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    AOpen AX4SG Max II Motherboard Review
    By Vince Freeman :  May 7, 2004

    Introduction

    Intel offers a wide range of performance chipsets for different feature and budget requirements, and currently center on the i875 and i865-based models. These include the top-end i875P and the more mainstream i865PE/G/GV/P chipsets, all of which (except the low-end i865P) have dual-channel DDR support up to 400 MHz. The main difference on the features side is the presence of PAT (Performance Acceleration Technology) in the i875P design, which speeds up memory timings and results in increased subsystem performance. Some i865-based motherboards also include a PAT-like option, which essentially does the same thing, only using the i865 chipset.

    The i865G and GV are also the only current chipset models that include the Intel Extreme 2 graphics core, and support an integrated display output. The i865G in particular, includes all the base performance and feature specifications of the i865PE, with integrated graphics tacked onto the deal. The latest i865G motherboard from AOpen combines all of these features into one killer package, complete with PAT-like performance, and really presents a compelling option for mainstream buyers.

    AOpen AX4SG Max II Features

    The AOpen AX4SG Max II is based on the i865G chipset, and supports high-end features such as dual-channel DDR400, up to an 800 MHz front side-bus, Hyper-Threading, Serial ATA, and AGP 8X, along with the improved Intel Extreme 2 graphics core. This is also a Prescott-ready model and has been specifically designed for stable operation with Intel's newest processor. In terms of the AOpen-specific board features, the AX4SG Max II includes Gigabit LAN, Serial ATA RAID 0, 1 & 0+1, 7.1 Audio, Firewire, and a Self-Powered PCI slot (formerly known as Hercules PCI) for high power-draw cards.

    The Serial ATA portion deserves extra attention, as not only does the AX4SG Max II feature native ICH5 SATA and Silicon Image SATA RAID support, but the board includes a full 6 SATA ports. This is great news for future expansion, and it's nice to see motherboard manufacturers really jumping on the SATA bandwagon.

    The AX4SG Max II's System BIOS is also quite robust, and in addition to a nice selection of overclocking options, the AX4SG Max II also includes a "Performance Boost Engine" (PBE), that functions virtually the same as the PAT option on the i875P. This increases memory timings and optimizes the data path, and PBE can be enabled or disabled through the BIOS. This is outside the reference design of the i865G chipset, and PBE is set for Disabled by default. AOpen also includes their usual selection of safety features, such as Large Low ESR Capacitors, AGP and CPU over-voltage protection, and Watchdog ABS, which enables the overclocked settings and also resets the system if the OC fails.

    Retail Box Contents

    AOpen is becoming well known for their excellent retail bundles, and the AX4SG Max II sports another impressive selection of hardware and software. One surprise was the inclusion of "thin cables" for the Parallel ATA (x2) and Floppy (x1) drives. These do not have the thick outer coating, and are very light, pliable and easy to use. The rest of the retail package consists of the motherboard, two SATA cables, two Serial ATA power connectors, a color-coded I/O Shield, a Firewire/USB combo bracket, an audio & S/PDIF bracket, a COM/Gameport bracket, a driver and utilities CD, a SATA driver disk, and a Norton AntiVirus 2004 CD. The documentation is quite good, featuring a fold-out Easy Install Guide and full 60-page user manual, but the manual itself is not up to AOpen's usually-exacting standards and would benefit from a greater level of detail.


  • Page 1 The AOpen AX4SG Max II Motherboard
    Page 2 Layout, Installation and BIOS & Overclocking
    Page 3 Performance and Test Systems
    Page 4 Business & CC Winstone 2004 and PCMark 2004 Performance
    Page 5 PCMark 2004 & SANDRA 2004 Memory Performance
    Page 6 Quake 3, Wolf: ET, and UT 2003 & 2004 Performance
    Page 7 Benchmark Analysis, Value and Conclusion

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