ABIT has been one of the biggest names in overclocking motherboards for many years. When ABIT was put on hold due to some financial difficulties, the boards just stopped coming. That was truly a crying shame.
ABIT's rise to fame came when Pentium 3 was new; Intel's 440BX chipset was king and SDRAM hadn't been given its PC-133 ratings. This was ABIT's time as they were coming out with boards that were not only practical, they added features that were previously not available on commercial boards, but reserved for the server market. ABIT was the first to pioneer using the Highpoint HPT360 IDE chipset to run RAID on IDE drives, something we had not seen on any desktop board before. Not only this, but they were also the first motherboard maker to design a motherboard with a Jumper-free layout, requiring no jumper pins to be used to select bus speeds, CPU ratios and voltages; a huge improvement.
The most notable board that ABIT ever produced was the ABIT BP6-RAID motherboard. This was when Socket 370 had just started and the Celeron 370 was really hammering along. When it was discovered you could get Celeron CPUs to run in SMP by a simple trick with the pins, ABIT built the BP6 on the 440BX chipset with two Socket 370s on it and the ability to run a jumper to set SMP mode or standard mode for the Celeron CPU. This was the first board to come out which took full advantage of a Dual-CPU setup for the desktop market using nothing more than the Intel Celeron CPU. Its bottom of the line series had overtaken the Pentium 3.
It was some time before ABIT would rise back again. While they did have a few boards in between, their design, features and price were somewhat questionable. Now we have the new ABIT, under the "Universal ABIT" brand. We have seen new designs and ideas but the same old ABIT technologies brought into a new world. We have already seen some good boards come out, but unlike ASUS, MSI or GIGABYTE, ABIT doesn't have a huge portfolio of boards, rather choosing to go for a simple all in one approach.
Today we are looking at the ABIT IP35 Off Limits board based around the Intel P35 chipset and DDR2 memory. It's a scaled down version of the IP35 Pro Off Limits board we tested a while ago. How does it fair? Let's take a good look.
Specifications of the ABIT IP35 Off Limits
Supports Intel Core 2 Series (Extreme/Quad/Duo)
Supports Intel Pentium Dual Core Series
Supports Intel Pentium D Series
Supports Intel Pentium 4 5xx/6xx Series
Supports Intel Celeron D 3xx/4xx Series
Supports Intel 45nm Series CPU
Intel P35 Express
DMI @ 2GB/s
4 DDR2 SDRAM 240pin DIMM Sockets
64/128Bit Dual Channel
Supports up to 8GB Total Memory (4x 2GB)
P4 Bus Architecture
1 PCI Express x16
2 PCI Express x1
1 Parallel ATA port supporting 2 IDE Drives
6 Serial ATA ports
1 Gigabit Ethernet Port
1 PS2 Keyboard Port
12 USB 2.0 Ports (4 rear accessible, 8 via expansion brackets)
6 Stereo Audio Ports
1 Toslink SPDIF Port
3 Firewire ports (1 rear accessible, 2 via expansion bracket)
The Box and What's Inside
Package and Contents
First we dive into the package and what comes with the board. ABIT's IP35 Off Limits box art is identical to that of the IP35 Pro Off Limits box, but only with the IP35 Off Limits logo rather than the Pro version logo. The front has some nice artwork along with the basics of what the board supports as well as the company logo.
The back of the box contains a full spec sheet on the board's features, along with a full colour photo shot of the board with detailed info on each of the different parts of the board and its support. Along with this there is a brief rundown of the ABIT Soft menu BIOS that is part of their original Jumperfree BIOS setup.
Pressing on, we come down to the software, drivers and users manuals that are included. The user manual for the board is rather small, especially being from ABIT who usually have a full novel for the board's features. The included user manual supports the IP35 and the IP35-E board. A second manual that details the CPU installation is included along with a sticker that you can place on the inside panel of your case for jumper and pin references if you ever have to find something on the board. The driver CD that comes with the board gives you Windows XP and Vista drivers for both 32bit and 64bit OS's; but once again, any Linux users will be disappointed as there are no drivers for any of the distros of the Linux OS.
Moving to the accessories and we find a few cables included. Four out of six SATA data cables are supplied so you can put four drives in the PC without having to go buy extra SATA data cables. No power splitters are included which is a bit of a pity, so your PSU is going to have to support them all or you'll be heading out to the shop for a few Molex to SATA power converters.
The parallel data cables are one FDD cable that supports a single drive and one IDE cable that supports two drives. Two USB/Firewire PCI cover brackets are included which support two Firewire ports and two USB 2.0 ports on board.
Finally we come to the part we pay the bickies for, the board itself. ABIT has gone for a blue PCB with blue and black expansion slots, along with blue and black memory slots. The board measures 30x24cm so it's of the full extended ATX sizing and will require a good case to be installed into.
Placement of the onboard connectors is in a reasonably good arrangement. The 24-pin power connector resides behind the four memory slots. The 4/8 pin power connector is located behind the PS/2 ports on the left top of the board. The IDE port sits below the 24-pin power connector on the right hand side and is rotated on its side.
Moving along we come to the CPU area; ABIT has kept it as clear as possible from large capacitors by using solid state components that are smaller in size and more efficient than electrolyte caps. The CPU is fed by a 4-phase voltage system that is cooled by the Silent OTES cooler that also runs to the Northbridge. The Southbridge is cooled by its own passive cooler.
Coming down to the Rear I/O ports, the one thing that struck us here was "Gee, this is pretty barren". With the lack of legacy Serial and Parallel ports on the back and the Silent OTES taking up a bit of room, there is a few ports missing. However, the important ones are still there, the most notable one is the Toslink S/PDIF port for digital audio out thanks to the HD audio codec on the ICH9R.
Lastly we take a look at the expansion slots that the board comes with and the additional extras that ABIT has put onto the board. For the graphics system, there is no Crossfire support on this board; where the Pro version had a second PCI Express x16 slot running at x4 from the Southbridge chipset, the base model IP35 uses a single PCI Express x16 slot coloured blue that runs of the P35 Northbridge. For additional PCI Express add-ons there are two PCI-E x1 slots for any of the new generation of addons like the Creative X-Fi PCI-E or TV Tuners that are now coming out. To round out the slots there are three PCI legacy slots for users of older PCI sound cards and TV Tuners; hopefully we will see a bigger explosion of PCI Express cards and the death of PCI sometime this year.
For the additional features ABIT has chucked in, we have a single PCI Express based JMicron IDE/SATA controller chip to run the single IDE port the board has. Unfortunately like some other companies, the two extra SATA ports this chip provides go to waste. Why not make them e.SATA ports? - To give the board its three Firewire ports, a Texas Instruments PCI based Firewire chip is used and is by far the most popular. The LAN is powered by a single Realtek PCI-E x1 controller chip.
BIOS and Overclocking
ABIT's stuck by the Award BIOS which they have been using for the past seven years. The same blue screen greets us when entering the BIOS, and all of the overclocking options lie under the Soft menu area which is what ABIT has called its overclocking section for nearly 10 years now.
External Clock: 200 - 600 in 1MHz Increments
PCIE Frequency: 100 - 200 in 1MHz Increments
CPU Core Voltage: 1.3250v to 1.9450v in 0.0125v increments
DDR2 Voltage: 1.8v to 3.0v in 0.05v Increments
CPU VTT: 1.2v to 1.235v in 0.035v increments
ICH 15.v: 1.5v to 2.0v in 0.05v increments
ICH 1.25v: 1.25v to 2.05v in 0.025v increments
While the board did have an impressive array of overclocking options for a mid-range board, its overall result wasn't too impressive. We only managed to hit a stable 496MHz FSB. While most boards will break the 500MHz barrier quite easily these days, this board didn't quite manage to get there.
Important Editor Note: Our maximum overclocking result is the best result we managed in our limited time of testing the motherboard. Due to time constraints we weren't able to tweak the motherboard to the absolute maximum and find the highest possible FSB, as this could take days to find properly. We do however spend at least a few hours overclocking every motherboard to try and find the highest possible overclock in that time frame. You may or may not be able to overclock higher if you spend more time tweaking, or as new BIOS updates are released. "Burn-in" time might also come into play if you believe in that.
Test System Setup and Memory Performance
Processor: Intel Core 2 Quad QX6700 @ 3Ghz (9x333MHz)
Memory: 2x 1GB DDR2-1186 Geil (Supplied by Geil)
Hard Disk: 500GB Seagate 7200.9 (Supplied by Seagate Australia)
Graphics Card: MSI GeForce 8800GTS 640MB (Supplied by MSI)
Cooling: GIGABYTE 3D Galaxy 2 Water cooling (Supplied by GIGABYTE)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows XP SP2
Drivers: Intel INF 188.8.131.529, Forceware 163.21
Today's test features our ASUS P5K motherboard that was quite impressive for a base line board, and also our recently tested DFI P35 Blood Iron which we believe falls into the same category as the ABIT board.
Stock speeds were done at 3GHz with a 333MHz FSB and the memory was set to 800MHz. Overclocking wise, we moved the memory to a 1:1 divider to eliminate the memory and CPU as the limiting overclock factor. Our ASUS board was at an FSB of 510MHz, the DFI board at 502MHz and the ABIT board at 496MHz, all with a 6x divider to keep CPU speeds as close to 3GHz as possible.
EVEREST Ultimate Edition
Version and / or Patch Used: 2006
Developer Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com
Product Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com
Buy It Here
EVEREST Ultimate Edition is an industry leading system diagnostics and benchmarking solution for enthusiasts PC users, based on the award-winning EVEREST Technology. During system optimizations and tweaking it provides essential system and overclock information, advanced hardware monitoring and diagnostics capabilities to check the effects of the applied settings. CPU, FPU and memory benchmarks are available to measure the actual system performance and compare it to previous states or other systems.
Memory performance is square right across the board, even at overclocked speeds there isn't much difference. ABIT manages to keep right on the heels of the ASUS and DFI boards.
Benchmarks - PCMark05
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.2.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/pcmark04/
Buy It Here
PCMark is a multipurpose benchmark, suited for benchmarking all kinds of PCs, from laptops to workstations, as well as across multiple Windows operating systems. This easy-to-use benchmark makes professional strength benchmarking software available even to novice users. PCMark consists of a series of tests that represent common tasks in home and office programs. PCMark also covers many additional areas outside the scope of other MadOnion.com benchmarks.
At stock speeds all three boards are just about equal. When overclocking we see a slight drop-off on the ABIT board as the CPU and memory are both lower.
Benchmarks - Adobe Premiere Elements 2.0
Adobe Premiere Elements 2.0
Version and / or Patch Used: 2.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.adobe.com
Product Homepage: http://www.adobe.com/products/premiereel/
Buy It Here
Our test with Adobe Premiere Elements 2.0 is performed with a raw two hour AVI file. It is then compressed into DivX format using the latest version codec. We measure the time it takes to encode and then record CPU usage.
Premiere Elements at stock goes right across the board with only a second or two in it, which is about what you would expect for error factor. At overclocked it's clear that the slightly lower speed does make a difference to overall encode times. The more bandwidth and CPU speed you can get, the faster this task will be.
Benchmarks - HDD Performance
Version and / or Patch Used: 184.108.40.206
Developer Homepage: http://www.simplisoftware.com
Product Homepage: http://www.simplisoftware.com/Public/index.php?request=HdTachBuy It Here
HD Tach has been around for a long time and is excellent when it comes to testing hard drive performance. It is also a very handy program when it comes to testing the controller used on particular motherboards. Tests such as Read, CPU Utilization and Burst are available at a click of the button and give you a good idea of how the hard drive can perform from system to system.
Here we see no difference between all three boards as their HDD controllers are the same chip.
Benchmarks - 3DMark06
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/
Buy It Here
3DMark06 is the very latest version of the "Gamers Benchmark" from FutureMark. The newest version of 3DMark expands on the tests in 3DMark05 by adding graphical effects using Shader Model 3.0 and HDR (High Dynamic Range lighting) which will push even the best DX9 graphics cards to the extremes.
3DMark06 also focuses on not just the GPU but the CPU using the AGEIA PhysX software physics library to effectively test single and Dual Core processors.
Moving into gaming at stock speeds and all three boards are identical; but when overclocked we see that even the slight speed decrease puts it behind the other two boards.
Benchmarks - Prey
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.2
Timedemo or Level Used: Hardware OC Demo
Developer Homepage: http://www.humanhead.com
Product Homepage: http://www.prey.com
Buy It Here
Prey is one of the newest games to be added to our benchmark line-up. It is based off the Doom 3 engine and offers stunning graphics passing what we've seen in Quake 4 and does put quite a lot of strain on our test systems.
Prey notices the decrease a bit more due to its high profile nature on the PC hardware.
Benchmarks - Far Cry
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.3
Timedemo or Level Used: Benchemall Default Demo(download here)
Developer Homepage: http://www.crytek.com
Product Homepage: http://www.farcrygame.com
Buy It Here
While Far Cry is now one of our older benchmarking games, it is still able to put pressure on most computers systems as it is able to utilize all parts of the system. Utilizing PS2.0 technology with the latest versions supporting Shader Model 3.0 with DX9c and offering an exceptional visual experience, there is no denying that even some of the faster graphics cards get a bit of a workout.
Moving to our last game we see that the ABIT board falls behind, but only at overclocked speeds.
Power Consumption Tests
We are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into an AC wall socket).
There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.
The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a 7,200RPM SATA-II single hard drive is used without CD-ROM or many cooling fans.
So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.
Power usage across the board is just about on par with the other two boards here.
ABIT has recently made a comeback to the motherboard sector, and while the company name may have slightly changed, their board designs certainly haven't strayed from the original ABIT design.
Looking at the IP35 Off Limits, it has a certain style about it but its feature set is slightly lacking, especially compared to the price. ASUS's P5K motherboard holds a better performance and feature set compared to the ABIT board, as well as supporting Crossfire graphics cards to boot.
Overall the IP35 Off limits had its good points, but to be fully honest there are better boards out there for your hard earned dollar. ABIT's strong points aren't in the mainstream or budget sectors, their big push is in the extreme and hardcore motherboard area and we hope to see a few more of these boards come from the once mighty motherboard giant.
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