The Fatal1ty brand has typically been reserved for high-end motherboards, but it's trickled down to more affordable territory with Abit's FP-IN9 SLI. With street prices starting at $127, this is actually one of the least expensive nForce 650i boards on the market.
Of course, Fatal1ty branding alone won't make us forget the FP-IN9's lack of Firewire and eSATA connectivity. The red and black aesthetic does give the board an extra dose of visual flair, but you won't be able to appreciate it without a case window.
A solid layout is much more important than a motherboard's looks, and the Fatal1ty hits a snag right out of the gate. The auxiliary 12V power connector isn't as close to the top edge of the board as we'd like to see, and that can create unnecessary cable clutter around the CPU socket and rear chassis exhaust fan. This isn't a huge inconvenience, but Abit has usually been pretty good about putting its power connectors in the right places.
Fortunately, the rest of the FP-IN9's layout is spot on, perhaps in part thanks to the fact that Abit's board designers didn't have to worry about accommodating a bunch of integrated peripherals and their corresponding ports.
Taller heatsinks ringing the CPU socket may interfere with extremely wide aftermarket coolers, but these days heatsink makers appear content building up rather than out, so it shouldn't be an issue. We'll gladly tolerate a larger north bridge cooler to do away with pesky chipset fans, anyway.
Note that there are precious few capacitors around the CPU socket. Those that do make an appearance are low-profile, solid state caps that won't get in the way.
Moving down the board we encounter a flurry of storage ports clustered in one corner. SATA ports are tucked away at the bottom of the board where they won't interfere with longer double-wide graphics cards, and IDE ports have been mounted on their sides facing the edge of the board. Abit also throws in handy onboard power and reset buttons next to the SATA port cluster. The CMOS reset jumper is also conveniently located there.
Abit has done an excellent job with the FP-IN9's slot stack, leaving a large enough gap under the primary PCIe x16 slot to ensure that a double-wide graphics card won't cost you an expansion slot. Running two double-wide cards in SLI will compromise one of the board's two PCI slots, but you'll still be left with a couple of PCIe x1 slots.
Like other nForce 650i-based motherboards, the FP-IN9 is only capable of feeding eight lanes of PCI Express bandwidth to each card in an SLI configuration. You have to flip an onboard paddle to get the board into SLI mode, and while that's not quite as convenient as a BIOS switch, it's not a big deal if you've already opened your case to add that second graphics card.
A relative lack of onboard peripherals keeps the Fatal1ty board's port cluster looking a little sparse. The only real luxury is an optical S/PDIF audio output, which Abit would no doubt like you to combine with its iDome digital speakers.
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