Abit Fatal1ty AN8-SLI AMD Motherboard Review
Board Layout and Features
Motherboards sporting the NVIDIA-based SLI technology have become very prevalent in the market today and we have seen no shortage of them here at PC Perspective. Abit's first attempt at SLI also comes with the coveted "Fatal1ty" moniker that makes all kinds of promises about being the the ideal solution for a hardcore gamer. Does this motherboard live up to that in terms of its layout and features?
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The initial look at the layout of the AN8-SLI is dominated by the inclusion of SLI support that requires two large, x16 PCI Express slots on the motherboard. This both limits the amount of options that Abit had in organizing components as well as deciding how many legacy slots to include. Abit was still able to cram a lot of useful features on the board though.
The processor socket uses the standard AMD K8 heatsinks setup and includes the four DIMM slots to support all the memory configurations the AMD processor can support. All of the capacitors surrounding the processor socket are a low enough profile that they shouldn't interfere with any cooling solutions on the market, though the MOSFET cooling shroud that Abit has on the board to the left of the processor socket may bring a few issues. Nothing that is even close to stock sizes gave us a problem here though.
The power connector is out of the way and does not interfere with the processor cooling and is easy to remove and install without any surrounding components. The CMOS battery is right under the processor socket and if you are required to remove it for anything after board installation it may be harder to get to, but with the CMOS reset jumper farther down you shouldn't need to access it.
The expansion configuration that Abit used is dominated by the two x16 PCIe slots included for SLI graphics cards. There are two other PCIe x1 slots above either x16 slot, but only the top one is going to be accessible with even a single video card installed. There are two legacy PCI slots for sound cards, storage controllers and whatever else you might be bringing into the new system. The SLI switch/paddle that is between the two SLI graphics card slots is actually a very tight fit and access to it with just about anything else installed is just not possible. The PCB is actually very close to coming in contact with the secondary x16 PCIe slot.
You can also see here that the nForce4 SLI chipset is placed directly behind the primary grahpics card slot and will be located under any video card installed. We have seen some heat issues on other SLI boards with this configuration but I didn't see any such issues with the Fatal1ty AN8-SLI.
There are four SATA channels on the motherboard, all provided by the NVIDIA chipset, and all support RAID 0, 1 and 0+1 at the minimum. There are two IDE channels that protrude off the side of the PCB making for a cleaner system installation and less wire entanglement. The POST code indicator helps you to diagnose any problems you might have with a system not starting up correctly. There are several blue and red headers on the board for additional USB and Firewire connectors if the amount on the back panel isn't enough for you.
The rear panel of the Fatal1ty AN8-SLI is mostly comprised of the OTES cooling solution that is responsible for controlling temperatures of the MOSFETS inside the shroud and also helps remove some of the hot processor air out of the system. The speed (and thus the noise level) of these fans is controllable via BIOS options which we will show you later. There are four USB 2.0 connectors, a single Firewire connector and the standard PS/2 connections. A single Gigabit Ethernet option is included courtesy of the NVIDIA chipset as well. The sound riser you see installed supports 7.1 channel audio off of a Realtek chipset.