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Even without the legacy-free design, the AT7 MAX is a sure-fire winner by virtue of its integrated peripherals. Abit's MAX moniker couldn't be more appropriate. An integrated NIC, 6-channel audio, Firewire, USB 2.0, and 4-port IDE RAID make for quite a packed spec sheet. All these integrated peripherals come at the expense of PCI slots, but most users should be just fine with the three slots the AT7 provides.

Apart from its stacked feature set, the AT7 MAX is all about getting rid of legacy ports. For users with legacy peripherals, the AT7 might be a hard sell, even with many USB-to-legacy port adapters available. However, if you're starting from scratch there's really no reason to be buying into legacy components that may soon go the way of ISA.

A legacy-reduced motherboard might not mean that much to most users, but it could be a big push forward for the industry. I see the AT7 MAX as a case study that can prove the viability of legacy free mainstream PC platforms. It's a first step that may eventually lead to truly legacy-free platforms, but that line's a hard sell for someone just looking for a motherboard.

April 2002

In the end, the AT7 MAX doesn't need all the legacy-free hype to impress me, though I can certainly appreciate the reduced-legacy initiative. Only a fetish for PCI slots and ancient components could sour you on the AT7 MAX, which looks to be the best Socket A motherboard available. Abit wraps up a dizzying array of tweaking and overclocking options with a stack of integrated peripherals that should satiate all but the pickiest enthusiasts. The AT7 MAX is opulent without being gratuitous, and it's a steal of a deal at $160 when you consider all the integrated goodness. For now, no other Socket A motherboard can touch the AT7 MAX, and it gets our inaugural Editor's Choice award.

You might be wondering: What happened to our world-famous 11-point rating scale? We found it harder and harder to assign a number to a product arbitrarily, especially when our conclusions give a much more complete picture of the things we like and don't like. From now on, exceptional products at the top of their classes will get our Recommended award. Particularly impressive offerings, like the AT7 MAX, will receive our Editor's Choice award. TR

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