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Abit's TH7II-RAID motherboard

Extras galore


INTEL'S 850 CHIPSET is about as popular with the PC enthusiast crowd as NSync's latest CD is with heavy metal fans. Enthusiasts demand great performance at low prices, and while the 850/Pentium 4 platform has posted some impressive scores in some tests, it's not exactly been the price/performance leader. Fortunately, the introduction of DDR chipsets from VIA, SiS, and Intel has enabled the Pentium 4 to achieve reasonable performance without resorting to RDRAM.

However, Intel still maintains that RDRAM is the best choice for absolute performance. Abit, always a favorite of the enthusiast community, has chosen to tackle Intel's 850 chipset with its TH7II-RAID motherboard. In typical Abit style, the TH7II-RAID is packed with features that would make any PC freak drool. Can the TH7II-RAID tempt us into an unlicensed liaison with RDRAM? Read on to find out.

The specs
Abit has packed the TH7II-RAID to the gills. Check it out:

Abit brings just about everything to the table with the TH7II-RAID. They've included all the usual features, plus a few extras we're not used to seeing; I'll get to those a little later on.

The layout
The TH7II-RAID is loaded with hardware, and fitting it all onto a reasonably sized board no doubt took some skill. Check out the TH7II-RAID's packed layout below.

The TH7II-RAID: A still-life portrait

Even a quick glance reveals something a little unusual in the bottom left corner of the board. Abit has a couple of extra goodies down there that I'll explain in a minute. Let's take a closer look at some of the more important physical locations on the board.

Things can get a little tight around the IDE ports

The area around the IDE ports and RIMM slots can get very crowded, especially with all the IDE ports in use. In smaller cases, things could get really ugly. Fortunately, having all the IDE ports at the top of the board allows cables to reach the top drive bays of full-tower cases easily.

The socket area is clear of obstacles for even the biggest heat sinks

Abit does a great job clearing out the area around the CPU socket with the TH7II-RAID. I can't imagine any heat sink having problems fitting in the expansive area Abit has left open.

Three-high USB ports and a vertical audio port configuration

The TH7II-RAID has a bit of an odd port configuration. First, there are three stacked USB ports. They're not problematic, and I actually prefer them to a USB header that screws into a PCI port. The audio ports for the on board AC'97 sound are also stacked three high, which in an increasingly common configuration. Abit has left out a game port on the TH7II-RAID, but it's not a big deal. Most game controllers use USB these days, anyway.