Single page Print

Abit's AA8 DuraMax motherboard

925X's revenge

ModelAA8 DuraMax
Price (street)$196

IT'S ALMOST RITUAL by now. We follow up our evaluations of new Intel chipsets with reviews of third-party motherboards based on those chipsets, and the third-party mobos shed new light on the Intel chipsets. The most recent chipsets for Intel, of course, are the 915 and 925X Express series, which we reviewed not long ago. These new core-logic bad boys pack in all kinds of novel features, including PCI Express, DDR2 memory, and high-definition audio. But for all the new goodies, they haven't shown much performance advantage over the 875P chipset that preceded them. Even the high-end 925X, with fast internal timings and 533MHz DDR2 memory, couldn't outrun its predecessor in our tests.

Now comes Abit's AA8 DuraMax motherboard, and things look different for a couple of reasons. First, Intel's 925X review kit didn't arrive at Damage Labs until a couple days before Intel pulled the curtain back on the product launch, so we didn't get time to tweak the Intel D925XCV mobo as we'd have liked. We've had some time to tweak and tune the AA8, and we've discovered a surprising amount of headroom in both the chipset and its associated DDR2 memory. Second, the Abit AA8 is a true enthusiast's mobo, with more tweakage options, voltage settings, and overclocking facilities than your average button-down corporate motherboard could even contemplate. Not only that, but the board is fast, stable, and robust enough to handle some abuse.

As a result, we've seen the 925X Express chipset in a new light, and we like what we see. Keep reading to find out more.

Abit's AA8 DuraMax motherboard

The specs
The AA8 DuraMax packs in all the fancy new features you'd expect from a 925X-based motherboard. Here's a quick summary.

CPU supportLGA775 Intel Pentium 4 processors with 800MHz front-side bus
Form factor ATX
ChipsetIntel 925X Express
North bridgeIntel 925X MCH
South bridgeIntel ICH6R
InterconnectDMI (2GB/s)
Expansion slots1 PCI Express X16
3 PCI Express X1
2 32-bit/33MHz PCI
Memory4 240-pin DIMM sockets
Maximum of 4GB of DDR2 533 SDRAM
Storage I/OFloppy disk
1 channel ATA/100
4 ports Serial ATA 150 via ICH6R south bridge with RAID 0,1 support
Audio8-channel HD audio via ICH6R integrated audio and ALC880 codec
Ports1 PS/2 keyboard
1 PS/2 mouse
1 serial
1 parallel
USB 2.0 with headers for 2 more
 IEEE 1394 port via TI TSB43AB23 Firewire controller with headers for 2 more
1 RJ45 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet via Realtek 8110S-32

1 line out/front out
1 rear out
1 surround out

1 bass/center out
1 mic in
1 line in
1 optical SPDIF in
1 optical SPDIF out
BIOSPhoenix AwardBIOS
Bus speeds100-300MHz in 1MHz increments (400-1200MHz quad-pumped)
Bus dividersLocked PCI speeds of 33, 36, 40MHz
VoltagesCPU: 1.3625-1.7125V in 0.015V increments
DRAM: 1.9-2.2V in 0.05V increments
North bridge: 1.50-2.05V in 0.05V increments
MonitoringVoltage, fan status, and temperature monitoring
Fan speed controlCPU, north bridge, and system fans
You'll notice there's no AGP slot, so AA8 owners will need a PCI Express graphics card, in addition to some new DDR2 memory and an Intel LGA775 processor. However, Abit has kindly included a pair of PCI slots, so users aren't forced to discard everything and start over. Let's look at the board's highlights a little closer.