start to see what really matters, the motherboard itself. ABIT has done a reasonably good job with only a few flaws to its name. First off we will start with the good. One AGP slot is included for video cards in either 4x or 8x mode - no 2x as the chipset doesn't support this. Five PCI slots are included for adding in sound, Serial ATA controllers and various other PCI devices.


ABIT has done what is now considered standard but still a great feature none the less, I am talking about colour coded DIMM slots. This allows you to easily setup 128bit memory mode without having to look at the user manual to identify the banks.


Placement of the connectors is where we run into the only major gripe. The location of the floppy disk connector is located at the bottom of the board, which requires you to run the FDD cable over the extra components and as a result, reduces case air flow. This also limits the height you can place your FDD within your case. Other than that, the 20 pin power connector is place behind the DIMM sockets and the 4 pin connector is at the upper left corner of the board behind the PS/2 connectors, this does keep the power cable out of the way of the CPU - Some nice thinking ABIT.


Another thing you will notice is the angle of the CPU socket. The CPU is rotated in a 45 degree in order to reduce trace wire lengths for better overclocking results. This has been done on one other ABIT motherboard we have looked at, the SI7-G R658.


- Chipset



At the heart of the matter is the Intel I865PE chipset. There is a lot of debate over the I865PE vs. I875P issue now. We see the I865PE as the better option - for one, costing less then the I875P. Second, with new tweaks to the I865PE BIOS settings, the memory performance can perform just as good as Canterwood, and finally, the I865PE tends to overclock slightly better. We aren't sure if these are the reasons that ABIT have chosen the I865PE chipset for the AI7, however, it has been used.


The Northbridge is actively cooled by the same chipset cooler that was used on the IC7 MAX3 motherboard, which does a reasonably good job at keeping the MCH cool. To give the best possible options, the ICH5-R Southbridge is used in order to give your all the latest features including Serial ATA RAID by Intel.



Firewire is now becoming a motherboard standard. While only a couple Southbridge's have built-in Firewire controllers, motherboard manufacturers aren't letting that stop them. With quite a few third party chipset solutions for Firewire controllers available, ABIT has chosen the Texas Instruments 3 port Firewire controller chip to add three Firewire ports to your system - now you have USB 2.0 and Firewire, the very best of both worlds.



Ethernet is also a motherboard standard since these controllers have been added to Southbridge's. Intel's ICH5 series doesn't incorporate any due to the new CSA bus on the Northbridge's of the I875P and I865 series. To cut costs, ABIT hasn't used the new CSA network controller but rather the Realtek RTL8100C network controller chip supporting 10/100 Ethernet speeds.


- uGuru



uGuru is ABIT's latest addition to its motherboard line. uGuru is a new Real Time control system which allows you to monitor system status and modify system setting from within Windows. The Guru Chipset is a hardware based system controller that produces a variety of options. These are named ABIT EQ, OC Guru, ABIT Audio EQ, Fan EQ, Flash Menu, and ABIT Black Box.


From within the Windows operating system, the uGuru program allows you to not only monitor the system fan, heat and voltage statuses but also allow you to modify your AGP/PCI and CPU buses as well as change DRAM, CPU and AGP voltages - That's right, complete Windows based overclocking!


Fan EQ is designed to not only monitor the fan speeds but also use smart technology to control them. Monitoring spots on the motherboard for heat build ups is one job. When the temperature rises, the fans speed up depending on what sensor rises in temperature. This allows the motherboard to keep the fans running at lower RPM's making your case much more noise friendly and power efficient.


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