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Abit AW9D-Max 975X-based mobo

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Review Abit was synonymous with top-performance motherboards, but of late its products have been less than impressive. Abit has set out to correct this with its latest line-up of boards, including the AW9D-Max, designed to be a top-of-the-range Core 2 Duo mobo based on Intel's 975X chipset. But does it live up to the expectation?

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Abit's Max series of motherboards has always been quite different and daring in terms of design and features. The AW9D-Max doesn't surprise here as it has some rather quirky features. The rear I/O layout is very basic, with two PS/2 ports, four USB 2.0 ports, two Ethernet connectors for the dual on-board Gigabit Ethernet controllers, and finally an e-SATA connector.

You might wonder what happened to the audio connectors, but as anyone that has owned a recent high-end motherboard from Abit will know, these come in the shape of an AudioMax HD riser card. This fits into a special slot at the bottom of the motherboard and adds 7.1-channel HD audio with optical S/PDIF output. The line-in jack also doubles up as a 3.5mm S/PDIF input.

Moving onto the board itself, the most noticeable features are the two heatpipes that help cool the chipset. These are connected to a heatsink at the rear of the board which also cools the power regulation circuitry. The hot air is vented out of the case through a hole in the I/O shield. All of the heatsinks have copper plates in the bottom to further enhance the heat transfer away from the chipset and MOSFETs.

If you're still not happy with the system cooling and want to add some extra fans, you'll be happy to know that there are no less than seven additional fan headers not counting the one for the CPU cooler.

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In terms of expansion capabilities, there are four memory slots for DDR 2 memory, two x16 PCI Express slots - which will operate at x8 when two graphics cards are used in CrossFire mode - two x1 PCI Express slots and a single PCI slot. Having only one PCI and then placing it this close to the lower x16 PCI Express slot is a poor design choice, as it becomes unusable if you fit a dual-width graphics card in the lower x16 slot. Considering how many things still use PCI, Abit should make it more easily accessible. A nice touch is the top-mounted release clips on the x16 slots, as this makes it much easier to remove your graphics cards than some other boards do.

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