This motherboard squarely targets gamers wanting to build a powerful and intimidating rig.
It uses the latest 925XE chipset from Intel, which means it will accommodate Pentium 4 processors that have a 1066MHz front-side bus, DDR2 memory modules, PCI Express graphics, up to four SATA hard drives and dual network connections. It has all the peripheral connectivity you would expect of a board in this class, although only one parallel ATA port is provided.
The focus of the AA8XE is robustness. ABIT claims that each board is put through the wringer to ensure rock-solid stability (something we can attest to having witnessed first-hand in the component temperature testing rooms at ABIT's development headquarters). It's apparent that this board has undergone extensive engineering to combat heat issues, and this manifests primarily around the CPU area where dual extraction fans, heat sinks and a fan-shroud have been used to cool the MOSFETs (metal-oxide semiconductor field effect transistors). According to ABIT's research, these transistors become among the hottest running components during strenuous periods of system use.
In addition, ABIT has strategically placed copper strips underneath the CPU area to draw heat away from the circuit board itself, and a rigid fan assembly has been created to cool the memory modules. All fans are controlled by the mGuru utility, which also monitors system temperatures.
Installation was a breeze, although we did have to remove the fan shroud to gain access to the mounting hole in the top-left corner of the board.
We then tested this board for a full work day with strenuous 2D and 3D workloads and as hoped, found no evidence of instability or heat-related issues.
In brief: This board should capture the imagination of the gaming market, thanks to its cooling innovations, fast specs and red-illuminated edges. Price: $420 Distributor: Altech Computers URL: www.altech.com.au