Abit IN9 32x Max Intel Socket 775 Motherboard Page: 1
Introduction

abit are a revived company recently with enthusiast eagerley awaiting their next board to come out. The AW9D Max had rave reviews from around the web and seemed to harken back to the awesome Max series of motherboards in the past.

The IN9 Max seemed to take even longer to come out that everyone had hoped. Based on nVidia's 680i chipset and bundled with more features than you can shake a stick at, the IN9 Max seems ready to go on every front. Will it stand up to the usual round of OC3D tests? let's see...


Packaging

abit seem to be heading towards gargantuan proportions with their motherboard boxes nowadays, especially in their high-end boards. When the package came through my door it was certainly impressive.

abit in9 max box abit in9 max box

abit in9 max box 2

With a rather bizarre horse/dragon/cyborg covered in flames the box certainly is very striking and large. The top panel flips up to reveal parts of the motherboard that highlight features. The packaging is certainly large enough to withstand a bit of a beating and will catch most people's attention when on retail shelves. Some rather amusing "beast" references are plastered over the box but all of the relevant information is there for you to read about the board.

abit in9 32x max inside box abit in9 32x max inside box

abit use compartments to store the huge amount of extras you get with the board. As you can see included are two extra-long SLI connectors and abit's PCI-e Wi-Fi card. All in all a very well organised box.


Package

The box includes a plethora of stuff for you to use with the board. In fact I was quite overwhelmed when I took a look inside those neat little white boxes.

Here's what abit have put in the box for you:

* 1 x abit "AirPace" PCI-E x1 WiFi card
* 2 x Extra-long SLI connectors
* PCI backplate bracket to secure SLI bridge connectors (see below)
* Fan mount for NorthBridge
* I/O backplate
* 6 SATA data cables
* Rounded clear IDE cable
* Rounded Black FDD cable
* PCI backplate with 2 x USB and 2 x Firewire connecters (1 x large, 1 x small)
* 1 x Digital Optical audio cable
* 1 x AirPace manual
* 1 x abit IN9 32x Max Manual
* 1 x µGuru Users Manual
* 1 x abit IN9 32x Max Motherboard Jumper Settings quick-reference sheet
* 1 x Driver & Utilities CD for abit IN9 32x Max

abit in9 32x max package abit in9 32x max package

abit in9 32x max sli bridge holder

The IN9 Max is an expensive top-end motherboard and a good bundle is expected. However I feel that abit have gone past the call of duty and this really is a complete package. I'm sure there's something else I would have wanted to see, but I can't think what it is!

On a more serious note, it's good to see abit stacking up this board with all that an enthusiast needs. It makes you feel that your money is well spent, so good job abit.



Abit IN9 32x Max Intel Socket 775 Motherboard Page: 2
The board itself

Now lets take a good look at how the board is layed out and see if we like it.

abit in9 32x max name

First of all the PCB is black which is a great start as to me this is far more aesthetically pleasing than any other mainboard colour.

abit in9 max full pic abit in9 max full pic 2

Taking a long hard look at the layout shows that there is very little that abit have put in the "wrong" place. The socket area has a lot of clearance with not a cap in sight to get in the way. The 90° rotated SATA and IDE connectors are excellent and everything appears to be where it should be - around the edge of the board. Perhaps those who want to use SLI with high-end cards won't be happy with the lack of accessible PCI slots, but I feel that abit have done very well in squeezing in two.

One thing I would like more motherboards to do would be to lose the PCI-e 1x slot above the PCI-e x16 slot, although on this board your GPU would be touching the heatsink.

Coming on to the heatsink: it gets very hot. My temp sensors were screaming at me that when overclocking I was hitting 80-90°C and above at full load. Pretty high stuff really for a board that isn't supplied with a fan (although mounting brackets are included). I think abit should address this if they ever decide on a hardware revision as usually their heatpipe coolers are excellent, the simple and cheap inclusion of a fan for the NorthBridge like Asus have done in the past would be fine to keep those temperatures down.

abit in9 max capacitors

The board has high-quality solid Japanese capacitors throughout, great for stability.

abit in9 32x max ddr2 slots

The DDR2 slots are far enough away from the CPU area that you should be able to get a rather large heatsink and tall DDR2 on-board without too much hassle. Here we also see one of the power phases, a couple of 90° and standard SATA ports and the ATX 24pin power connector all at the edge of the board.

abit in9 32x max socket area abit in9 32x max cpu

As we move on to the socket area we notice that the board has excellent clearance. The only slightly tight part of the board is around the PWM heatsink where very large coolers may possibly butt up against the boards heatsink. All in all I would say most cooling configurations should easily fit on the board with no problems.

abit in9 32x max pci-e slots

Here we see that abit have chosen to go with three PCI-e slots along with a couple of PCI-e x1 slots and 2 PCI slots too. This is certainly squeezing in a lot onto a board and gives the consumer a good deal of choice. The inclusion of the PCI-e x1 WiFi card means that that top slot need not go unused, good news for those who are into their Wireless. Once again we see that abit has taken every care to get everything in the right position at the edge of the board.

abit in9 32x max power/reset onboard

An onboard power and reset switch has been chosen for the board, meaning that those into benchmarking out of the case will be very happy. The µGuru external panel is supported on the IN9 Max, although sadly not included. Also note that the CMOS battery is in a great place for those times when the board really doesn't want to reset...not that I have had to use it at all on this board, which is a very good thing.

abit in9 max in close abiot in9 max close up

Above are a couple of gratuitious shots of the motherboard showcasing the µGuru chip and the 90° SATA connectors, as well as the standard CMOS reset jumper on the far left of the second picture.

abit in9 32x max ez cmos

Another excellent feature of the board is the "EZ CMOS" reset switch. The board actually usually allows you to reboot straight into the BIOS to change settings if you've found a bad overclock, but this CMOS switch on the rear I/O panel is a lifesaver. No more opening the case up and having a fun time fiddling around with a small jumper: power down totally and flick this switch and the CMOS memory gets reset. This is a great feature and yes: it does actually work.


Board setup final thoughts

The board is incredibly well laid out and it's hard to list any of the very minor niggles with layout I found as an actual problem. I think that abit have done an incredible job with the IN9 32x Max board layout which will be very hard to match indeed.



Abit IN9 32x Max Intel Socket 775 Motherboard Page: 3
IO Connectors

The backplate IO on the abit IN9 32x Max looks pretty complete for a modern board standards.

abit in9 32x max

With:

* PS/2 mouse and keyboard ports
* SP-Dif Optical Connector
* 5.1 analogue sound outputs
* Dual nVidia Gigabit LAN ports
* 4 x USB 2.0 Ports
* 2 x eSATA ports

There is a very comprehensive feel about the IO panel on the IN9 32x Max.

Coming onto the onboard Audio: it is very good. abit include a high-def 7.1 audio chip supporting DTS and Dolby Digital Live. Notice also that a HDMI motherboard audio header is included on the board. The audio is good quality, although enthusiasts are likely to go for a discrete solution still.

Add to this the "EZ CMOS" reset switch and you have a very complete backplate lineup, worthy of a top end board like this.


BIOS

The BIOS on the abit IN9 32x Max is very comprehensive in it's options. The enthusiast is certainly catered for 100% with a plethora of FSB, memory and voltage adjustment. It is based on the Phoenix Award BIOS.

abit in9 32x max bios

As the BIOS is so comprehensive I will give a brief rundown of what's on offer as far as extra BIOS features.


Memory Timings

The memory timings on offer are pretty decent. With the normal 4 timings easily changeable, abit have added a couple of extras:

abit in9 32x max memory timings

As ou can see: setting manual means that you can set tCL (CAS), tRCD, tRP and tRAS as well as setting 1T or 2T for the Command Per Clock. There's a big performance boost in 1T so I would recommend using this if you can. The tRRD, tRC, tWR, tWTR and tREF are also changeable.


Overclocking Adjustments

abit provide a superb range of overclocking adjustments in their µGuru Utility in the BIOS.

abit in9 32x max bios

The option to link or unlink the CPU and the memory is excellent, although they do not seem to be totally independent of each other.

abit in9 32x max cpu linking abit in9 32x max fsb

abit in9 32x max pci

The option to set the Multiplier is there as standard in the BIOS and goes up a 3000MHz (quad pumped), 750 actual. I found this a bit of a pain as you have to divide it by 4 to get the actual FSB which then gets multiplied by the multiplier. However 750MHz FSB is something I haven't seen yet on any forum (I'm never one to say it will never happen).

The PCI clocks can be set separately from each other which is a great option allowing for more control over your system.


Voltage Adjustment

Almost the most important bit of an overclockers BIOS, voltage adjustment is crucial on how far a board can go.

abit in9 32x max voltages

Showing this screen on it's own is a must I feel...1.85v on the CPU is for those of us crazy enough to have some serious cooling.

abit in9 32x max ddr voltage abit in9 32x max cpu vt

abit in9 max 32x ddr2 v abit in9 32x max HT volts

abit in9 32x max nb volts

3v+ on the RAM is plenty to play with and adjusting the CPU VTT and SB voltage has some good adjustments too. I though abit could have given the NorthBridge voltages a little bit more as 1.6 won't be enough for extreme overclocks.


EQ and temperature monitoring

abit's µGuru provides nice temperature and voltage monitoring monitoring in the BIOS, although I am not keen on the abit µGuru panel in windows which actually read approximately 5-7°C lower than CoreTemp did (a program hailed by overclockers as the best software temperature program).

That aside there is plenty of fan adjustment to be done in the BIOS and will keep you happy should you want your fans throttle in the BIOS.

It's also worth noting that the blue flashing lights that light up the area beneath the board can also be changed in the BIOS, allowing 5 settings and off...which is nice if it annoys you.


Specification (from abit's website)

# CPU
Designed for Intel LGA775 processors with 1333MHz FSB
Support Intel Core 2 Quad, Core 2 Duo & Extreme Edition, Pentium® D & Pentium®4 Processors

# 5-phase Digital PWM Designation provides high quality and efficient power

# Chipset Nvidia® nForce 680i SLI / NF590 SLI

# Memory
4 X 240-pin DIMM sockets support max. memory capacity 32GB
Supports Dual channel DDR2 800 Un-buffered / ECC or Non-ECC memory

# Graphics Two PCI-Express X16 slots support NVIDIA® Scalable Link Interface(SLI)

# LAN Dual NVIDIA® Gigabit Ethernet
# Timing and TCP/IP acceleration
# Audio
On board 7.1 CH HD Audio CODEC
Supports Jack Sensing and S/PDIF In/Out
HDMITM ready header (SPDIF header)

# Expansion Slots 2 x PCI-E X16, 1 x PCI-EX16(X8 bandwidth for X4, X8 and X16 devices), 1 x PCI-EX1, 2 x PC I
Internal I/O 1 x Floppy port, 1 x ATA 133 connector,
6 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors
3 x USB 2.0 headers, 2 x IEEE1394 headers
1 x FP-Audio header; 1x HDMITM header

# Quick Power & Reset Button

# Back Panel I/O 1 x PS/2 Keyboard, 1 x PS/2 Mouse
S/P DIF Out and IN, Clear CMOS switch
4 x USB 2.0, 2 x RJ-45 LAN,
2 x eSATA

# Serial ATA NVIDIA® 680i SLI: 6 x SATA 3Gb/s supports NVIDIA MediaShield RAID with SATA RAID 0/1/0+1/5 and JBOD
Silicon Image Sil3132: Support 2 ports eSATA

# IEEE 1394 Supports 2 Ports IEEE 1394 at 400Mb/s transfer rate
# Form Factor ATX form factor 305 x 245mm
# PCB Color: Black

# abit Engineered abit µGuruTM Technology
abit Silent OTESTM Technology
100% Japan capacitors
100% Low ESR and high ripple conductive polymer aluminum solid capacitor
Digital PWM
EZ switch for Clearing the CMOS
On-board LED Lighting



Abit IN9 32x Max Intel Socket 775 Motherboard Page: 4
Installation

Installation of the abit IN9 32x Max was a fairly straight forward process with all of the connectors on the board being right at the edge of the board I had little wiring problems. The only slight problem of note was the molex at the bottom edge of the board causing an annoying extra wire. However nothing else was really too taxing.

abit in9 32x max installed abit in9 max installed

abit in9 32x max installed high

Board Setup

After installation and on first boot everything worked fine with no problems. Having taken a look around some forums it seems that this may be because both sets of RAM that I tested on the board are designed to run at low voltages and boot at 1.7v and above. However in my case the setup worked excellently and I had no issues booting properley when I setup the board.

For testing I setup a RAID 0 array on the board as a secondary array to the SATA primary OS drive and this also worked fine. I haven't had a change to test eSATA yet though.


Testing Setup and Notes

The following test setup was as following:

Core2Duo E6700 ES
abit IN9 32x Max Motherboard
1gb Mushkin HP2 6400 (4-4-4-10)
Sapphire X1600Pro
Hitachia Deskstar 7K160 SATA HDD
Sony DVD-Rom/CD-RW
Silverstone 560w ZEUS PSU
Silverstone TJ09 case

Note that to test that users would not have an issue with 8800 and 8800 SLI use on the board I also installed 1/2 8800GTS overclocked editions. No issues were found.

For comparison I used results from an earlier review by OC3D on the Intel D975XBX, the Abit AB9 Review, the AW9D max Review and the Asus P5B-E Plus 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:

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
- Kingston HyperX PC2-8500 (5-5-5-15)
- Stock Intel Cooler
- Intel Core 2 Duo E6700 (2.66ghz)



Abit IN9 32x Max Intel Socket 775 Motherboard Page: 5
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 my smooth installation really went. I also added an extra test to this board as it was rock solid: I added FRAPS writing FPS every second to file.

The Verdict:

abit in9 32x max stable pass

Unlike some of the previous boards the IN9 Max passed everything I threw at it at stock and then some. Very good work from abit in this department.


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. Will the abit compete with the other top-end boards here?

abit in9 32x max super pi 1m

The IN9 was slightly slower in this test than the other boards at stock speeds.


Super PI 32million

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

abit in9 32x max super pi 32m

Again the IN9 Max was slower than the other boards at stock, which is a little disappointing.


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. With the board being a gamers board will the IN9 make mincemeat of the test?

abit in9 32x max arithmatic

Here the IN9 Max keeps up with the best of the boards we've tested, although the AW9D Max seems to be the fastest out of the blocks.


Memory Bandwidth and Latency

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. The AW9D Max showed itself to be very competitive in our last tests, will the IN9 follow suite?

abit in9 max bandwidth

It seems that abit have a knack of getting good scores in this area of testing with some good memory tweaking.

abit in9 32x max latency

The IN9 seems to come off very well in the latency test too. Perhaps the ability to set 1T easily in the BIOS gives it an edge in this test?



Abit IN9 32x Max Intel Socket 775 Motherboard Page: 6
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. Being branded as a complete gamers board I was certainly interested in what the IN9 max could do here.

abit IN9 32x max 3dmark05

It seems that the IN9 Max really lives up to that gamers tag beating out all of our boards by a margain in this test.


3DMark06

3dMark06 is the latest in the benchmarking tests from Futuremark. It has a lot of DirectX 9.0c features such as HDR and use of Shader model 3.0.

abit in9 32x max 3dmark06

Again the IN9 Max really shows what an advantage the board seems to give in gaming-like situations.


Counter Strike: Source - 1024 x 768

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. Will the IN9 Max continue the gaming experience here too?

abit in9 32x max css 1024 x 768

The board seems to even out the gameplay in CSS making the frames more even and getting a fairly higher average framerate.


Counter Strike: Source - 1280 x 1024

I tested in a higher res for those who like more detail.

abit in9 32x max css 1280 x 1024

Again the IN9 Max came out ahead of the other boards by a fair margain: quite surprising considering that the other boards are closely matched.

After doing extensive game-testing with both the X1600Pro and 8800GTS in single card and SLI configuration it seems the board really does give a good framerate boost in games: for a motherboard on it's own. This quite surprised me and leaves me wondering what abit have been doing with the tweaking, apart from implementing nVidia's linkboost technology for the 8800 cards.



Abit IN9 32x Max Intel Socket 775 Motherboard Page: 7
CineBench CPU Rendering

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. The abit should perform on par with the rest of the boards here in theory.

abit in9 32x max cpu rendering

Performing slightly below the rest of the motherboards on show, the abit seems to be slightly slower here.


Cinebench Graphics Benchmark (OpenGL)

Cinebench's test of OpenGL rendering is taxing on even the fastest systems.

abit in9 32x max cinebench opengl

The IN9 Max seems to be very effective when doing anything to do with graphics hardware, but lacks the punch when it comes to software performance. Certainly interesting results.


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 in9 32x max hd tach

The abit board is slightly behind the other boards in hard drive performance, although maintains the low CPU utilisation during the testing.

Overall the abit seems to perform the best in tests that relate to graphics hardware, something to bear in mind if you're a gamer.



Abit IN9 32x Max Intel Socket 775 Motherboard Page: 8
Overclocking

Overclocking was performed through the BIOS, as all good 24/7 overclocking should be done. I have heard mixed results from the 680i chipset so I was wondering what I would get from the IN9. There are plenty of BIOS options to play with but the BIOS feels a bit in need of an update and it seems I am not the only one to think so.

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. As the abit board only gives you 1.33v or 1.32v I have chosen 1.32v.

3350

3350 cpu-z

3350Mhz on 1.32v stable is pretty nice overclock for sure.


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. For this overclock I had to use 1.65v which is not always to be recommended for those who are faint of heart! Let's see how we get on here.

3800 stable

abit in9 3800mhz

Once again the IN9 shows that it's up there with the best overclocking boards we've tested.


Max FSB

Here the abit board showed some weakness.

440 fsb

440 fsb stabl;e

I got the board to 440FSB x 6 100% stable. However for some reason the board just would not boot past the welcome screen at 1Mhz past this speed. This was slightly disappointing, especially as I felt this board could do more. After a long afternoon and evening trying various hardware configurations, BIOS settings etc I gave up but I really think the board can do more...

A mixed bag of overclocking, but there is certainly a lot of potential.



Abit IN9 32x Max Intel Socket 775 Motherboard Page: 9
Conclusion

abit have done a great job in putting together a solid board with an excellent bundle that looks and performs very very well. In gaming performance out tests have shown that the board is top-notch and in my opinion it's the "must have" for SLI 8800.

However it still feels like the board needs to go through a few BIOS revisions to get the extreme overclocking performance that abit are claiming it can do. The FSB overclocking on this board was slightly unsatisfactory. It's worth noting that abit are working on this right now, though.

Also on the negative side the board is pretty expensive. Trusted retailers have it at:

£229 @ TekHeads
£135 @ Komplett

That's a pretty penny, but you do get a lot of board and a lot of bundle for your hard earned cash.

If you're a gamer then the abit IN9 32x Max is a great board for you as it seems to utilise even ATI cards incredibly well, not mentioning linkboost for nVidia cards and of course the all-important SLI 8800 series.

I'm giving the board "Gamers Choice" Award and the "Recommended" Award, with a note on the high price.

Gamers Choice Award Recommended Award

Pro's
+ Great Gaming Performance
+ Excellent bundle
+ Slick looks
+ Very well built and thought out
+ Good overclocking
+ Very stable and solid

Con's
- Needs BIOS update
- Poor FSB overclocking on this board - possibly linked to hot NorthBridge temperatures
- Very expensive

Thanks to abit for the Review sample

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