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Abit's BE7-RAID motherboard

Not a MAX, but hardly a minimum
— 12:00 AM on January 15, 2003

Manufacturer Abit
Model BE7-RAID
Price (street) US$109
Availability Now

HIGH-END MOTHERBOARDS like Abit's IT7 MAX2 Version 2.0 aren't for everyone. In fact, many users don't need nearly a dozen USB 2.0 ports, Firewire and Serial ATA compatibility, and robust overclocking options. Frills can make a motherboard sexier, but they don't come cheap. If they're going to go unused, are they really worth it?

To address the segment of PC market that doesn't demand ever more integrated peripherals and overclocking options, Abit has introduced the BE7-RAID for Pentium 4 processors. In some ways, the BE7-RAID is a lot like the pricier IT7 MAX2 Version 2.0, which we love as a high-end board. Both boards use Intel's potentially classic 845PE chipset, and both feature integrated 6-channel audio, Ethernet, and IDE RAID, but that's where the similarities end.

Abit had to make a few sacrifices to make the BE7-RAID available in the $110 price range, but what did they cut, and did those cuts go too deep? Can the mid-range BE7-RAID be every bit as fast as its pricier sibling, or is the board better suited for Celerons and Solitaire? Read on to find out.

The specs
Abit's BE7-RAID doesn't pack quite the peripheral punch of its more opulent MAX siblings, but that doesn't mean you get a bare board. Here's a quick peek at the BE7-RAID's specs:

CPU support Socket 478-based Intel Pentium 4 processors
Form factor ATX
Chipset Intel 845PE
North bridge Intel 82845PE
South bridge Intel 82801DB
Interconnect Intel Hub Architecture (266MB/s)
PCI slots 5 32-bit/33MHz
AGP slots 1, 2X/4X AGP (1.5V only)
AMR/CNR slots none
Memory 3 184-pin DIMM sockets
Maximum of 2GB of DDR333/266/200 SDRAM
Storage I/O Floppy disk
2 channels ATA/100
Serial ATA None
RAID HighPoint HPT372
2 channels ATA/133 IDE RAID 0,1,0+1
Legacy ports 1 PS/2 keyboard, 1 PS/2 mouse, Serial and Parallel ports
USB 2 USB 2.0/1.1 ports
4 additional USB 2.0/1.1 ports via PCI expansion header
Firewire None
Audio 6-channel audio via ICH4 and Realtek ALC650 codec
analog front, rear and center channel outputs, analog line and mic inputs, digital S/PDIF output
Ethernet Realtek RTL8100B 10/100 Ethernet
BIOS Abit SoftMenu
Bus speeds 100-250MHz in 1MHz increments
Bus dividers 1/3, 1/4 PCI dividers
(can lock down PCI bus to 33, 37, or 44MHz)
Voltages CPU: core+5%, 10%, 15%
DRAM: 2.5-2.7V in 0.1V increments
Monitoring Voltage, fan status, and temperature monitoring

Support for Serial ATA and Firewire devices is missing from the BE7-RAID, but those are smart omissions. The bridged Serial ATA compatibility being offered by many motherboards these days just doesn't do it for me, and Serial ATA drives really haven't hit the market in any kind of volume yet, which ensures that plain old IDE drives will be around for quite a while. Firewire would be nice to have on the BE7-RAID, especially given the popularity of Apple's iPod, but integrated Firewire support has been mostly restricted to high-end motherboards. The BE7-RAID is definitely a more middle-of-the-road offering, and as such, can't integrate all the toys.

It's worth noting that Abit offers a number of different versions of the BE7. We're only looking at the BE7-RAID today, but other flavors include the BE7-G, which includes Gigabit Ethernet, and the BE7-S, which includes a Silicon Image Serial ATA controller on board. Unfortunately, you can't get a fully-loaded BE7 with RAID, Serial ATA, and Gigabit Ethernet, but it's still nice to have a few different board options. If you want it all, there's always Abit's MAX line, which includes everything but the kitchen sink.