We cut through the confusion surrounding the MAX concept with our AT7 MAX review back in May. The AT7 was fast, equipped with a decadent array of integrated peripherals, and a courageous step towards a truly legacy-free PC platform. We were mighty impressed.
Today we're looking at the AT7's partner in crime, the IT7 MAX. Based on Intel's 845E chipset for the Pentium 4 processor, the IT7 brings all the MAX goodies to the Socket 478 platform. It even manages to squeeze in a few extras along the way.
What does Abit bring to the table with the IT7 MAX, and why is that floppy port still there? Should other motherboard manufacturers be afraid? Read on to find out.
Much has been made of the legacy-free theme of Abit's MAX series of motherboards, but it's really not that complicated. The IT7 MAX isn't a legacy-free board in any radical sense. No, it doesn't have any old-style keyboard, mouse, serial, or parallel ports. But at the silicon level, Intel's 845E chipset has full support for PS/2, serial, and parallel interfaces. Even if Abit doesn't implement ports for these legacy interfaces, the IT7 MAX performs no differently than a motherboard with these legacy devices disabled in the BIOS.
Interestingly enough, Abit does include a dated floppy disk drive interface on the forward-looking IT7 MAX. The official line from Abit is that they don't feel the market is quite ready to ditch the antiquated 1.44MB floppy disk, and they might have a point. Then again, I'm perfectly comfortable with using CD-Rs in lieu of floppy disks, even for BIOS flashing.
It turns out that we can also blame Microsoft for the IT7 MAX's floppy drive, at least for now. If you want to install an operating system to a drive connected to the integrated Highpoint 374 controller, you're going to need a driver diskWindows' setup route will only read drivers from a floppy drive. Much to my dismay, the CD-R trick doesn't work.
In the end, it's probably best to call the IT7 MAX legacy-reduced. Your only access to PS/2, serial, or parallel ports will be through USB adapters, and you're going to have to buy those yourself. Realizing the MAX concept is a bold move on Abit's part. Grumpy old men with dot matrix printers will likely hum and haw about it, but the MAX boards might be just what the industry needs to prove that the market is ready for legacy-free PC platforms.
It might not have any legacy ports, but the IT7 MAX's spec sheet is packed with other goodies.
|CPU support||Socket 478-based Intel Pentium 4 CPUs|
|North bridge||Intel 82845E (MCH)|
|South bridge||Intel 82801DB (ICH4)|
|Interconnect||Intel Hub Architecture (266MB/s)|
|PCI slots||4 32-bit/33MHz|
|AGP slots||1, 2X/4X AGP (1.5V only)|
|Memory||3 184-pin DIMM sockets |
Maximum of 2GB of PC1600/PC2100 DDR SDRAM
|Storage I/O||Floppy disk|
2 channels ATA/100
|RAID||Highpoint HPT374 IDE RAID controller|
4 channels ATA/133
|USB||6 USB 2.0/1.1 ports|
4 additional USB 2.0/1.1 port via PCI backplane connector
|Audio||Realtek ALC650 6-channel audio|
|Ethernet||Realtek 8100B 10/100|
|Firewire||Texas Instruments TSB43AB23 IEEE 1394|
|BIOS||Award, SoftMenu III|
|Bus speeds||100-250MHz in 1MHz increments|
|Monitoring||Voltage, fan status, thermal header and temperature monitoring|
There are far too many integrated peripherals to deal with all at once, so let's break things down a little.