Abit Fatal1ty AA8XE Motherboard Review
Board Features and Layout
A good motherboard layout is essential to having a successful motherboard in the enthusiast market and Abit has had a lot of practice in this area.
The most noticeable feature on the Fatal1ty AA8XE motherboard is the new OTES cooling system that Abit developed for the MOSFETs around the processor socket. The pairs of MOSFETs are covered by ice-blue colored heatsinks and then shrouded by a plastic casing that is used to funnel air out of the system. There are two fans on the external connectors side of the motherboard that pull warm air out through the OTES system.
The OTES system does crowd the area around the processor quite a bit, as you can see in the above photo. The four mounting holes that are required for OEM heatsink installation and obviously still accessible required a bit more finger work than on other boards. I also was able to install the LGA775 adaptor for my water cooling setup without too much of an issue either.
Looking in the other direction away from the processor, the 925XE north bridge sits with a sizeable custom heatsink that is both functional and attractive. The fan on the north bridge blows air horizontally across the heatsink towards the back of the graphics card, rather than towards the processor, which generates enough heat as it is. I am curious as to why they didn't choose to have the air flow in the direction of the memory or connectors to avoid pushing air towards either the GPU or the CPU.
Moving down the motherboard a bit we see the PCI Express slots and PCI legacy slots. There is a single x16 PCIe slot for graphics cards and two additional x1 PCIe slots for expansion cards.
There is also an additional riser slot on the bottom of the motherboard that looks like a backwards PCI Express x1 slot that is used for Abit's audio riser card that supports Intel's Azalia audio solution.
On the other side of the board we have the storage options that Abit has supplied on the Fatal1ty AA8XE motherboard.
The ICH6-R south bridge on the board supplies the 4 SATA channels you see in the picture above that utilize the new SATA connectors that can lock into place to avoid accidental removal. The south bridge is covered by another heatsink that is custom made with the company name formed in it. There is a single IDE connector that the ICH6-R south bridge, so you can still only get two IDE devices in your system.
Abit has provided a diagnostic LED and color coded ATX front panel switches. For the hardcore enthusiast, Abit also included on-board power and reset switches so you don't have to install the board in a case to get it working.
A surprising feature that Abit included in the packaging is an addition to the OTES cooling system that is made for cooling memory modules. The image above shows the device installed (with no memory installed, obviously). It uses a simple mechanism of springs that close tightly around the memory module retention clips to stay in place.
There is indeed a big downer on this issue though: the Abit Fatal1ty AA8XE motherboard only has a single fan header on the motherboard besides the CPU fan header, and it is located in the bottom-left corner of the motherboard. That means that the fan power connector on any device, including the OTES memory cooler, will need to stretch all the way to the corner in order to be plugged in. That isn't possible with the default cable on the OTES memory cooler, so without having an extender or 40-pin power adaptor, its mostly useless.
Finally, here is a look at the external connectors on the Fatal1ty board. They include a single Firewire port, PS/2 ports, four USB 2.0 ports and two network connections. One of the networks is an Intel Gigabit network connection and the other is a classic 10/100 network connection. There are no serial or parallel ports on the motherboard this time, so maybe we are going to see those legacy devices gone for good.