ABIT’s AA8-DuraMAX — The Next Winner or Loser?

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Overclocking:

When you ask Intel about overclocking the i925X chipset they do not have too much to say about the subject. Actually they do say something, but it may not be what you exactly want to hear if you are an enthusiast.

“Intel has done extensive evaluation of our 915G/P and 925X chipset products and have designed them to run robustly at 800FSB.  Any use or operation of these chipsets beyond their specifications, including overclocking, has not been evaluated or validated by Intel.

If a board provider or user decides to overclock their platform, they do so at their own risk, since this action will void the warranty for the Intel products.

It is always good to know that Intel’s and ABIT’s thoughts on overclocking are very different. Let me grab a couple quotes off of ABIT’s press release on the AA8-DuraMAX!

“Welcome back ABIT Engineered Overclocking Strips. First developed 3 years ago for use with the ABIT TH7 and the launch of Pentium4 and Rambus memory, Overclocking Strips are back again for the AG8 and AA8-DuraMAX. The Overclocking Strips found on the AA8-DuraMAX allow for better CPU cooling and lower EMI results. The end result is a better and more durable overclock. The Overclocking Strips are built into the AA8-DuraMAX to ensure maximum performance and stability.”


Overclocking Strips on the 4 Phase Power


Overclocking Strips on the bottom

With features like Overclocking Strips, 4 phase power,

the OTES AeroFlow north bridge HSF,

and all

Japanese-made

Rubycon

capacitors

it looks like ABIT has a candidate for an overclocking board. With all these features on the ABIT AA8-DuraMAX, we better overclock our system!


Default @ 204MHz FSB???


Overclocked @ 275FSB!

At default we noticed that the ABIT AA8-DuraMAX runs overclocked a tad at 204MHz FSB. We were lucky to catch this before we benchmarked the board against the Intel reference sample (yes, we set the board to 200MHz FSB for the benchmarking)! To check FSB stability we ran our board up to 275MHz FSB giving us an 1100MHz Bus Speed. On the memory side of things we got our Crucial PC-4300 memory modules up to DDR2 733MHz (5-4-4-12) at 275MHz FSB. Anything higher would cause the system not to post. This was all done at 1.43Vcore, 1.9Vdimm, and 1.85V on the north bridge. At this significant overclock the system was stable and seemed like it had more in it. We were using watercooling on the processor, but the north bridge and south bridge factory heat sinks were kept in place. It may be possible with better cooling on these chipsets that the board would have more head room. The south bridge was actually hot to the touch while testing the AA8-DuraMAX at a Bus Speed of 1.1Ghz.

Conclusions:

Nathan Kirsch’s Thoughts:

Those of you who made it down to Quakecon 2004 and remember seeing our Gaming Rig at the BYOC area may recall we had the ABIT AA8-DuraMAX installed and our system had someone on it almost 24/7. This is a motherboard that we have used both on the test bench and on our gaming system over the past several weeks. When using the ABIT AA8-DuraMAX motherboard we never once saw a BSOD (Blue Screen Of Death) or noticed any weird issues about the board. This can be said for both our bench testing and real life testing after flying around with our system as a carryon item!

As far as the board itself is concerned the layout is excellent (minus that darn floppy connector), the bundle sufficient, and the BIOS is superb!

With all the new features the Intel 925X chipset offers ABIT has done a great job of putting them together and still making a great overclocker with their board. If you are worried about having the latest and greatest technology you can’t go wrong with the i925X chipset boards on the Intel side of things. With LGA775 processors, PCI Express, DDR2 memory support, Matrix RAID capabilities, High-Definition Audio, and Native Command Queuing the ABIT AA8-DuraMAX should support your needs for quite some time.

When it comes to performance the board performed on par with the Intel Reference board and others that we have in-house. While the default 200MHz FSB benchmarking results were average (better than below average), we found that the board performed best when overclocked. Since we have used several different ABIT AA8-DuraMAX mother boards we can rule out that we have a “lucky” or “hand-picked” sample. Even our pre-production board with the flawed ICH6R south bridge overclocked 275MHz+ FSB! I’m not sure how ABIT does it time and time again, but they have another winner on their hands for the overclocker. Maybe it is the overclocking strips, four phase power,

OTES AeroFlow north bridge HSF,

and the all

Japanese-made

Rubycon

capacitors that allows for the amazing overclocks! Whatever the case may be it doesn’t matter to us as long as we keep getting quality products that allow enthusiasts to run their products the way they want to — overclocked.

Legit Bottom Line:

If you are looking for an Intel 925X based mother board add the ABIT AA8-DuraMAX to the short list of boards to look into. The board is a wolf in sheep’s clothing! Nothing amazing at default speeds, but for the overclocker you will be able to unleash your system and aim for the max.

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