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Abit's Fatal1ty-AA8XE motherboard

A Pentium 4 overclocker's dream

Price (street)

INTEL'S LOWEST PENTIUM 4 speed grades have traditionally had excellent overclocking potential, perhaps because of the company's undeniable fabrication prowess. However, Intel has never been a big fan of overclocking, and they've gone to great lengths to limit the practice over the years. Recently, Intel went as far as to implement hardware limitations on overclocking with its 900-series chipsets, whose front-side bus can generally only be increased by 10% without creating problems.

A handful of motherboard manufacturers have found ways to hack around Intel's 900-series overclocking lock, but there's a better solution: Intel's new 925XE chipset. Designed as a companion for pricey Extreme Edition chips, the 925XE natively supports a 1066MHz front-side bus and all the proper bus dividers needed to run at that speed. Best of all, you don't need to drop a grand on an Extreme Edition processor to take advantage of the chipset; it works just fine with LGA775 Pentium 4 processors designed for an 800MHz front-side bus.

Given its penchant for producing overclocking-friendly boards, it was only a matter of time before Abit tackled the 925XE chipset. They've wrapped Intel's latest core logic up in a new Fatal1ty-branded motherboard built with gamers and enthusiasts in mind. Is the Fatal1ty-AA8XE the ultimate Pentium 4 overclocking board? Read on to find out.

The specs
As always, let's kick things off with a look at the Fatal1ty-AA8XE's spec sheet.

CPU supportLGA775 Intel Pentium 4 processors with 1066/800MHz front-side bus
Form factorATX
ChipsetIntel 925XE
North bridgeIntel 925XE MCH
South bridgeIntel ICH6R
InterconnectDMI (2GB/s)
Expansion slots1 PCI Express X16
2 PCI Express X1
2 32-bit/33MHz PCI
Memory4 240-pin DIMM slots
Maximum 4GB of DDR2 533/400 SDRAM with ECC
Storage I/OFloppy disk
1 channel ATA/100
4 ports Serial ATA 150 via ICH6R south bridge with RAID 0, 1, 0+1, and Matrix RAID support
Audio8-channel audio via ICH6R integrated audio and ALC880 codec
Ports1 PS/2 keyboard
1 PS/2 mouse
4 USB 2.0 with headers for 4 more
1 Firewire via VIA VT6307 with headers for 2 more
1 RJ45 10/100 Fast Ethernet via PCI Intel Pro/100 VE
1 RJ45 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet via
Intel Pro/1000 MT

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

1 bass/center out
1 mic in
1 line in
1 digital S/PDIF out (TOS-Link)
1 digital S/PDIF in (TOS-Link, shared with line in)
BIOSPhoenix AwardBIOS
Bus speedsFSB: 100-400MHz in 1MHz increments
PCI Express: 99-255MHz in 1MHz increments
PCI: 33.33, 36.36, 40.00MHz
Bus dividersCPU:DRAM: 1:1, 1:2, 2:3, 3:4, 4:3
VoltagesCPU: 1.575-1.925V in 0.025V increments
FSB: 1.0-1.8V in 0.05V increments
DRAM: 1.6-2.55V in 0.
05V increments
DRAM VTT: 0.8-1.8V in 0.
05V increments
North bridge: 1.3-2.1V in 0.
05V increments
North bridge 2.5V: 2.3-3.0V in 0.05V increments
MonitoringVoltage, fan status, and temperature monitoring
Fan speed controlCPU, NB, SYS, OTES1, OTES2

Apart from its 925XE north bridge, the Fatal1ty board's spec sheet doesn't look much different from other enthusiast-oriented 900-series boards. Like the 925X, the 925XE only supports DDR2 memory, but it does so with front-side bus speeds at high as 1066MHz. At the south bridge, we have the ICH6R, which brims with Serial ATA RAID, including the ever-so-delicious Matrix RAID, and support for Intel's new High Definition Audio standard. Abit actually takes HD Audio one step further on the Fatal1ty-AA8XE, which also boasts Dolby Digital Live support.

Although the ICH6R serves up plenty of storage options, it's interesting to note that there are no auxiliary RAID chips on board. Serial ATA is well covered by the south bridge, but with only a single ATA/100 channel, an auxiliary RAID chip for "parallel" ATA devices would have been a handy addition to the board, especially considering its price.

Despite its lack of ATA RAID, the Fatal1ty-AA8XE isn't totally lacking in extra peripherals. The board comes equipped with dual LAN chips—one Gigabit and one plain old Fast Ethernet. Both Ethernet options are PCI-based, which is a little disappointing considering the board's PCI Express support. The fact that one of the Ethernet options is only 10/100 is a bit of a drag, too, but at least its limited throughput won't choke the PCI bus.

The Fatal1ty-AA8XE's stunning array of BIOS bus, divider, and voltage options is perhaps the most impressive part of the board's spec sheet. We'll dig deeper into the BIOS in a moment, but first, let's have a look at the board.