When Abit hit the financial skids and outsourced its motherboard production, enthusiasts turned their mirrors around, broke out the whiskey, and prepared to mourn.
Well, mourn no more. Abit is still kicking and pumping out products for enthusiasts. Based on the older Intel 975X chipset, the AW9D-MAX is an interesting blend of future-looking features. The parallel and serial ports were nixed and Abit relocated the PS/2 ports to make room for a fat heatsink mounted to the voltage regulators. A heat pipe, black PCB, and blue LED perimeter lighting also scream enthusiast, as does a tweaker-friendly BIOS that’s probably the best we’ve seen in the 975X boards thus far. The BIOS isn’t perfect—we can’t stand the fact that if your rig fails to complete a POST, it won’t let you just reboot again and forget about the last problem. No, the Abit nags you with a “Hey dolt! You’ve probably screwed up an overclocking run, please go into the BIOS and fix it.” OK, those aren’t the exact words, but the Abit makes you feel like your spouse is telling you to clean out the garage.
The MAX also includes a two-digit POST LED and PCB-mounted switches. These aren’t new features, but they’re must-haves for this class of board. What mystifies us a little, however, is the slot configuration. If you’re running two double-width graphics cards, the MAX accommodates just a single PCI-E x1 expansion card. That effectively eliminates your chances of running a PCI soundcard, which is an essential, due to the board’s gimped Realtek chip. Not that Abit doesn’t try to do everything for PC audio. The actual codec is mounted on a riser board to get it up and away from the electrically noisy surface of the motherboard, but what’s the point if the codec is funkified? Bleh.
In performance tests, with the memory trimmed to the same latencies as the other two boards, the MAX gets squeezed by the Asus and MSI products. Although the race is close, this mobo generally gets beat by the other boards. That leaves it in a tough spot. With its funky slot configuration and premium pricing, there are better choices out there in 975X-land (Asus’s P5W DH gives you Wi-Fi and more usable slots for a little more cash). We are glad, however, that Abit is back in the hunt.
THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER
Tweaker-friendly BIOS is easy to use.
Realtek audio chip doesn’t fully support EAX.
SiSoft XI (MB/s)
Quake 4 1280x1024 (fps)
FEAR 1.07 Min/Max (fps)
PC Mark 2005 Overall
PC Mark 2005 RAM
PC Mark 2005 GPU
PC Mark 2005 HDD
Valve Particle Test
Best scores are bolded. We used a 2.93GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800, 2GB of Corsair DDR2/800 Dominator RAM, a Western Digital 400GB SATA drive, a GeForce 7900GTX card, and a 1KW PC Power and Cooling PSU for all three motherboards.