Motherboard: Abit AT7 MAX Review :: Features

05-02-2002 · Category: Motherboards

By Doc Overclock

Abit AT7 MAX Features
Board Revision1.0
BIOS Version8R 2002/04/09
Default Clock Speed (MHz)1667
North BridgeVIA VT8367
South BridgeVIA VT8233A
Number of PCI slots3
Memory typeDDR200/266/333
Number of memory slots4
Maximum Memory (GB)3/3.5
Universal AGP support *N/A
AGP Pro SupportN/A
Number of Physical USB 1.1 ports **4
Number of Physical USB 2.0 ports **2
Active Cooling on ChipsetYES
Adjustable AGP VoltageN/A
Adjustable Memory voltageYES
Southbridge UDMA 133 SupportYES
IDE or RAID Controller other than SouthbridgeHighpoint HPT370UDMA
Auto speed-down/shutdown on fan failureYES
Auto speed-down/shutdown on heat alarmYES
On-board SoundRealtek ALC650 5.1
On-board LANRealtek RTL8100B 10/100
* Voltage and Physical support for previous generation of AGP
** Not just pin headers onboard


Abit AT7 MAX Scores
Features37|40
Ergonomics8|10
Stability and Compatibility25|25
Package & Support10|10
Performance10|15
Total90|100

Just to get the basics out of the way the AT7 is based on the latest KT333-NB/VIA VT8233A-SB chipset that supports the entire line of AMD CPU's. From the entry-level 100MHz FSB Duron's to the supercharged 133MHz FSB XP2100 the AT7 is there for you. Built on a standard colored four layer PCB the AT7 sizes in at a 305X245mm and will fit in most cases as the motherboard comes with its own rear I/O shield to accommodate the rather newfangled design of the AT7's rear input/output layout.

This should be one of the most interesting motherboards to hit the shelves in years as ABIT has shed the skin off the traditional motherboard approach and is in the midst of a metamorphosis as far as R&D is concerned. Taking this in mind it is no surprise to see the new AT7 having an abundance of cutting edge technologies and a lack of some of the more standard features such as PS2 ports for the keyboard and mouse. I was left wondering just why they were omitted from this design as they are not Legacy related and should have been included in the makeup of the board.

That is really the biggest downfall with the AT7 as most people have at least one PS2 device in their system accessories. In addition many of the current test programs have trouble running without any PS2 ports available. This was a factor that caused a major headache in the lab trying to get SYSmark to run properly as it searches for a PS2 device while running its standard tests. This caused failures over and over again in many various attempts to get the program to run completely. I guess the test software from www.bapco.com needs a little patchwork before it can be run without errors on motherboards lacking the normal PS2 inputs.

ABIT has engineered a unique and very enthusiasts minded motherboard that features not only the ability to support the most memory available on a VIA chipset motherboard but also up to twelve IDE devices. The AT7 takes advantage of having four 184-pin DIMM sockets supporting PC1600/PC2100/PC2700 DDR DRAM modules. You can use up to 3GB of unbuffered DDR and 3.5GB of Registered DDR SDRAM. What this means is that up to 3GB you can use regular DDR RAM but if you want to use the total 3.5GB it must be with Registered RAM, which is a bit pricier, and not worth the performance gain of another 512MHz of memory power when you weigh in the price difference.

There are two standard ATA133 IDE controllers (IDE Channels 1-2) that are controlled by the VIA chipset and then there are four additional on-board ATA connectors (ATA133 RAID channels 3-6) that are controlled by the High Point HPT374 IDE Controller. The High Point controller offers the user the ability to configure the system in the standard ATA configuration or in the following RAID modes, RAID 0 (striping mode for boosting performance) RAID 1 (mirroring mode for data security) and finally RAID 0 + 1(striping and mirroring). You should never run out of room for more IDE drives with the AT7.

Where ABIT tries to reinvent interest for the enthusiast is in the AT7's rear I/O connectors. This allows the user the ability to harness up to ten USB devices simultaneously. There are six USB1.1 connectors on the board itself and two headers controlled by the VIA VT6202 chipset for an additional four 2.0 USB connectors that connect to the motherboard via an included cable that takes up a slot on the back of the case where the peripheral cards go. The rear I/O also houses an on-board10/100Mb LAN connection that is operated by the Realtek 8100B single chip Ethernet controller interface that can be disabled if needed.

For transferring large video files and digital camera downloads nothing beats an IEEE 1394 Firewire connection and the AT7 comes equipped with three IEEE inputs that can transfer data from 100/200/400 megabits per second depending on your input device. People who are doing a lot of video editing at home and who are using a personal video camera will find this to be a very helpful feature to have on their board, as this is the standard for most cameras and high-end external peripherals at the moment.

If you are an audiophile there is another really neat feature under the hood of the AT7 that comes in the form of the on-board six-channel audio support. The AT7 utilizes the AC2001 media Codec that works in conjunction with the Realtek ALC650 (AC-Link) supporting a 6CH DAC for AC3 5.1 channel audio. The AT7 has a Professional digital audio interface supporting a 24-bit SPDIF OUT. The Avance software interface for controlling the sound is also above average and offers the user a variety of predefined environments including a 10-band equalizer for better sound shaping. There are also options for testing and selecting your speakers within Windows as seen below.

There are audio connectors for Line-in, Center/Sub, Surround, Front, and a microphone-input all located on the rear I/O. The Optical output is awesome for 5.1 or better speakers that support this connection as this offers the cleanest and clearest sound separation available and really rocks when combined with a good DVD player. The AT7 is also equipped with its own Media XP chip that connects to a front breakout box similar to the one used in the Creative Labs Platinum series of sound cards except with this one you can read Memory cards (MS or SD) the SONY Memory Stick / SD Memory Cards and Compact Flash ROM cards. The Breakout box unfortunately is sold separately and does not come with the retail version of the AT7.

The last things to talk about on the AT7 are the hardware monitoring features available within the Award BIOS and the actual package content. You can monitor such things as the CPU and system fan speeds as well as the CPU and system temperatures and the AT7 has an automatic shutdown feature in case excessive heat is detected. The included IDE cables are jet black and the AT7 comes with retaining clips that have dual sided tape on them so you can attach where you want them and help eliminate a cable mess. There are no extra software goodies as all the money went into the board design but you get enough to take care of business and that's what really counts in the long run. Lets move on to the installation and performance sections of the review and see how well the AT7 stacks up against the competition.

Contents

  • AT7 Motherboard
  • Three Black 80 Pin ATA connectors
  • Black 3.5 Floppy Cable
  • Drivers CD
  • Users Manual
  • HPY374 Drivers Floppy
  • Rear I/O shield
  • Three cable holders
  • One USB cable