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Abit "FATAL1TY AN8" NVIDIA NF4 Ultra Chipset Motherboard
This is the first Abit motherboard we have reviewed and to be honest, I was impressed from the start. After seeing the Pentium line and how well that performed at the CES 2005 show this year, I was really interested in the new AMD 939 motherboard "Fatal1ty" was working on. Abit and Wendel worked together to design a streamline version of the standard AN8 Abit board. This nVidia 4 motherboard is designed with the extreme gamer or over clocker in mind. You will see in this article Abit did it right... Let's take a closer look. To find out more about Fatal1ty we did an article on him and his booth at the CES2005 expo, feel free to check it out.
210.00 USD Purchase Link
We will not be going into every detail when discussing the installation due to the large amount of possible installations, but rather we will highlight the main features about the install that are different from the norm. So don't expect a step by step, that would take forever and to be honest, that is what the install documentation is for.
The first feature I would like to discuss is the power connector for the motherboard itself. It uses a 24 pin rather then the standard 20 pin so make sure you either have a 20 to 24-pin cross or that your power supply comes stock with the 24 pin. Be prepared to have the 24 pin power connector, because there is nothing worse then getting a new toy without the batteries to play it..
The next feature we will be highlighting is the RAM installation. Using your standard 184 pin DDR install them according to the documentation, either Dual Channel mode or single channel. What I wanted to really discuss was the "OTES" cooling system. The "OTES" unit for the RAM has a dual 30mm fan placed over the memory to dissipate the heat created by the memory sticks. The unit just snaps on over the RAM mounting clips and plugs into your stock 3-pin motherboard fan power. It is very easy and a great idea for minimizing heat buildup from those long LAN parties or heavy, lengthy usage. The unit snaps into place 1.2.3. and runs quiet and cool. I was very impressed with this.
Please also note all of the cables Abit provides, which is everything that is needed for all configurations on this motherboard. 4 SATA cables, Rounded IDE and Floppy cables external Fire Wire and USB hook ups. This is quite a savings, probably 40 to 60 USD just in cables alone.. Abit even provides a power converter for SATA from your standard 4-pin Molex connector.
The Fatal1ty AN8 board also comes with a Codec "nVidia" audio controller that has its own audio port and very good software to control any environment or setup you may use. Installation of the audio card is very similar to most PCI installs, just slide the card into the connector and fasten the card to the case using a screw. Make sure after installing the drivers and sound control panel to look and make sure you have the speaker's layouts correct, just designate if you are using two, four, six speakers or a headset in the Abit audio EQ utillity. The software also contains a test feature that allows you to make sure everything is correct.
Software installation went quite smoothly. I encountered no errors and was very pleased not only with the drivers, but with the applications and utilities provided by Abit to control the motherboard from Windows. Just follow the prompts during the software installation shell and everything should perform properly.
The final part of the installation I wanted to mention is the BIO's. Abit uses a standard Phoenix Award BIO's with some extras. The "uGuru" technology can be accessed either using the BIO's or using the Windows "uGuru" control panel. You will notice that all of your standard features are here just like many competitors. However, there are also a lot of drive controllers and other important items detailed very in depth in the user manual, so take your time to read over the installation manual carefully. Also note it is very important to make sure you have the correct memory latency settings or you will have booting problems. In this case I was using the Corsair XMS memory and it did not auto set properly, I had to adjust this manually.
I must say this motherboard is one of the flashiest AMD boards I have yet to come in contact with. "ABIT" and "Wendel" do a great job of adding lots of extras for your gaming enthusiast.. The entire back side of the board appears to have LED's spaced out so that the board glows a sick red. The LED's also show through the OTES South bridge fan unit. The OTES cover appears to be a solid black until you turn this bad boy on, then the entire plastic enclosure is translucent. I can't stress enough how pleased I am with the overall look and feel of this unit. Between the copper chipset cooler and the RAM cooling system this board pulls out all the stops to satisfy every persons visual preference.
There is however one part I was disappointed with, that is the rear interface panel that snaps into place on the rear of the PS case. The cover is used to protect the board near the PS2, USB, and COM port adapters. I can almost guarantee that this tin piece was made for the Intel A8 series board cause the piece just doesn't line up right. Don't get me wrong the plate will fit and your motherboard will be usable, it is just that the plate is a little off hilter so installing the PS2 and network cables is a little tougher. Not to mention that the second RJ45 port hole is on this unit so you have a blank hole. This is not something to be overly worried about, it is just "one of those things." I hope Wendel and Abit rethink the use of this plate for the next rev. How does the old saying go "Penny wise Pound foolish". With all the effort put into the design and quality of the board itself, to save cost on a small item such as the rear plate, I hope, was an oversight.
Performance can be measured in many ways. We are going to look at a few different aspects. We will be using some basic benchmarking software like PCMark04 and a tools using FPS video games. When talking about performance you must also talk about other things like software and usability as well. We will also discuss many of the software utilities that Abit and Wendel use to make this board a great piece of hardware...
Let's begin with the hardware. Below are the detailed results using PCMark04 from Future Mark. As you can see, this unit using defaults settings screams. Please note we used a PowerColor X800 Pro 256meg Video card and 2 x 512 meg Corsair XMS 184 pin PC3200 RAM. Also note your results will probably be even better if using a SATA interface for the hard drive, we decided to use IDE for this review because you can then compare the results more closely to many of the other results on our benchmark page. Also note when using a performance striping RAID that the AN8 board will perform even better. Keep your eyes open on our benchmark page because we are planning on doing a comparison study in the future using different raid types and hard drive interfaces. Back to the results, as you can see even with the RAM and CPU at base levels it performs exceptional and stable to boot. Something you can't see from the results is the stability. You will need to take my word for this, while running the tests suites the board remained remarkably cool...
There was one performance feature I was hoping to see on this board that is not present. That was the Dual LAN like on the Pentium style AA8 Fatal1ty board. Unfortunately the dual LAN is not available on the AN8. I am hoping it is added in future AMD chipsets.
Main Test Results
We also ran this board through a few CPU tests using Unreal Tournament 2003 and a script from HardOCP. The results are for both OpenGL and Direct3D rendering. Again this board performed great. While watching the script run I was amazed at the speed in witch this script completed its cycle. The changing screens in the test script went by so fast my eyes could barely keep up.
Unreal Tournament 2003 CPU Bench
This test was run using the Direct3D
& OpenGl Rendering Engine
This test was run using utility provided by [H]ard|OCP
Now let me tell you a little bit about the software provided with the AN8 "Fatal1ty" motherboard. We will start with the nVidia Firewall software. The installation went very smooth and the utility seems to perform very well. You can configure the response in many ways. By default the firewall will inform you every time an application will try and access the internet for information. I was a little worried seeing that I play a lot of online games and I didn't want the firewall to interfere with my game play. To my surprise the software only asked once for each game and with the selection to trust these events, the PC performed well with no lockouts from the firewall. I tried EverQuest, Battle Field 1942, Star Wars Battle Front, Doom3, and Unreal Tournament. All of these games performed flawlessly with no interruptions other then their first connection to the server. Please note that I used default settings (medium) and you can customize the security you wish to have. The utility also allows for security logs and statistics so you know who and what got through the application.
The next piece of software I wanted to mention was the uGuru OC wizard interface. This software is designed to control all of your over clocking needs from Windows. This utility controls voltages, fan speeds, temperatures and frequencies. With multiple selections for CPU and Memory, you can have pre-sets when using the PC in different ways. For example, when gaming hard core and heat is an issue you can over clock the CPU and add speed to your cooling fans in order to increase performance on the fly when needed. Fatal1ty provides some presets so you can see what they do and even use them as references to customize your own presets.
There are many things we need to cover when talking about the quality of this motherboard. Let's begin with the packaging, seeing that it is the first thing a person will see when buying this product. The overall look and usability in this aspect is superior to most of the other manufacturers I have seen. The board is encased in a cardboard frame locking the unit into place and also protecting it from any damage that might occur in shipping. Abit takes special care in packaging, not only the motherboard but the add on Audio card as well. Underneath the motherboard box are two other boxes containing all the software and extras, the rounded floppy and IDE cables and all four SATA cables as well. Note to mention the stylish look of the exterior that shows off the main selling features when you open the flip top lid.
Let's now talk about the board itself. Seeing this is the first motherboard Marns CDA has reviewed from Abit, I wasn't sure what to expect, but after using this unit for a week or so I can attest to the superior quality of the manufacturing of this board. With the "Bulletproof" technology and OTES cooling system this is by far one of the best over clocking boards I have used. With the "uGuru" Windows interface even the novice PC enthusiast will have no problem dabbling in over clocking their 939 AMD CPU. This is the first motherboard I have used that even adds cooling to the Southbridge with the aluminum heat sink and fan exhaust.
LED readout is a big plus when figuring out problems with setup.
Motherboard control utility in windows is awesome.
Superior cooling on all components.
OTES system is above and beyond.
Raid and drive controls are superb.
Appearance is plan old beautiful the Red LED lighting a must see.
Multiple USB and Fire wire connections for internal and external use more then many others competitors.
Rear tin motherboard panel is not made for this board.
When it comes to gaming and over clocking this is by far one of the best boards for the job. All of the software is designed to make over clocking easy and less harmful to your equipment.. I am very pleased to award the AN8 "Fatal1ty" motherboard our highest honor, the coveted "Editors Choice Trophy of Excellence" for a superior product designed "for" the PC enthusiast "by" a PC enthusiast.. Congratulations Abit and Fatal1ty for creating an incredible product!
Rating: 6 out of 6 Stars
Review Date: 03/30/05
Reviewer: pr101j (Paul)
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