955X-based mobo shoot-out
We test the top LGA755 motherboards
One of the accessory boxes contains another excellent manual. There's also separate manual for the board's µGuru features and briefer quick-start literature. Six SATA cables match the number of ports, and it's nice to see that the cables clip into the ports, thereby eliminating the possibility of loose connections when on the move, say, to a LAN event.
The black-coloured bracket carries connectivity for the two 1394b and two USB 2.0 ports. ABIT also bundles in a handy optical cable as well as rounded floppy/IDE ones. The AW8-MAX is compatible with ABIT's µGuru utility, although that's an optional extra on this model.
Speaking of µGuru, ABIT provides a newer iteration of its Windows-based tweaking software. One can see identical voltage/speed manipulation and reporting in a Windows environment.
ABIT's now-familiar µGuru-based BIOS is a must if the AW8-MAX is going to appeal to enthusiasts. ABIT offers you the opportunity of saving and reloading up to five separate BIOSes. It's a handy and much-needed feature here, as the AW8-MAX's BIOS has just about the broadest set of user-defininable parameters of any current motherboard.
µGuru is sub-divided into OC Guru and ABIT EQ categories. OC Guru allows you to tinker with voltages and speeds. Specifically, the CPU's external clock (FSB) can be changed from 133-400MHz, opening up the way for some serious overclocking. Common on this trio of i955X chipset-based boards is the ability to lock PCI and PCI Express buses at default speeds, so that overclocking will be limited by either the CPU or the North Bridge's ceiling.
DRAM can be set to run at DDR 2's 533MHz and 667MHz speeds, assuming a CPU FSB of 200MHz. Higher RAM frequencies don't make a great deal of sense on a board bereft of onboard graphics, so no problems here. Voltage-wise, ABIT does well. The CPU's ranges from 1.4-1.75V, the memory's from 1.75-2.3V, and the North Bridge's from 1.5-2V. We noted that all reported lines were a little weaker than what's inputted in BIOS. It's just as well that the enthusiast has a lot of voltage to play with, then.
Latency tweaking is just how we would expect it, and the use of some low-latency Corsair DDR 2 memory allowed us to run with tight, performance-enhancing 3-2-2-8 timings.
From whichever way you wish to look at it, ABIT's AW8-MAX has the best BIOS of the trio on test. Excellent range of voltage and speed manipulation is augmented by similar excellence in reporting and monitoring, and that's what a performance/enthusiast BIOS is all about.