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Abit's IS7 motherboard

The GATling gun

Price (Street)$107

IT'S NOT VERY OFTEN THAT a manufacturer will totally change the appeal of a piece of hardware with a simple software upgrade, but Abit manages such a feat with their 865PE chipset board, the IS7. Shortly after receiving the board, we got a new BIOS from Abit that included a totally new feature called Game Accelerator Technology, or GAT. As you'll see in the benchmarks, GAT made quite a bit of difference in performance, which raises the question: What is GAT, and how did it pull off the performance jump?

The answer is more nebulous than one might expect, because Abit is essentially mum on what GAT is and how it works. However, based on the benchmarks and some other GAT-related information, we'll at least try to piece together what's going on inside the black box that is GAT. Along the way, we'll take a look at what the IS7 has to offer, and examine its performance in detail.

The specs
Let's start out with the bare facts by looking at the specs for the IS7.

CPU supportSocket 478-based Intel Pentium 4 processors
Form factorATX
ChipsetIntel "Springdale" 865PE
North bridgeIntel 865PE
South bridgeIntel ICH5R
InterconnectIntel Accelerated Hub (266MB/sec)
PCI slots5 32-bit/33MHz
AGP slots1, 4X/8X AGP Pro 50 (0.8/1.5V)
AMR/CNR slotsNone
Memory4 184-pin DIMM sockets
Maximum of 4GB of DDR400/333/266 SDRAM
Storage I/OFloppy disk
2 channels ATA/100
Serial ATA2 channels Serial ATA 150 via ICH5R south bridger
RAIDSerial ATA RAID 0, 1 support via ICH5R south bridge
Legacy ports1 PS/2 keyboard, 1 PS/2 mouse, Serial and Parallel ports
USB4 USB 2.0/1.1 ports
2 additional USB 2.0/1.1 ports via PCI expansion header
Firewire3 IEEE 1394 Firewire via TSB43AB23 Firewire controller
Audio6-channel audio via ICH5R/ALC650 codec
analog front, rear, and center outputs
analog line in and microphone inputs
digital S/PDIF input and output ports
Ethernet10/100 Ethernet via 3Com controller
BIOSAbit SoftMenu
Bus speedsFSB: 100-412MHz in 1MHz increments
AGP: fixed @ 66MHz
PCI: fixed @ 33MHz
Bus dividersDRAM: 3:2, 5:4, 1:1
CPU:AGP:PCI: 3:2:1, 4:2:1, 5:2:1, 6:2:1, 7:2:1, 8:2:1, fixed
VoltagesCPU: 1.500-1.875 in 0.025V increments
DRAM: 2.5-2.8V in 0.05V increments
AGP: 1.5-1.65V in 0.05V increments
MonitoringVoltage, fan status, and temperature monitoring

As you can see, the IS7 has a nice complement of features for a Springdale board. While it lacks Gigabit Ethernet (you need the IS7-G for that) it does have the ICH5R south bridge that enables Serial ATA RAID, and it comes with on-board Firewire as well. Of course, all the standard Springdale features are here too, like eight ports of USB 2.0 and an AGP 8X slot. The IS7 has solid overclocking abilities, with the ability to configure up to a 412MHz front-side bus and up to 1.875V of CPU voltage.

Opening up the IS7's box, you're greeted with a nice set of accessories. Abit thoughtfully includes two of those hard-to-find Molex-to-Serial ATA power cables, as well as two SATA data cables. There is also a drivers CD, a floppy with the SATA drivers, an IDE cable, and a floppy cable. Rounding things out are an I/O shield, a port expansion backplate, a sticker detailing jumper settings which you can put on the inside cover of your machine, and the user manual. The manual is about 90 pages long (English only) and covers installation, BIOS settings, and software installation, as well as diagramming the various jumpers, ports, and the like in detail.