The board & contents
Since this motherboard the same as the AA8-Duramax with the addition of the µGuru clock the are about the boxes are also quite similar. There is a good amount of information on the motherboard and all of the features that come along with it. I didn’t include a picture but the packaging inside of the box is excellent. All of the accessories provided were in a box and the clock was in another. There were no lose items that were floating around in the box which was nice to see.
The motherboard comes with a good amount of documentation, all of which is well written. You get a motherboard manual, µGuru manual, quick installation guide, and motherboard jumper settings sheet. Also included is a CD with the motherboard drivers, µGuru software, and a few other programs while the floppy disk provided contains the SATA drivers.
The µGuru clock comes in its own box as I mentioned before and contains the clock, USB cable, and small manual. The USB cord is designed specifically for the clock so don’t try and use it with anything else. The LCD screen is protected by a piece of plastic so it doesn’t get scratched during shipping which it didn’t. From the back view of the clock you can see the USB port as well as the three buttons on the top of the clock which have different functions. The µGuru features and clock will be looked at in much more details later in the review.
This motherboard uses the orange PCB that is becoming Abit’s trademark color. I remember the nice orange from my NF7-S motherboard a few years ago. The overall design of the board looks to be good and will be dissected as the review moves along. One thing to note from this top level view is that all of the capacitors are made by Rubycon. Nearly two years ago, in response to an industry-wide problem with faulty capacitors Abit decided to make the change to these high quality capacitors which provide a more stable power output and stable electrical wave form for overclocking. Although the cost of the Japanese capacitors are several times more expensive than competing capacitors made in China, the quality level is much better.
The I/O back panel looks to have just about every connection needed. Many of the connections are pretty standard but I like seeing the gigabit LAN, firewire, S/PDIF IN/OUT and the 7.1 sound. The socket is of course one of the biggest changes to these LGA775 motherboards moving the pins from the processor to the socket. The 12v connector is at the very top of the motherboard near the back panel which is a good location for it.
The northbridge is cooled by a pretty unique looking active heatsink. Rather than using a traditional design where the air would push down onto the heatsink this one is blowing horizontally through the heatsink. This has been done with some CPU heatsinks however this is the first time I have seen it done for a northbridge. The southbridge will not get as hot as the northbridge but it does have a small passive heatsink on it to keep it cool. Just to the right of the southbridge are four SATA ports and a single IDE connection for your drives.
This motherboard has 1 x16 PCI-Express slot, 3 x1 PCI-Express slots, and 2 PCI slots. This should be a good slot configuration which will give you enough PCI for your current cards and enough x1 PCI-Express slots for future cards. Directly to the left of the x16 PCI-Express slot is the Realtek RTL8110S-32 chip which is the gigabit Ethernet controller. The DDR2 slots are color coded for dual channel setups just incase you forget your memory doesn’t go directly next to each other.
The floppy drive connector is at the bottom of the motherboard which isn’t the best place for it. It would be better if it was up near the DDR slots, then again floppies will be phased out complly with the BTX form factor. From the picture of the bottom left of the motherboard you can see the I/O chipset which is a Winbond W83627HF-AW. You can also see the RealTek ALC880 chipset for your 7.1 high definition audio. Furthermore there are two 3-pin fan headers for you to connect your fans to. The bottom right hand side of the motherboard is where you will find the µGuru chip which controls all of its features, and right below the chip is a red USB header for the µGuru clock. There is also a Texas Instruments TSB43AB23 chip which is the 1394a Link Layer Controller for the onboard firewire.