Abit AV8 Motherboard Review

This is a brief, review and installation guide, of the ABIT AV8 – 3rd
Eye. The latest ABIT Motherboard, with support for the AMD K8 Athlon
64/64FX Socket 939 series. I’ve also written up a small brief of the
installation of an AMD 64 FX 53 chip.

This board is based on the VIA chipset namely the K8T800 Pro north
bridge and VIA’s VT8237 south bridge. If you need any further
elaboration of the capabilities of this Chipset you can use the links
provided. Along with the chipset ABIT has also provided superb over
clocking capabilities into this Board. Which make it a must buy for
people who want to squeeze that extra bit of speed out of the CPU /
Memory.



Abit AV8 Motherboard Technical Specification

  • Processor
    • Supports AMD Athlon64 / Athlon64 FX 939-pin processor
    • 2000MHz system bus using Hyper Transport technology
  • CPU Integrated Dual Channel Memory Controller
    • Four 184-pin DIMM sockets (Un-buffered Non-ECC DIMM)
    • Supports 2 DIMM Single Channel DDR 400/333/266 (Max. 2GB)
    • Supports 4 DIMM Dual Channel DDR 400/333/266 (Max. 4GB)
  • Chipset
    • VIA K8T800 Pro/ VT8237 chipset
    • Supports Advanced Configuration and Power Management Interface (ACPI)
    • Accelerated Graphics Port connector supports AGP 8X/4X
  • SATA 150 RAID
    • Supports SATA 150 MB/s RAID 0/1
  • GbE LAN
    • On board Gigabit PCI Ethernet Controller
    • Operation support ACPI & Wake on LAN
  • IEEE 1394
    • Supports 3 ports IEEE 1394 at 100/200/400 Mb/s transfer rate
  • Audio
    • 6-Channel AC’97 CODEC on board
    • Professional digital audio interface supports optical S/P DIF In/Out
  • ABIT Guru Clock inside (The 3rd Eye On Your PC)
    • Instant Overclocking & H/W Monitoring & PC On/Off
    • MSN/E-mail Notification
    • Large LCD Screen & Room Temperature Display
  • Internal I/O Connectors
    • 1 x AGP 8X/4X slot
    • 5 x PCI slots
    • 1 x Floppy Port supports up to 2.88MB
    • 2 x Ultra DMA 133/100/66/33 Connectors
    • 2 x SATA 150 Connectors
    • 2 x USB headers, 2 x IEEE1394 headers
    • 1 x FP-Audio header
    • 1 x CD-IN, 1 x AUX IN
  • Back Panel I/O
    • 1 x PS/2 Keyboard, 1 x PS/2 Mouse
    • 1 x Serial, 1 x Parallel, 1 x S/P DIF Output, 1 x S/P DIF Input
    • 1 x Audio connector (Centre/Subwoofer, Surround Speaker)
    • 1 x Audio connector (Line Out, Line-in, MIC-in)
    • 2 x USB, 1 x IEEE1394 Connector
    • 2 x USB, 1 x RJ-45 LAN Connector
  • Miscellaneous
    • ATX form factor (305x245mm)

 

Abit AV8 Motherboard Features



The Package

As with all motherboard manufacturers, the Package is pretty attractive, and a wee bit misleading as well.


Notice how the featured M/B Pictured shows a North bridge HSF, while in
reality the AV8 has a passive cooler on its North Bridge.


The documentation and manuals.

The Accessories that come along inside are the usual Driver CD, SATA
Floppy driver diskette, and an assorted bunch of SATA and IDE Cables,
and the back plate. In this day an age of over clocking and modded
cooling cases, I feel ABIT could have provided Round IDE cables but
that’s a minor gripe of mine.


Along with the necessary accessories comes the ABIT 3rd Eye, ABIT’s
real time over clocking tool for the average person who doesn’t want to
reboot to OC his rig but do it on the fly.


Real Estate usage or Board Layout

The first thing you’ll notice is the colour of the PCB which is a weird
shade of Orange, but makes it look pretty attractive overall.

Moving along to the main components that make up a motherboard.


The PCI and AGP Bus


The ABIT AV8 comes with 5 32bit PCI and 1 AGP Slot.

One minor annoyance is the number of Capacitors around the AGP Card
lock, which can be minus for a clumsy assembler; you can easily twist
one of them off, if you are heavy handed. One plus point though is that
the AGP slot no more comes close to DDR RAM Sockets. On some boards you
have to take out the AGP card to be able to access the clips holding
the RAM in place. This isn’t the case with the ABIT AV8.


CPU Socket

The Socket (939) on the board comes along with a stock AMD retention
base. There is a support bracket on the underneath of the board, for
the almighty weight of any of the new line of CPU Coolers hitting the
markets.

Another niggling thought is the proximity of the NB Heat sink to the
CPU retention base assembly, with some of the new monstrous CPU
coolers; this may be an issue, with regards to clearance.


Power Connections

ABIT has tried to tidy up, the routing of power cables by placing both
the ATX 20 PIN and the 12 VDC 4 pin connectors next to each other.


The placement of these connectors can be an advantage or a disadvantage
depending on how you route your cables. If you have an SMPS right above
the CPU Socket then there is a chance that the Cables may impede the
flow of hot air being exhausted by the CPU and being sucked up by the
SMPS fan? One minus is the proliferation of high rise capacitors near
these connectors which can also prove to be a problem, while connecting
or removing your cables.


Back Panel – Input / Output connects

  • 1 x PS/2 Keyboard, 1 x PS/2 Mouse
  • 1 x Serial, 1 x Parallel, 1 x S/P DIF Output, 1 x S/P DIF Input
  • 1 x Audio connector (Centre/Subwoofer, Surround Speaker)
  • 1 x Audio connector (Line Out, Line-in, MIC-in)
  • 2 x USB, 1 x IEEE1394 Connector
  • 2 x USB, 1 x RJ-45 LAN Connector



SATA – IDE and Floppy data connectors

ABIT has provided two SATA Connectors on the board supported by the
South Bridge, The two disks that would connect to these ports can be
set up in a RAID 0 or a RAID 1 or RAID0+1 configuration.

        


The IDE Data connectors are another story. They’ve been moved to almost
the South-West corner of the board and positioned laterally to the edge
of the board. This can help in the routing of cables and keep them flat
or in the same plane as the motherboard. BUT (There always is one),
these can prove to be a hindrance to air flow specially if you want to
install this board in one of the newer Cases (i.e. Cooler master
stacker) The stacker has a new cross blower type fan which blows air
across the surface of the motherboard and the direction of the cables
can prove to make the installation of blower mighty tricky.

ABIT has moved the floppy data connector out to the North-West corner
of the board, which helps in routing the cables to this now, almost
legacy device.


The Chipsets and Functions.

There are quite a few Chips on the mother board which have major functions; I’ve tried to briefly explain their functions below.


The North bridge on this board is a VIA K8T800 Pro chip using a passive
Heat Sink, which I feel should have at least had a Fan, nowadays the
new ‘hip’ thing is silent / passive cooling, but I still prefer a good
fan, revving it’s way along. A synopsis of it’s capabilities below…

  • Processor Support – AMD Athlon™64, Athlon™64FX & Opteron™ processors
  • Front Side Bus – Hyper Transport Bus Link
  • Bus Architecture – Asynchronous
  • Memory Support – DDR memory controller integrated directly into processor
  • AGP Support – AGP8X / 4X


I ran a few tests on the board with the standard passive heat sink and
it was pretty hot to touch. With the Chip being mounted too so close to
the CPU Socket there is a risk of heat being transmitted to the
components around the North Bridge and the CPU area.


The South bridge is a VIA VT8237 a synopsis of it’s capabilities below…

  • North/South Bridge Link – Ultra V-Link (1066MB/s)
  • Audio – VIA Vinyl™ 6-channel Audio (AC’97 integrated) VIA Vinyl Gold 8-channel Audio (PCI companion controller)
  • Network – VIA Velocity™ Gigabit Ethernet (PCI companion controller)
  • VIA integrated 10/100 Fast Ethernet
  • SATA – 2 x SATA 150 devices
  • SATALite™ interface for two additional SATA devices (4 total)
  • V-RAID RAID 0, RAID 1, and RAID 0+1³ & JBOD (SATA)
  • IDE – ATA133 (up to 4 devices)
  • USB – 8 ports
  • PCI Devices/Slots – 6 slots
  • Modem MC’97
  • I/O Protocols – I/O APIC / LPC Super I/0
  • Power Management – ACPI/APM/PCI/PM


The bus between the North and South bridges of this board also known as
an Ultra Vlink and has a reported speed of 1 GHz. If you want to verify
this you can download the Hyper Transport Analyser from VIA Arena site
which measures in real-time the bandwidth being utilised on the Ultra
Vlink.


Other Chips on the board

Abit uses the VT8237’s integrated audio controller with a Realtek
ALC658 codec. For the real audio buff this codec may not be good
enough, but for the average user the output won’t lack anything.


Abit uses the VIA VT6122 Gigabit Ethernet chip. The VT6122 has a 32-bit
PCI interface, thereby sharing the limited 133MB/sec of PCI bus
bandwidth with other devices


PCI interface based VIA Chip is the VT6306 used here for Firewire connectivity


Finally the µGuru chip which ABIT has touted pretty successfully
judging by the fame this feature has shown, with regards to
Overclocking and features that have been added to the ABIT new series
of Motherboards. Curiosity got the better of me and I peeled back the
sticker to see what chip was lurking underneath and came up with the
Winbond W83L950D chip. This chip if you follow the link is a Mobile
Keyboard Embedded Controller. This only shows the ingenuity of ABIT
proves that a wee bit of smart programming can work wonders on a simple
Keyboard Controller.

Some of the pros with the µGuru Control are…OC Guru, ABIT EQ, and the Flash Menu and the Black Box.


OC Guru

  • Instant System information – via OC Guru Console.
  • Autodrive – Where you can link specific programs to specific OC
    settings, where upon their launch the Overclocking is done
    automatically.
  • 3 Preset OC parameters and 3 User specific OC parameters.



ABIT EQ

  • Hardware monitoring of Temps, Voltages and Fan RPM
  • Warnings if any of the preset voltages, temps or Fans exceed or fall below their presets.
  • Since the monitor is a discrete hardware device there is no overhead on CPU resources at all.
  • A Real-time record of all hardware behaviour is recorded for analysis if anything goes wrong.



Flash Menu

  • One click BIOS update from the ABIT website without rebooting to the BIOS shell.
  • For the wary there’s a Step by Step BIOS update function.
  • An update from file option.
  • Save present BIOS to a file.



Black Box

  • Auto senses hardware config for uploads to the ABIT tech team for analysis and support.



µGuru Clock


This nifty gadget displays the CPU clock, various Voltages, Temps and
offcourse the normal time of day and the ambient temperature. The
construction of this device could have been better, not taking away
anything from its looks though.


Finally the Pros and the Cons

Pros

  • Neat Layout
  • Good documentation
  • Very good Overclocking abilities
  • Component quality very good, right down to the smaller components soldered on the board.


Cons

  • North Bridge socket too close to the CPU Socket for comfort.
  • IDE Connectors block a screw mounting hole for the board, which can
    ultimately cause damage to the board, if the cables are inserted and
    removed frequently.
  • USB Connectors could have been placed on one of the edges of the
    board for easier access, rather than close to the AGP Slot. They proved
    to be a real problem to install once the AGP card was inserted
    (specially a double slot card like the XFX FX 5950 with its humongous
    blower assembly).
  • µGuru Clock construction could have been a little more solid, rather
    than the fragile feel it gives, the stand tends to come off at even the
    slightest nudge. Could have been backlit as well though that maybe
    wishing for too much?
  • Could have had two more SATA ports

Conclusion

To Summarise, the Cons are minor in comparison to the pros, and given
it’s price it beats most of the mother boards in it’s class by miles.
If performance is what you’re looking for without needing to sell an
eye or kidney then this is the board for the thrifty enthusiast.

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