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Abit's KV8-MAX3 motherboard


Price (street)$160

IT SEEMS like only yesterday that AMD's Socket 754 Athlon 64 lineup consisted of just the $400 Athlon 64 3200+, but the times they are a changin'. AMD's swanky new Athlon 64 3400+ has driven the 3200+'s price down to only $278, and a more affordable Athlon 64 3000+ is now available for only $218. The Socket 754 platform is finally sweetening for PC enthusiasts.

Long a darling of PC enthusiasts, Abit has whipped up the KV8-MAX3 for AMD's Socket 754 platform. The KV8-MAX3 is Abit's first stab at AMD's 64-bit initiative, and the board certainly has enough BIOS options, integrated peripherals, and extra features to be worthy of the MAX moniker. However, many of Abit's competitors currently offer MAX-worthy features on their own motherboards, which means that the KV8-MAX3 will have to kick things up a notch to set itself apart from the pack.

How does Abit keep the KV8-MAX3 fresh and innovative in a sea of peripheral and feature-laden competitors? Does the board have what it takes to rise above the rest of the Socket 754 competition? Read on to find out.

The specs
Before we unwrap the KV8-MAX3, let's have a quick look at the board's spec sheet.

CPU supportSocket 754-based Athlon 64 processors
Form factorATX
North bridgeVIA K8T800
South bridgeVIA VT8237
InterconnectHyperTransport (3.6GB/s)
PCI slots5 32-bit/33MHz
AGP slots1 4x/8x (1.5V only)
AMR/CNR slotsNone
Memory3 184-pin DIMM sockets
Maximum of 2GB of DDR266/333/400 SDRAM
Storage I/OFloppy disk
2 channels ATA/133
Serial ATA2 Serial ATA channels via VT8237 south bridge
4 Serial ATA channels via Sil3114 SATA RAID controller
RAIDRAID 0, 1 support via VT8237 V-RAID
RAID 0, 1, 0+1 support via Sil3114 SATA RAID controller
Legacy ports1 PS/2 keyboard and 1 PS/2 mouse
USB4 USB 2.0/1.1 ports
Additional 2 USB ports via
PCI expansion header
Firewire1  IEEE 1394 Firewire port via TSB43AB23 Firewire controller
Additional 2 Firewire ports via PCI expansion header
Audio5.1-channel audio via VIA VT8237 audio controller and VT1616 codec
Analog front, rear, and center outputs
Analog line and microphone inputs
Digital S/PDIF output and output ports
Ethernet10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet via 3COM 940-MV00
BIOSPhoenix AwardBIOS
Bus speedsCPU: 200-300MHz in 1MHz increments
auto, 100, 133, 166, and 200MHz
Bus dividersNone
VoltagesCPU:  default + 0-0.350V in 0.001V increments
AGP:  1.5-1.65 in 0.05V increments
DIMM:  2.5-3.2 in 0.05V increments
HT:  1.2-1.4 in 0.05V increments
MonitoringVoltage, fan status, and temperature monitoring

Yeah, she's loaded. The KV8-MAX3 is packed to the gills with all sorts of nifty features and peripherals, each of which we'll go over in detail. The board has a lot of goodness lurking beyond its spec sheet, too. There's a lot to cover, so let's get things started with the layout.