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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [09.18.08]
Manufactured by: Abit



Overclocking with the A-N78HD is an exercise in frustration. Contrary to the last two Abit motherboards we've reviewed - both of which were some of the best overclockers we've come across, the A-N78HD is severely lacking. Not only is the BIOS barren of features and settings, Abit's usual Windows-based overclocking software is nowhere to be seen (despite what it says on the product page, SoftMenu is not on the installation CD, nor is it downloadable).

So we are left to use Nvidia's Power Tools, which... well aren't so great. For instance, it detects the PCI-E clock as 2500 MHz (it should be 100 MHz). So if you try to change any setting on that page, it tries to clock it at 2500 MHz (which obviously crashes the system). Unfortunately the HT multiplier is on this page, so it cannot be touched.

Still, I went on with overclocking; I set the CPU multiplier to 5x, taking it out of the equation, and set the memory to 5-5-5-17 with a DDR400 multiplier. With a full 5x HT multiplier, don't have your expectations set too high.

After days of overclocking and stability testing, we were finally able to find the highest bus rate that can be considered 100% stable - 300 MHz. The board can actually go higher, upwards of 320 MHz without crashing immediately. Unfortunately it is not stable at that point, so 300 is as high as I would ever go with this board.

I don't know if the rumors of Abit's leaving the motherboard market are true, so I can't comment on whether that has anything to do with the disappointing design features made on the A-N78HD. At its base core, it's actually a great little board; it performs well enough, and its Nvidia GeForce 8200 mGPU means that it is pretty much guaranteed to be able to play all 1080p HD content provided you want to use software that supports it (we'll be taking a deeper look at PureVideo HD soon).

But beyond the capabilities of the chipset, there are some simply mind-boggling design flaws on the A-N78HD. First and foremost is the lack of digital audio output on the rear panel. Sure, we get HDMI, but that would require a whole new home theatre setup to utilize. If you want to build a HTPC to use with your current setup, you are left in the dark from Abit. They did put a header onboard, but finding the right adapter may prove to be difficult. The room is there, the capability is there, they just plain and simple chose the cheap route, and that ruined the board. Considering how much I loved last year's NF-M2 nView for adding this very feature, it is extra disappointing to find it missing here.

Also missing are any sort of overclocking features. You could say that this is an HTPC board, and overclocking shouldn't be a concern at all. But let me tell you - overclocking is always a concern for a certain segment. For one thing, it's an Abit board, right? How can you have an Abit board that doesn't overclock? Secondly, the board is forced into a niche, making it not really worthy of consideration for people outside that niche. Even the NF-M2 nView from last year overclocked pretty well!

I can't dwell too much on the overclocking though, since it's not the main point of this type of motherboard. There are a few other things to complain about with this board, but you can just check out the "Stuff That Sucks" section below. Just keep in mind that if you are wanting to build a HTPC system for playing HD content, you will have to use HDMI audio if you want to use digital audio, or search for a compatible header (I hear the Asus header works).

The best advice I can give for those considering this board or others like it - if you can, just wait for Nvidia's version of this chipset that supports Intel processors. It really doesn't make much sense to build an HTPC using an AMD CPU anyway. They are hotter, louder, less efficient, and perform poorly for the price.

  • Allows the CPU to perform at full potential
  • Supports latest processors
  • Proved to be very stable and reliable
  • Dual video output (only one digital connector can be used)
  • Passively cooled
  • FanEQ works well
  • Hybrid SLI may prove to be useful for some

  • No optical output - what were they thinking??
  • Poor layout compared to other Abit mATX boards
  • Terrible BIOS options
  • No Abit overclocking software
  • No USB headers included (only 4 ports on the rear panel)
  • Incapable of playing games at reasonable settings