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Abit's AT7 MAX2 motherboard

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Manufacturer Abit
Model AT7 MAX2
Price (street) US$171
Availability Now

ABIT'S FIRST MAX motherboard was billed as a daring attempt to build a legacy-free platform. A dizzying array of USB and Firewire ports replaced legacy PS/2, serial, and parallel ports, but the AT7 MAX was never really legacy-free. Despite Abit's forward-looking intentions, the AT7 MAX's KT333 chipset still featured legacy logic, and the board itself retained a floppy port that flew in the face of its legacy-free marketing. In the end, the AT7 MAX was praised not so much for the reduction in legacy ports that it offered, but for its peripheral-packed PCB that made its MAX moniker particularly appropriate.

Ditching PS/2, serial, and parallel ports gave Abit a little extra room to squeeze more USB and Firewire ports onto the AT7 MAX, but it also cut down on the board's compatibility and expandability. PS/2 keyboards, mice, and KVM switches were unusable with the original AT7 MAX, and the board's three PCI slots left some enthusiasts wanting.

Abit appears to have re-thought the MAX concept a little, and they've come up with an updated AT7 MAX2. This new MAX seems to be more about packing all sorts of integrated goodies onto the PCB than taking any kind of stance against legacy ports, which is probably a good thing. But integrated motherboard components like 6-channel audio, Ethernet, RAID, and Firewire aren't quite the novelties they were when the AT7 MAX was first introduced. These days, it seems that every motherboard manufacturer is looking to add on extra peripherals, which will make it tougher for the AT7 MAX2 to stand out as much as its predecessor.

So what has Abit changed with this second coming of the MAX? Can the AT7 MAX2 run with the new crop of peripheral-packed motherboards from the competition? Let's find out.

The specs
Holding true to its MAX moniker, the AT7 MAX2 packs a whole lot of features and functionality onto its PCB. Let's take a quick look at the spec sheet.

CPU support Socket 462-based AMD Athlon/Duron processors
Form factor ATX
Chipset VIA KT400
North bridge VIA VT8377
South bridge VIA VT8235
Interconnect V-Link (533MB/s)
PCI slots 5 32-bit/33MHz
AGP slots 1, 4X/8X AGP 3.0
AMR/CNR slots none
Memory 4 184-pin DIMM sockets
Maximum of 2GB of DDR333/400 SDRAM (up to 2 DIMMs)
Maximum of 3GB of DDR200/266 SDRAM (up to 3 DIMMs)
Maximum of 3.5GB of Registered DDR200/266 SDRAM (up to 4 DIMMs)
Storage I/O Floppy disk
2 channels ATA/1
Serial ATA Marvel 88i8030 controller
2 channels SATA/150
RAID HighPoint HPT374
4 channels ATA/133 IDE RAID 0,1,0+1
Legacy ports 1 PS/2 keyboard, 1 PS/2 mouse
USB 6 USB 2.0/1.1 ports
2 additional USB 2.0/1.1 ports via PCI backplane connector
2 additional USB 2.0/1.1 ports via
expansion header
Firewire 2 IEEE 1394 ports
1 additional IEEE 1394 port via expansion header
Audio ALC650 6-channel audio
standard audio jacks, S/PDIF output
Ethernet VIA VT6102 10/100 Ethernet
Bus speeds 100-250MHz in 1MHz increments
Bus dividers 3:2:1, 4:2:1, 5:2:1 (FSB:AGP:PCI)
Voltages CPU: 1.10-2.325 in 0.025V increments
DRAM: 2.55-3.25V in 0.05V increments
Monitoring Voltage, fan status, and temperature monitoring

You get all that? It's a lot to digest, but I'll go over all the important bits individually. Suffice to say that the AT7 MAX2 is loaded with just about every integrated peripheral you could ever want, with the exception of on-board video, which few enthusiasts would be caught dead using anyway.