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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [04.14.08]
Manufactured by: Universal Abit

 

Abit's Specialty

If you had doubts about the "new" Abit, when they were taken over by USI, most of them should have been removed with their last few motherboards. The IP35 Pro and NF-M2 nView were both excellent boards that helped maintain (and in my opinion, improve) Abit's reputation for high quality overclocking-capable boards.

Both of those boards are considered to be somewhat specialty boards however. The NF-M2 nView isn't even being made anymore (a replacement - the A-N78HD - was introduced last week), and the IP35 Pro costs $170. What do we expect from Universal Abit when they attempt to make another affordable yet capable entry-level motherboard?

Let's find out, looking at the $90 AX78.

Abit AX78

The AX78 is an AM2+ full ATX board, capable of fully supporting quad core Phenom processors with 5200 MT/s HyperTransport 3.0 and DDR2 1066 support.

Now comes the bad news; the chipset. In our experience, ATI chipsets... well.. suck. Badly. I was hoping that the AMD 770/SB600 combination would improve things, which is why I was so looking forward to reviewing this board. Unfortunately, I was a bit let down, which I'll get to later.

The Specs

Now let's have a look at the specs of this board. I am not going to simply cut and paste the text from the product page, but rather compile all the information and post it here using the same layout for all our motherboard reviews.

CPU Support Athlon, Athlon X2, Athlon 64, Phenom, Phenom FX
AM2/AM2+ chipset with full HT3.0 support, DDR2 1066 MHz
Northbridge AMD 770
Southbridge ATI SB600
Memory Support 4 x DIMM - 8GB Max - DDR2 1066/800/667 unbuffered, non-ECC
Storage Support Floppy x 1
DMA/ATA-133 (Ultra) x 1 (via Southbridge)
SATA 300 x 4 (via Southbridge)
RAID Support RAID 0/1/0+1 via Southbridge
Expansion Ports USB 2.0 x 10 (4 on rear panel, 6 internal)
Gigabit Ethernet Port x 1
PS/2 Mouse x 1
PS/2 Keyboard x 1
Serial Port x 1
LPT Port x 0
Digital Audio Out (Optical) x 1
FireWire x 0
External BIOS Reset
Expansion Slots PCI-E x16: 1
PCI-E x16 slot with x4 bandwidth: 1
PCI-E x1: 1
PCI: 3
Audio 7.1 channel HD audio w/ Realtek ALC888
Digital Output: Optical S/PDIF
Analog Output: 8 Channel (6 ports)
Digital Input: None
Analog Input: Mic, Line In (discrete ports)
HDMI Header: Yes
Networking Gigabit Ethernet x 1 (Marvell Yukon 88E8056 on PCI-E bus)

The $90 AX78 is certainly quite sparse with the extra features, but not totally barren. You'll notice the lack of extra onboard controllers; there's no auxilliary drive controller, so those features are pretty basic. There isn't even a FireWire controller.

However, all the basics are there. The Realtek ALC888 provides good basic HD-Audio support for every day use, and even has a digital optical output. There are plenty of USB ports (although only 4 on the rear panel, with NO adapters in the box), and the Gigabit Ethernet controller nicely sits on the PCI-E bus.

The AMD 770 supports "Crossfire X" which means it supports up to four graphics cards. Of course, the mainstream AX78 only has two PCI-E graphics slots, so you're limited to two here, unlexx you plan on installing a pair of $400 3870 X2's in this $90 motherboard... Also, the second slot only has 4 PCI-E lanes.

The Bios
FSB Speeds 180-400 MHz in 1 MHz increments (key in)
PCI-E Speeds 100-200 MHz in 1 MHz increments (key in) (x16 slot can be individually set)
CPU Multiplier Selectable with 0.5x increments
Memory Multiplier Auto, 400, 533, 667, 800
HT Link Frequency Auto, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
NB/SB A-Link 100-200 MHz in 1 MHz increments (key in)
DIMM Voltage 1.8v - 2.5v in 0.05v increments
DDR2 Reference +/- 2%, -4%
CPU Voltage 1.35v - 1.72v in 0.02v and 0.03v increments
Core NB 1.75 Voltage 1.75, +0.1, +0.2, +0.3
NB 1.8 Voltage 1.8v - 2.35v in 0.05v increments
NB 1.1 Voltage 1.1v - 1.9v in various increments
SB Voltage 1.2v - 2.0v in various increments
HT Voltage 1.2v - 1.5v in 0.05v increments
Voltage Monitoring CPU, DDR2, HT, PCI-E, ATX 12v, ATX 3.3v

No voltage warning or shutdown features

Temperature Monitoring CPU, System, PWM

CPU has temperature warning and shutdown

Fan Monitoring CPU, SYS, AUX1, AUX2

Any or ALL have warning and shutdown

CPU and AUX1 support FanEQ control

CPU Protection Basic temperature warning and shutdown. Fan also has shutdown and warning

The AX78 carries a mid-range price, so lacks some of the features found on more expensive boards. For instance, uGuru is not present, which means that many of the tweaking features exclusive to Abit, such as the excellent FanEQ and amazing uGuru monitoring capabilities. While it looks a bit lacking compared to their higher-end boards, the AX78 turns out to have some pretty decent overclocking and memory tweaking features.

As you can see, the overclocking section is quite lacking compared to the IP35 Pro. Of course, this board costs nearly $100 less. While the interface isn't great (you won't be able to see the end result of your settings, so you'll have to do the math yourself), all the settings are there to take your CPU to the limit.

Next Page: (Board Layout)