abit AW9D-MAX Intel 975X Motherboard Review
Layout and Features
As most system builders have learned through experience, board component layout can be very key to producing a clean system build. One power connector out of place can create a mini wire routing puzzle game. Let's take a look at the AW9D-MAX's layout.
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The overall layout of the AW9D-MAX is very clean. The only obvious shortcoming here the one PCI slot (this rules out running multiple add in PCI devices such as a sound card and cable tuner) and the odd placement of the floppy connector.
The LGA775 processor socket is surrounded by some small solid state capacitors as well as the Abit Silent OTES 2 Chipset cooler. The heatsink covering the Intel 975X chipset passes heat off through a small heatpipe that leads to cooling fins near the external rear connectors. While it is nice to not have to worry about a chipset fan failing, the board needs a fairly well ventilated case or a large CPU fan that spreads airflow around the heatpipes for effective cooling.
The four DDR2 DIMM slots to the right of the processor socket are well spaced and present an easy memory setup. The RAM slot clips also come very close to the graphics adapter, so strong caution is urged when seating or unseating ram with the graphics card installed. The power connection is placed on the far edge of the board. This makes the main power connection routing fairly easy, even if you're using a power supply that features a short cord. Also seen in this shot is the use of 100% Solid State Capacitors which according to abit are supposed to, "reduce heat dissipation and offer the best voltage regulation, thereby increasing performance while extending product life and even under most stressful conditions."
Looking at the expansion configuration on the AW9D-MAX, the first thing you note is that using two large video cards would block the one legacy PCI slot offered on the board. This could be a deal breaker if you're a serious gamer and wish to use an expansion card sound solution with your dual card setup. The dual card configuration would also block one of the PCIe X1 slots as well, leaving you only one free PCIe x1 slot for expansion in this mode.
Located around the PCI slot you and see the plug in for the daughter soundboard. The daughter soundboard contains the front panel audio header as well. Two USB 2.0 headers (in blue) and the two additional FireWire headers (in red) are also visible in this shot. Two SATA ports powered by a silicon image controller are placed next to the strangely located floppy connector on the bottom left hand side of the board.
The onboard IDE port and the ICH7R's 4 SATA ports are located by the Southbridge. Also in this area, a post LED code display that displays post codes and onboard switches for the power and reset buttons. Great tools for working with the board on a bench.
Here is what lines the back of your system if you chose to install the AW9D-MAX in it. Abit is one of the first manufactures to remove legacy ports from their enthusiast level boards. That trend continues with the AW9D-MAX. There are standard PS2 ports but gone are the legacy serial ports. The audio connections are actually located on the daughter soundcard and they provide 7.1 HD audio and an optical digital audio connection as well. The red connection is for the integrated eSATA port. There are two Gigabit Ethernet connections. Also included are four rear USB 2.0 ports.
The abit AW9D-MAX accessories included everything needed to get you up and running. First, you get all the manuals and drivers you would expect, as well as one rounded IDE and floppy cable, seven SATA cables, an optical audio cable and a rear panel bracket containing 2 USB 2.0 and 2 IEEE 1394 ports. Oddly enough abit included an SLI bridge connecter. SLI is not officially support on Intel chipsets at this time, but it's nice to see abit include this accessory here in case NVIDIA chooses to sanction SLI on the Intel chipset.