AOpen AX4SG Max I865G Motherboard

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Layout:

AOpen
has put a pretty typical layout design on this board that matches many
of the “Canterwood” motherboards that we have reviewed. As you
will see, many of the same issues we have brought up on previous motherboard
reviews will again be brought up here.

AOpen
has decided to passively cool their “Springdale” northbridge.
We have noticed that many of the motherboard manufacturers are going back
to passive cooling on their northbridges, even on the “Canterwood”.
There are 4 dimm slots that are color-coded to show which dimm slots go
together for dual-channel mode. The ATX power connector is located along
side the dimm slots which is not a bad place for it; although I have seen
better locations. One problem that I noticed with the layout is the position
of the dimm slots with respect to the AGP slot. If you use a full size
graphics card, you will have to remove it before you can add or remove
any of your RAM modules. There are also three yellow jumpers located next
to the ATX power connector. These are for AOpen’s Dr. Voice II feature
and the speaker output connector. And the last thing I want to point out
here, even though you cannot see it in the picture above, is that AOpen
has put an extra support bracket on the under-side of the motherboard
to give more heavy-duty support to the processor for any “heavy”
CPU HSF you may choose to use.

The layout
of this area on the motherboard is very scattered. You have your ATA,
SATA, FDD, and BIOS chips all jumbled together. I suppose the main reason
for this is now AOpen has 4 SATA headers on the board that can all be
used in a RAID 0+1 setup, if you wish. SATA1&2 are controlled by the
integrated RAID in the southbridge, and SATA3&4 are controlled by
the additional Silicon Image SATALink chip. You can also see AOpen’s PhoenixBios
Die-Hard dual bios feature here, which is very nice if you like to stress
your bios settings (which we have). The yellow jumper controls which bios
chip you are operating off of, and the red jumper clears the bios. In
the picture above, you can see the blue headers which are the only onboard
USB headers AOpen has put on this board. There are two Firewire 1394 headers
located right next to SATA 3&4. Also note how the IDE and FDD ports
are all right next to each other. I can see this as being good if you
want to have easier cable management, but for someone who messes with
their system hardware a lot this can become annoying with how close those
ports are to each other.

You should
also notice the southbridge of this motherboard: the ICH5R. This is the
brain of this section of the motherboard. Basically everything you see
in the picture above connects to the southbridge. The major components
that connect to the southbridge are: 6 PCI slots, SATA 1-4, 2 IDE channels,
AC97 onboard sound, Gigabit LAN, USB, Firewire, Floppy Drives, and more.

Here
you see AOpen’s 8x AGP slot and 6 PCI slots on the AX4SG Max motherboard.
You can also see the onboard audio headers located where you see the two
yellow jumpers. Near the onboard audio headers, you have a S/PDIF header,
Dr. LED Connector, IrDA Connector, Game Port header, COM2 header, CD-IN,
and AUX-IN connectors. In front of the fifth (front top) PCI Slot, you
can see the ALC650 AC97 Audio CODEC. I’ll also point out that right in
front of the AGP slot you can find the BROADCOM BCM5702 Gigabit LAN controller.

The picture
above shows AOpen’s Low ESR Capacitors (Low Equivalent Series Resistance).
These capacitors ensure the stability of the CPU during high frequency
operation. These 3300µF capacitors are strategically positioned
along the CPU socket for the best stability possible. I would also like
to point out that AOpen has used 4-phase power on this motherboard. The
4-phase power teamed up with the Low ESR Capacitors, it is easy to see
that AOpen has not slacked at all on the quality of power for the AX4SG
Max Motherboard.

Now I
will give you a quick tour of the AX4SG Max’s BIOS.

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