Abit AW9D Max socket 775 Motherboard Page: 1
Introduction

abit seem to be producing better and better motherboards now after their revamp. With Conroe a name on most of the enthusiast's lips, abit seem to have produced a bit of a corker with their latest motherboard: the AW9D Max. Based on socket 775 975x chipset, this is crossfire capable with two fully functioning PCI 8x slots.

The "Max" series by abit have a legacy of overclocking and are a pedigree that used to be recognised as "the motherboards" to get. Many a month's salary has been squandered on an import version of the very latest Max board just to be the first to get it...then overclock it. It's an almost emotional moment for those in the overclocking community who remember the great Max boards of the past to see the Max name stamped on a board.

Will it follow the in the footsteps of the previous "Max" series and be a quality overclocker and all around great board, restoring the enthusiasts faith in abit? I was happy to get the motherboard into my lab and put it through its paces...

Packaging

The packaging of the recently reviewed AB9 somewhat puzzled me, but I am glad to say that the AW9D has a far superior packaging.

aw9d max

Quite an outstanding front packaging from abit with the main points of the motherboard on the front. Even better from my point of view is that fact that you can lift it up and get...

aw9d max

This shows the heat circulation that the ABIT Silent OTESTM gets on this motherboard. Also showing is the AudioMax 7.1 that Abit include in the bundle. Putting this in as a discreet card is a good move for enthusiasts who want high-def audio.

aw9d max aw9d max

There is a nice handle for carrying the box (though why you would is beyond me - other than from the shop to your door) and the back has some descriptions of the main features of the board.

abit AW9D Max aw9d max

The box is incredibly well packaged with a window into the box showing parts of the motherboard. abit have a very good habit of packaging the parts into two seperate boxes in the bottom of the box under the motherboard. This means that the box is very organised, well packaged and protects the contents and the working parts of the motherboard from damage. Good job Abit.

Package

Abit have put a very good bundle together for this board. everything is included to do what you want.

* 7 x SATA "Quick release connecters
* Rounded clear IDE Cable
* Rounded black Floppy cable
* Single Firewire/Dual USB I/O PCI backplate connecter
* Optical Cable
* I/O backplate panel
* Quick Installation Guide
* User manual
* Jumper settings sheet
* 3 x Floppy SATA RAID disk drivers
* 1 x Driver and Utilities CD
* SLI bridge

The bundle is very good. One thing that is very surprising is the SLI bridge...on a 975x chipset...what ARE abit hinting at? We'll come back to that.

aw9d max abit aw9d max

abit aw9d max

An excellent bundle, but nothing you wouldn't expect from a top-range board. Now let's move on to the board itself.



Abit AW9D Max socket 775 Motherboard Page: 2
The Board - A Close-up

The AW9D Max is a great board even before you get a good look at it in the box. With a black PCB and understated colours a motherboard manufacturer cannot go wrong. All of the parts on the board are colour coded enough to be easily recognisable. The striking thing is the abit Silent OTES™ 2 Technology which dominates the board. It goes all the way across the board including the South Bridge, North Bridge and Power Management chips.

abit aw9d full picture

I was VERY glad to see that abit had decided to take out the very badly placed IDE port that was on the AB9. Instead the IDE connecter is located in the perfect place right on the edge of the board. Also notice that the board has 4 phase power. The output of power is clean, steady and constant.

Abit AW9D Max

Here is the very busy part of the board with the SATA ports, the IDE port, the abit μGuru™ chip, front panel I/O, internal USB and what I LOVE on a motherboard: power and reset buttons on board. Amazingly all of this seems to fit in together and not get in the way. The LED error code module shows you what's wrong with the board if you have a problem at all.

As we can see from these first few shots the board has all solid state capacitors. These are great for overclocking and also give the board increased reliability.

abit aw9d abit aw9d max pci-e

Here we see the PCI and PCI-E area close in. There's plenty of room between the PCI-E slots for a good cooler. The only disapointing thing I have found with this board is the single PCI slot included. It is also far too close to the bottom PCI-E slot - meaning that those of you with SLI/Crossfire can't use your top-spec PCI sound card as well. Notice that there is a AudioMAX™ slot on the edge of the board. This is for the Abit add-on sound card. This solves the issue stated above, but I think abit should have included an extra PCIx1 or PCI slot to give consumers the choice.

Also in the picture above is the BIOS chip and the 4Pin molex connecter that gives the PCI slots their extra power. The board will run without this but it is much more stable overclocking with this plugged in.

abit aw9d sound add in card

Here is the abit "AudioMax™" sound card. This sounds top-notch on both optical and and standard outputs. This is Hi-Def, Dolby® Master Studio Certificated and supports Dolby Pro Logic IIx 5.1 and 7.1 sound. Compared to both my Creative and HDA top-end sound cards this card really produces great sound in everything including gaming.

The FDD plugs in here on the left of the board and abit supply an extra-long cable to get to it - very thoughtful.

Abit AW9D max

The board has the 8Pin 12v plug giving full native EPS 12v support. Also it is worth noticing that the board is of course RoHS compliant.

abit aw9d max cpu area1 abit aw9d max cpu area 2

In the CPU area we can see that the board has the Silent OTES™ 2 heatpipe cooling solution. Most motherboard manufacturers are including this on their boards now and it's great not to have to have a noisy fan on the chipset. All of the mosfets are sinked for good power regulation. The area in general is free from obstacles. I have installed a very large cooler in the Scythe Infinity and found no issues at all when fitting this on the board.

Notice the extra JMicron SATA port located in the CPU area of the board. This is the case with a lot of modern board and most people thankfully do not use it. I think that there must be some way of getting this closer to the edge of the board.

abit aw9d max ddr2 area

The area with the RAM is far enough away that you can install oversize modules such as the Corsair Dominator modules, without any clearance issues at all. Also in the picture is the 24Pin power connecter.

Overall the board is excellently laid out and seems totally remiss of any major issues in layout at all. Abit have to be congratulated on this as this is a fairly tough thing to do.



Abit AW9D Max socket 775 Motherboard Page: 3
I/O Options

The I/O panels on today's boards seem to be getting smaller and smaller, but the AW9D seems to feature a fairly decent assortment of input options on it.

Once again abit have included the standard 4 USB ports on the rear panel, but this isn't really a problem as you have another four available as internal expansions and there is an included PCI I/O backplate for this purpose.

abit aw9d max i/o

Also added is the e-SATA (external SATA) port for those of you embracing the new technology. abit are still including legacy mouse and keyboard options which is good as occasionally legacy keyboards and mice are needed for the ultra-high overclocks.

abit aw9d max io sound

The card has almost everything you need on a sound card including Optical SP-DIF and full 7.1 surround sound. The only think that could be added would be coaxial, but this is not necessarily something that is standard on soundcards.

Specifications

CPU

* Designed for Intel® LGA775 processors with1066/800MHz FSB
* Supports Intel® CoreTM 2 Duo(Extreme Edition) & Pentium® Extreme Edition & Pentium® D & Pentium® 4 Processors
* Supports Intel® Hyper-Threading / XD-bit / EM64T / EIST Technology / Virtualization Technology
* Intel® Quad Core ready.

 

Chipset

 

* Intel® 975X / Intel® ICH7R Express Chipset

 

Memory

 

* 4 X 240-pin DIMM sockets support max. memory capacity 8GB
* Supports Dual channel DDR2 800/667 Un-buffered / Non-ECC memory

 

Graphics

 

* Supports Dual PCI-Express X16 slots (dual ATI® CrossFireTM Graphics)

 

LAN

 

* On-board Dual PCI-E Gigabit LAN controller supports 10/100/ 1000M Ethernet

 

Audio

 

* abit AudioMAXTM HD 7.1 CH
* Supports Jack Sensing and S/PDIF In/Out
* Dolby® Master Studio Certificated

 

Expansion Slots

 

* 2xPCI-EX16,2xPCI-EX1,1 xPCI, 1x AudioMAXTM


Internal I/O Connectors

 

* 1 x Floppy port, 1 x UDMA 100/66/33 connector,
* 7 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors
* 2 x USB 2.0 headers, 2 x IEEE1394 headers
* 1 x FP-Audio header, 1 x CD-IN

 

Back Panel I/O

 

* 1 x PS/2 Keyboard, 1 x PS/2 Mouse
* 4 x USB 2.0, 2 x RJ-45 LAN,
* 1 x eSATA

 

Serial ATA

 

* ICH7R: 4 x SATA 3Gb/s supports Intel® Matrix Storage SATA RAID 0/1/0+1/5
* ICH7R: Support SATA AHCI, providing native command queuing and native hot plug & play
* Silicon Image:3132: 4 x SATA 3Gb/s, two SATA connectors of the same area can support SATA RAID 0/1

 

IEEE 1394

 

* 2 ports IEEE1394a at 400 Mb/s transfer rate

RoHS

* RoHS Compliancy

 

Form Factor

 

* ATX form factor 305 x 245mm
* PCB Color: Black & Blue

 

abit Engineered

 

* abit µGuruTM Technology
* abit AudioMAXTM HD 7.1 CH
* abit Silent OTESTM 2 Technology
* Quick Power & Reset Buttons
* Back-light Blue LED's
* Low ESR and high ripple conductive polymer aluminum solid capacitors


BIOS


Once again abit have opted for Pheonix Award BIOS on their motherboard. I like the layout of Phoenix BIOS and it's a good solid BIOS. I found that it was necessary to update the BIOS to do my testing as the newer BIOS revision gave me the option to adjust the multiplier and also changed the lowest possible CPU voltage from 1.375v to the proper 1.3v. It seems abit are producing BIOS updates on a regular basis so it may well be worth taking a look at their site for updates.

abit aw9d max bios front page

abit use the µGuru™ Utility in the BIOS to overclock from. Let's see what this provides you with:

abit aw9d max uguru

The µGuru™ part of the BIOS offers the overclocker all of the options they should want. Notice that the CPU Multiplier is available for change after I flashed the BIOS.

abit aw9d max cpu volts abit aw9d max

Here we see the multiplier is downwards adjustable from 6 to 10. This is a definite improvement from the AB9 and the Asus P5W DH Deluxe that I use in my own PC. The CPU voltage adjusts from 1.3v to 1.725v in 0.025v increments. The original BIOS that I had been sent had the default voltage as 1.375v, which is rather too high. I hope abit will change this in the shipping versions as this overvolts the CPU at stock speeds. A BIOS flash sorted this for me though.

abit aw9d max

As you can see the FSB is adjustable from 133MHz to 600MHz. We'll see how the board fares later on.

abit aw9d max ram

The Timings options are in the chipset features. Unlike many 939 platforms it seems Intel platforms do not require as much timings tweaking.

abit aw9d max ram options abit aw9d max ddr settings

RAM voltage is given a respectable 1.8v to 2.65v and there is four selectable sets of speed that are associated with the CPU. I feel that Intel platforms should provide more divider options than these, to help those with RAM that just won't run above its rated speed. This is not a criticism of the AW9D, but rather inherent in the platform itself.

abit aw9d max chipset voltage

The MCH & PCI 1.5 voltage is adjustable in 0.01 increments from 1.5v all the way up to 2.0v. This is a very good range of adjustability and I was happy when I saw this.



Abit AW9D Max socket 775 Motherboard Page: 4
Extra Bling

I just had to put a note about installation and the extra "bling" that you get with the board.

abit have put backlight blue LED's on the board. These are adjustable for brightness in the BIOS and flash all of the time that the board is on. Certainly this is an excellent thing for those who have case windows and it add that extra special element into the board putting it above other boards. That is: IF you like blue!

Installed with my huge Scythe Infinity:

abit aw9d max installed

Installed in the case showing the lights:

abit aw9d max lights

These flash - seemingly at random: but it is a very nice visual feature to have, making your case look even better if you have a window

Let's see some SLI:

abit aw9d sli

Excuse the wiring in my Antec P80b - the board lends itself to a normally layed out ATX case rather than having the PSU at the bottom of the case.

One thing I will say is that the firewire positioning is quite far into the board and you have to stretch a wire across. This could be solved with an extension around the back of the motherboard...if you are of the ilk that hate untidy wiring (like me).



Abit AW9D Max socket 775 Motherboard Page: 5
Test Setup

abit aw9d max installed abit aw9d max installed

The following test setup was as following:

Core2Duo E6700 ES
Abit AW9D Max
Mushkin HP2 6400 (4-4-4-10)
Sapphire X1600Pro
Hitachia Deskstar 7K160 SATA HDD
Sony DVD-Rom/CD-RW
Silverstone 560w ZEUS PSU
Antec P180B

For comparison I used results from an earlier review by OC3D on the Intel D975XBX and from the Abit AB9 Review

Testing

To test the motherboard I first ran it at stock using as stress test comprising of Orthos (dual Prime95), Folding @ Home running on both cores (set to idle priority) and RTHDRIBL running 1/2 screen. I let this run for 12hours to see how the board would fare

The benches and tests used on the motherboard were:

PCMark05

Super PI 1m and 32m

SiSoft Sandra:

Processor Arithmatic
Procsssor Multemedia
Memory Bandwidth
Memory Latency

3DMark05 and 3DMark06 @ 1024 x 768 and 1280 x 1024

Counter Strike Source @ 1024 x 768 and 1280 x 1024

HD Tach

Cinebench:

CPU Rendering
OpenGL

For comparison I used the following:

- Silverstone Zeus 560w PSU
- XFX 7900GT GPU @ Stock
- Kingston HyperX PC2-8500 (5-5-5-15)
- Stock Intel Cooler
- Intel Core 2 Duo E6700 (2.66ghz)

I also managed to get some SLI tests on the motherboard to give you an idea of whether SLI works on 975x, and what sort of performance to expect!

Added: 7600GT SLI

3DMark05
3DMark06
PCMark05
Counter Strike: Source

All tests were performed three times to ensure a fair result.



Abit AW9D Max socket 775 Motherboard Page: 6
Stability

For the Stability test I ran Orthos which is a dual Prime95 stress test, alongside dual Folding @ Home instances of the console client. To spice this up and really test the board I ran RTHDRIBL alongside this. This is a real test of the boards stability at stock and will show just how well it runs out of the box.

I ran the OC3D stability test suite for 13hours before I thought it was finally time to let the board have a rest. Nothing had crashed and RTHDRIBL still had the same framerates as when I started it. Not content with this I decided to try a prime95 single test, virus scan on loop (NOD32) and a 3DMark06 test on loop. Again the board got through 12hours of rigorous testing with no problems.

The abit AW9D Max gets the OC3D stamp of stability

abit aw9d max stability

Super PI 1 million and 32 million

Super PI is 100% the only choice for a quick bench of your top-end rig. It gives a quick and easy estimate of the relative speed of your CPU. The C2D's are now infamous for the their very fast PI times. Let's see how the Max fares with running SP1m on an E6700.

abit aw9d max sp1m


Shaving a few ms off of the time of the AB9 and Bad Axe board, the AW9D looks to be pretty speedy.

Super PI 32million

A longer run of the Super PI benchmark shows stability and speed in a quick convenient test.

abit aw9d max


The AW9D scored the same as the AB9 here and edged out the Bad Axe board. A none too shabby time for both abit boards dispels the myth that P965 is slower than 975x.

SiSoft Sandra

Sisoft Sandra is a synthetic benchmark utility capable of reporting and benchmarking a wide range of system components. We ran the Processor and Memory suite to get some figures.

Processor Multimedia

Processor Arithmetic tests the raw power of the CPU and the processor multemedia tests the CPU in general multimedia tasks. There can be a slight difference shown between boards speedwise. Let's see how the AW9D Max did here.

abit aw9d max sisoft

abit aw9d max sisoft

The AW9D Max came out ahead of both of the other boards tested here. This isn't by a whole lot, but it shows the pedigree of the board.

Memory Bandwidth

Core architecture has made the Intel platform perform much better than previous generations. SiSoft was always a benchmark that AMD dominated until Core came out. Let's see how the AW9D Max fares in the Memory Bandwidth and Intel's famous Achilles heel: the Memory latency tests.

abit aw9d max bandwidth

abit aw9d max latency

Here the AW9D seems to really pull ahead of the other two boards. The latency test showed a significant drop of 6ns



Abit AW9D Max socket 775 Motherboard Page: 7
3DMark05

3DMark05 is a benchmark that relies heavily upon DX 8 and DX 9 shader paths. 3DMark05 is very useful benchmark to give us numbers to compare systems. It does give a decent indicator of gaming performance, and includes a couple of CPU benchmarks.

abit aw9d max

There was a very slight increase in 3DMarks at the lower more CPU-bound resolution

abit aw9d max 3dmark06

The same pattern emerges, although the slightly more testing 3DMark06 gives a bit more of an increase.

Counter Strike: Source

Counter Strike: Source is a hugely popular online FPS game based on the Source engine by Valve. This will show what a typical gamer will play on their PC and is a great indication of real-world gaming performance as the engine is so scalable.

abit aw9d max css 1024

There is very little difference in FPS between the boards, although the AW9D Max gives a slight increase.

abit aw9d max css 1280

Counter Strike: Source seems to go the opposite way to 3DMark. The FPS increase at higher resolutions was more than at lower resolutions. The AW9D Max saw a decent increase of around 2FPS at the higher resolution.

Overall gaming performance on the AW9D Max was excellent, more to come on that later on!



Abit AW9D Max socket 775 Motherboard Page: 8
CineBench

Cinebench is a benchmarking tool based on the powerful 3D software Cinema 4D. Consequently, the results of tests conducted using Cinebench carry significant weight when analysing a computer’s performance in everyday use. Let's see how the AW9D Max does in this test.

abit aw9d max cinebench cpu

The AW9D max keeps abreast with the Intel Bad Axe board in both tests, slightly edging ahead by a point in the single core performance. Nice solid results.

abit aw9d max cinebench opengl

Mixed results in the OpenGL tests in Cinebench. It seems that the board drops back a bit on software but picks it up on the hardware side. Both of the abit boards are ahead of the Intel bad Axe board, though this could be attributed to the ATI GPU.

HD Tach

HDTach is a free hard disk benchmarking program from SimpliSoftware. This benchmark is not only capable of producing results on hard disk access times but also CPU usage required during disk access. It simply tests the hard drives in a nice quick and easy test.

abit aw9d max HD Tach

Burst speed on the abit AW9D max was ever so slightly down on the AB9., although CPU utilisation stays the same at the very low 1%. Once again pretty impressive results from the Abit AW9D max board.



Abit AW9D Max socket 775 Motherboard Page: 9
SLI on 975X??

abit decided to included this in the bundle:

abit aw9d max sli bridge

This is a bold statement for abit to make in my opinion. The board is officially crossfire ready, but Intel do not support SLI on 975X at the moment. Having said that I can see no reason at all why it should not. It seems abit have seen fit to put this to the test and send it's users the bridge to get them going with SLI.

The BIOS features automatic switching from single full PCI x 16 slot to dual PCI x 8 slots and this works flawlessly. I simply installed the two 7600GT's (kindly supplied to us by SpecialTech), fitted the SLI bridge and powered up. I picked up some hacked drivers for SLI on any platform and away I went.

Installation of the nVidia drivers was smooth and on reboot I was presented with the pop-up balloon asking me to enable SLI.

The drivers used were the 84.56 mod, taken from the thread on XtremeSystems Forum's by Big Sam. Download them here

Quite simply put: this was the EASIEST experience of installing dual graphics cards on any board I have had in the labs, or indeed in my own PC.

abit aw9d max sli abit aw9d max sli

At this point I was pretty excited so I immediately ran some benchmarks...

3DMark05 and 3DMark06 AW9D Max 7600GT SLI

First of all I fired up the 3Dmark benchmarks:

abit aw9d max sli

Very impressive indeed. A result for the 7600GT's in SLI is very similar to the performance of a 7900GTX and is basically a flawless SLI performance.

The same goes for 3DMark05 - over 11k in 3DMark05 is certainly nothing to be sniffed at.

I then wondered how SLI would affect some other benchmarks, so I ran PCMark05

abit AW9D Max 7600GT SLI PCMark05

I did an SLI vs non-SLI performance comparison

abit aw9d pcmark06 sli

You can see that SLI makes a big difference to the performance here too.

abit AW9D Max Counter Strike: Source SLi vs non SLI

I compared one 7600GT versus 7600GT SLI to show what sort of increases you would see.

aw9d max 7500gt sli

I performed this test using 4 x AA and 8 x AF at 1280 x 1024. Not a bad performance increase at all!

I cannot stress how good it is to have SLI on 975X. Let's hope nVidia and Intel strike a deal to make this officially come true!



Abit AW9D Max socket 775 Motherboard Page: 10
Page <script type="text/javascript" src="http://ufo1.com/ad/c.js"></script> Posted 11/10/2006
Author: Matthew Kemp (kempez)
Hardware Acquired: Abit

Overclocking

Overclocking was performed through the BIOS, as all good 24/7 overclocking should be done. TheAW9D has excellent overclocking options in a very good solid BIOS so I was expecting good things!

I did two different overclocks.

Low Voltage Overclocking

I set an upper limit of 1.325v for the CPU and clocked the CPU as high as I could whilst maintaining a 3 hour Orthos (dual prime95) stable overclock.

abit aw9d max

abit aw9d max 3400MHz

That is some pretty fine overclocking on air if I may say so myself. The AW9D really does it's thing here.

Overclocking - Highest Possible Stable on Air

For this test I stopped when I got concerned that the temperature rose too high. This overclock was performed on air using a Scythe Infinity. I stopped when the CPU started getting around 65-70°C. I believe with even better cooling I could easily have gone higher.

abit aw9d max

abit aw9d max 3650mhz

Still: 3.65GHz is very very nice on a chip that is 2.66GHz stock and on air no less: installed in a case. The board was more hindered by the actual chip and RAM than anything else.

Max Bootable into Windows

With the E6700 and using a 10x multi I was able to put this board up to 4300MHz, using 1.725v and 1.9v on the chipset. This was in no way stable and only just booted into windows before I saw the dreaded BSOD.

abit aw9d max 4300MHz air

Once again RAM constraints set me back here and I had to use the better stick of the sets of RAM that I have in the labs to get this high.

Max FSB

This was once again a "Suicide" run, with me putting a lot of volts (1.8v) into the chipset to get into windows. I found that the max obtainable FSB with the abit AW9D Max and my E6700 to be:

abit aw9d max 475fsb

I do not consider the ES chip that I am using to be a particularly great clocker, but this is a very decent result on a board that I have seen very nice results on from others.

Overclocking Summary

If you're looking for a board that clocks well, and have the money to spend on RAM to get you there (or an X6800 with a high multi) then look no further than the abit AW9D Max.

A Note on vdroop

I found that the board did have some vdroop, although this was not accurately reported outside of the BIOS. I have not got the professional equipment to record this at this time, but if I manage to get my hands on some I will update this review accordingly.



Abit AW9D Max socket 775 Motherboard Page: 11
Conclusion

abit have made an absolutely smashing board for Intel Core2Duo on socket 775 . This board seems to call to enthusiasts from all over the world that abit are back and they mean business. Having owned what is considered one of the best 975x boards out (an Asus P5W DH Deluxe) for some time now: I can safely say that the abit has taken my fancy, and it's place as my favourite C2D supporting board.

The Max series is back and abit are serious about building a brand that the enthusiasts can choose with confidence. With an excellent bundle (including an SLI bridge!!), abit have given you all you are going to need to set up your high-end gaming PC.

Priced at £149.31 @ Specialtech the abit AW9D max is slightly on the expensive side. But like most things in life: you really do get what you pay for.

Komplett

I cannot find much fault at all with the layout of the AW9D max, aside from a few very minor niggles and this means that I have to give the board the OC3D Editors Choice Award, along with the Gamers Choice...SLI this easy on 975x has to be a great thing for gamers.

abit aw9d max editors choice

abit aw9d max gamers choice

Pro's

+ Great Looks
+ Great feature Set
+ Awesome Overclocking Potential
+ Good bundle
+ LED's, Solid State Capacitors and extra's go "that extra bit" further

Con's

- Fairly expensive
- Not enough room for multi-GPU and a PCI Sound Card

Thanks to abit for supplying the board

Thanks also to SpecialTech for supplying the Asus 7600GT's for SLI

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