Abit has packed the BD7-RAID with most of the goodies we've come to expect from enthusiasts' mobos. First and foremost, of course, is its support for DDR SDRAM for the Pentium 4. That dynamic duo gets a little help from Highpoint's new ATA/133 RAID controller. In the BD7, the Highpoint chip can support RAID levels 0, 1, and the sweet spot, 0+1. Throw in six PCI slots and on-board sound, and you've got a deluxe-style mobo. Here are the full specs:
|CPU support||Socket 478-based Pentium 4 processors|
|Chipset||Intel 845 (82845 MCH, 82801BA ICH2)|
|Interconnect||Intel Hub Architecture (266MB/s)|
|PCI slots||6 (1 shared)|
|AGP slots||1, 2X/4X AGP w/sidebanding and fast writes|
|AMR/CNR slots||1 CNR (shared)|
|Memory||2 184-pin DIMM sockets for up to 2GB of PC1600/PC2100 DDR SDRAM|
|Storage I/O||Floppy disk
2 channels ATA/100
2 channels ATA/133 RAID 0, 1, and 0+1 capable
|Ports||1 PS/2 keyboard, 1 PS/2 mouse,
2 serial, 1 parallel, 3 USB,
1 additional USB port via expansion header,
1 line out, 1 line in, 1 mic in for AC'97 audio,
1 game port via expansion header (connector included)
|BIOS||Award PnP with SoftMenu III|
|Bus speeds||100MHz-250MHz in 1MHz increments|
|Monitoring||Voltage, fan status, and temperature monitoring|
Naturally, the BD7-RAID packs Abit's SoftMenu III, a BIOS-based set of overclocking options that offers fine-grain programmable front-side bus (FSB) speeds, voltages, and more. The most surprising of these options is the FSB to PCI ratio settings. You can specify a 3:1 or 4:1 FSB-PCI ratio, or you can simply nail down the PCI clock to one of several speeds (33, 37.5, or 44MHz), independent of the FSB speed. (Damage searches through manual to confirm that this is for real.) Yep, it's for real: no matter what the FSB speed, the PCI bus speed will stay locked where you set it.
If that isn't enough to set your tweaker's heart aflutter, you might be moved by Abit's inclusion of power and reset switches right on the motherboard. I was able to do some of my testing on the bench by simply plugging the BD7-RAID into a loose power supply and hitting the power button on the mobo. Not only that, but the BD7 series also includes a two-digit diagnostic LED readout. At one point while I was building the test rig, the system wouldn't boot. I was able to look up the hex code displayed on the LEDs and determine thathey, stupid!the DIMM wasn't seated well. Both the power/reset buttons and the diagnostic LEDs are startlingly useful, especially when you're fiddling with a board and asking it to do unnatural things with its bus speed or the like.
All in all, the BD7-RAID is one heckuva package. Its few feature shortcomingsno on-board Ethernet port, questionable on-board audioare easily forgiven thanks to its healthy complement of six PCI slots. And heck, there's a version of the board, called the BD7L-RAID, that includes an Ethernet port.
I do have one complaint, however. The board comes with only two DIMM slots, which is weak sauce in these days of crazy-low DRAM prices. The BD7-RAID will support up to 2GB of RAM, which is the 845 chipset's limit, but you'll need two 1GB DIMMs in order to do it. Another slot would add more flexibility. I'd probably be filing adoption papers for the BD7-RAID if it included three DIMM slots, though, so maybe that's for the best.