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AGP and DDR support with Socket 775 from ABIT and DFI (Page 4)

By Cameron Johnson from Oct 20, 2004 @ 23:00 CDT
Manufacturer: none

Features of the ABIT AS8

While Socket 775 may be the newest thing in the Intel line-up, it isn't anything that cannot be re-engineered to work with current technology and this is what ABIT has done with the AS8.

- Package and Layout

Being designed on the new uGURU premise, a special uGURU motherboard box is supplied with the AS8 logo on the front. These boxes don't vary much from board to board - just the model name.

Inside you get the impression ABIT isn't pushing this as its top contender motherboard for the 775 platform, as you get a pretty modest bundle. Simply put you get your user manuals, one for your motherboard and one for the uGURU software side, single FDD and two IDE cables are provided since this motherboard has two separate IDE channels, two SATA data and two SATA power splitters are included as well as your usual driver and software CD.

- The Motherboard

ABIT has put quite a bit of effort into the AS8 in designing a compact, yet powerful motherboard to earn your dollars as a LGA775 contender. First off, ABIT has used a full ATX sized PCB. The power connectors are located in the best possible positions, with the 20 pin ATX connector being located behind the DIMM slots along with the IDE and FDD connectors. The 4 pin connector is located behind the PS2 ports at the upper right of the motherboard.

The AS8 being based on the older chipset has one AGP 8x slot and four PCI slots - ABIT had to sacrifice an extra PCI slot in order to fit the larger LGA775 socket. This motherboard provides support for your current AGP graphics as well as DDR but still gives you support for the latest Intel CPU's which is a very handy thing as clock speeds scale up, up and up.

In order to give the AS8 its compatibility with the current AGP standards, ABIT has decided to use one of the more promising chipsets for the Pentium 4, the Intel I865PE chipset or Springdale as it is also known. ABIT also uses the ICH5R Southbridge chipset on this motherboard but you may ask why not ICH6 series? The ICH5R is the last of the Intel Hub Architecture interconnects that run at 266MB/s. ICH6 series uses a new Digital Media Interface that runs at 2GB/s, which prevents ICH5 being used in I9xx chipsets.

While this may reduce the amount of expansions you get, you still get two SATA ports and two IDE ports for a maximum of six storage devices. The ICH5R is covered by its own passive cooling, however, it isn't really needed as the ICH5 series generates very little heat but still it's a nice touch typical of ABIT mentality.

No motherboard these days are complete without a full set of serial based add-on ports and no not the standard D-SUB 9 pin ports but Firewire and USB 2.0. ABIT provides eight USB 2.0 ports through the ICH5 Southbridge and three Firewire ports thanks to the Texas Instruments PCI to IEEE1394 host controller. A note about this is that this only supports a max of 400mbps and not the new 800mbps that Texas Instruments has put out.

ABIT has gone in a totally opposite direction to that what we would have expected for most I865PE motherboards and that is to abandon the CSA bus for the Gigabit Ethernet and simply use a PCI based 10/100 Realtek Ethernet controller. While this is perfect for all current Ethernet workings, if you want to go Gigabit you will need to add in a extra PCI based card which will tie up the PCI bus completely.

- The BIOS and Overclocking

ABIT has always been on the cutting edge of overclocking hardware and innovations, and the AS8 is no exception. The "GURU" line is ABIT's latest model, doing away with the older Softmenu style system, the "GURU" brand now encompasses the motherboards and now video cards coming from the ABIT plant.

uGURU is the motherboard range. uGURU is designed with its own hardware based monitoring chip created by ABIT which requires no CPU cycles or system resources in order to calculate the temperatures or monitor the voltages being supplied - everything is done independent of the CPU. uGURU menu in the ABIT BIOS is where you can access system temperature and voltage displays, overclocking settings as well as controls for the various fan headers. Let's take a closer look.

When entering the BIOS menu you are greeted with all the standard options, however, the usual Softmenu section is replace by the uGURU menu option which is where you find you the overclocking options. In order to gain control of the overclocking settings you must first change the "CPU Operating Speed" to User Defined, after this all the other options that are greyed out become available.

External clock controls the FSB of the chip. Depending on what CPU you have is depending on what FSB ranges there are. Since 400MHz CPU's are supported there are no settings below 533MHz, the only reason 533MHz is supported is due to the Celeron D in the LGA775 socket which are now available. However, you can select FSB up to a max of 400MHz in 1MHz increments no matter what your CPU. During our testings, we managed to hit 287MHz FSB with our unlocked Prescott CPU and some very helpful OCZ RAM - more could be achieved with a few extra voltage tweaks but this still is a very nice result.

The N/B Strap option forces a FSB range for the Memory controller to work with which allows you to access different memory multipliers for different FSB settings. The best idea is to set to FSB800 to give access to the 1:1 memory divider.

The DRAM ratio comes as a direct result of the settings from the NB Strap. For best performance, 1:1 setting is advised as it keeps the memory in sync with the CPU, allowing a much less latency riddled CPU to memory path.

The AGP/PCI lock comes curtesy of the I865PE and ICH5. Here you can lock PCI and AGP clocks to 66MHz for AGP and 33MHz for PCI which is a much welcomed break from some of the new I9xx motherboards that lack of the clock locks which prevent good overclocking.

The Voltage control section is also locked and must be set to User Defined in order to gain access to the CPU and various other voltages. CPU Core voltage is available from 0.09v up to 1.95v in 0.025v increments. This gives you great support for Prescott and Northwood CPU's, yes Northwood will be here in the form of a P4 Extreme Edition in the LGA775 socket, paired with this sort of overclocking expect a extreme machine.

DDR SDRAM voltage settings come from 2.5v up to 3.2v in 0.1v increments, and no the AS8 doesn't suffer from the 2.9v limitation the IC7 MAX3 suffered - 3.2v works perfectly, we use this setting to get out 289FSB with the memory at 1:1.

NB/AGP voltage was a little disappointing with only 1.5v up to 1.65v in 0.05v increments, we would have liked a 1.8v or 1.9v setting to allow a further stable FSB above the 280Mhz line, however, our results do say we have a great overclocking motherboard here with us today.

We saw this once before from ABIT and it has come back again. First time we saw the increased voltage rail links was on the TH7-II motherboard to increase FSB overclocking on the I850 chipsets, and now it has come back to allow a much cleaner and stronger voltage for the Prescott CPU's. These thicker trace lines are on both the top and underside of the motherboard - well done ABIT. You can just about always count on ABIT when it comes to overclocking.

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