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Abit's AB9 Pro and AW9D MAX motherboards


Back up in LGA775 with the resurrection
— 1:02 AM on October 10, 2006

ABIT HAS BEEN ON the comeback trail since its acquisition by USI, and we've been impressed by the company's recent AN8 32X and AT8 32X motherboards for Athlon 64 processors. Intel's Core 2 Duo has become the processor of choice for PC enthusiasts, though, and we've yet to see what a reinvigorated Abit can do with an LGA775 socket.

Interestingly, Abit's most famous boards have been for Intel processors. Classics like the BH6 and BP6 essentially defined the enthusiast-oriented motherboard genre, making us particularly eager to see how Abit can complement the Core 2 Duo.

The most intriguing members of Abit's Core 2-compatible motherboard lineup are the AB9 Pro and AW9D MAX. The former is the most affordable P965 board to feature the ICH8R south bridge, and it comes with all the hardware monitoring, fan speed control, and overclocking options you'd expect from an Abit board. For those looking for a little something extra, the AW9D adds CrossFire support and marks the resurgence of Abit's high-end MAX brand. Read on to see if either of these boards has the potential to become another classic.


Board specs
The AB9 Pro and AW9D MAX have remarkably similar capabilities, but the two differ when it comes to core logic chipsts; the AB9 Pro uses Intel's latest P965 north bridge and ICH8R south bridge, while the MAX kicks it old-school with a 975X/ICH7R combo. For an in-depth examination of how those core logic combos compare, check out our recent Core 2 chipset comparison..

Abit AB9 Pro Abit AW9D MAX
CPU supportLGA775-based Celeron, Pentium 4/D, Core 2 processorsLGA775-based Celeron, Pentium 4/D, Core 2 processors
North bridgeIntel P965Intel 975X
South bridgeIntel ICH8RIntel ICH7R
InterconnectDMI (2GB/s)DMI (2GB/s)
Expansion slots1 PCI Express x16
2 PCI Express x1
2 32-bit/33MHz PCI
2 PCI Express x16
2 PCI Express x1
1 32-bit/33MHz PCI
Memory4 240-pin DIMM sockets
Maximum of 8 GB of DDR2-533/667/800 SDRAM
4 240-pin DIMM sockets
Maximum of 8 GB of DDR2-400/533/667/800 SDRAM
Storage I/OFloppy disk
1 channel ATA/133 via JMicron JMB363
6 channels Serial ATA with RAID 0, 1, 10, 5 support
2 channels Serial ATA with RAID 0, 1 support via JMicron JMB363
2 channels Serial ATA with RAID 0, 1 support via Silicon Image Sii 3132
Floppy disk
1 channel ATA/133
4 channels Serial ATA with RAID 0, 1, 10, 5 support
2 channels Serial ATA with RAID 0, 1 support via Silicon Image Sii 3132
2 channels Serial ATA with RAID 0, 1 support via Silicon Image Sii 3132
Audio8-channel HD audio via ICH8R and Realtek ALC882D codec8-channel HD audio via ICH7R and Realtek ALC882M codec
Ports1 PS/2 keyboard
1 PS/2 mouse
4
USB 2.0 with headers for 6 more
1 RJ45 10/100/1000 via Realtek RTL8168
1 RJ45 10/100/1000 via Realtek RTL8168

1 eSATA via Silicon Image SiI 3132
Headers for 2 1394a Firewire via Texas Instruments TSB43AB23

1 analog front out
1 analog bass/center out
1 analog rear out
1 analog surround out
1 analog line in
1 analog mic in
1 TOS-Link digital S/PDIF output
1 TOS-Link digital S/PDIF input
1 PS/2 keyboard
1 PS/2 mouse
4 USB 2.0 with headers for 4 more
1 RJ45 10/100/1000 via Realtek RTL8111B
1 RJ45 10/100/1000 via Realtek RTL8111B
1 eSATA via Silicon Image SiI 3132
Headers for 2 1394a Firewire via Texas Instruments TSB43AB22A

1 analog front out
1 analog bass/center out
1 analog rear out
1 analog surround out
1 analog line in
1 analog mic in
1 TOS-Link digital S/PDIF output
BIOSAwardAward
Bus speedsFSB: 133-600MHz in 1MHz increments
PCI-E: 100-200MHz in 1MHz increments
FSB: 133-600MHz in 1MHz increments
PCI-E: 90-150MHz in 1MHz increments
Bus multipliersCPU: 6x-10x (with Core 2 Duo E6700)CPU: 6x-10x (with Core 2 Duo E6700)
Bus dividersCPU:DRAM: 1:1, 1:3, 2:3, 1:1, 4:5, 3:4, 3:5CPU:DRAM: 1:1, 1:3, 2:3, 1:1, 4:5, 3:4, 3:5
VoltagesCPU: 1.325-1.725V in 0.025V increments
DDR: 1.75-2.5V in 0.05V increments
MCH: 1.25-1.45 in 0.05V increments
ICH: 1.5-1.7 in 0.05V increments
CPU: 1.325-1.725V in 0.025V increments
DDR: 1.75-2.65V in 0.05V increments
MCH&PCIe: 1.5-1.2 in 0.05V increments
MonitoringVoltage, fan status, and temperature monitoringVoltage, fan status, and temperature monitoring
Fan speed controlCPU, NB, SYS, AUX1, AUX2, AUX3CPU, NB, SYS, AUX1, AUX2, AUX3, OTES1, OTES2

Until recently, the most important difference between Intel's P965 and 975X chipsets was the latter's support for ATI's CrossFire multi-GPU rendering scheme. However, ATI has now announced its intent to bring full CrossFire functionality to the P965, effectively diminishing one of the 975X's major selling points. CrossFire support on the P965 isn't complete just yet, but it's already available for Direct3D applications with little more than a motherboard BIOS update and ATI's latest Catalyst graphics drivers.

Not that it matters for the AB9 Pro, though. The board's lack of a second PCI Express x16 slot prevents it from partaking in CrossFire configurations, preserving the AW9D MAX's multi-GPU graphics advantage.

Despite differing on chipsets and CrossFire support, the AB9 and AW9D share remarkably similar hardware specs. Both boards feature "Azalia" HD audio codecs and dual PCI Express Gigabit Ethernet controllers from Realtek, loads of auxiliary Serial ATA ports, and Firewire support courtesy of Texas Instruments. They even have nearly identical BIOS features, although the similarities begin to fade when we take a closer look at the boards.