As I described in the BIOS features section of the review, the Abit Fatal1ty AA8XE motherboard offers a very wide array of options and settings for overclocking and system tweaking. Everything from the detailed FSB settings to the different voltage options that Abit has included, that no one else does, just screams for you to poke and prod at this board until you get it to the absolute highest performing level you can. And thanks to the Abit OC Guru menus and the ability to save profiles, my overclocking experience on the Abit board was better than any other board on the market provided.
Using the Intel 520 processor that I have used in our other overclocking tests, I did the same thing to test the capabilities of the board -- pushed up the FSB until it couldn鈥檛 take it any more. Of course, this also involved tweaking voltages to get the best out of everything too.
My default 2.8 GHz (200 Mhz FSB) Intel 520 processor was able to overclock to a 270 Mhz bus speed resulting in a frequency of 3.78 Ghz. This is really a damn good overclock of nearly a gigahertz on an inexpensive processor using only modest liquid cooling. I would imagine using air cooling you would get similar results that we saw in our initial AA8 motherboard review.
Special BIOS Coming for Fatal1ty Boards
While at CES, I learned about Abit's plans to release a BIOS for the Fatal1ty AA8XE motherboard that unlocks a lot of additional overclocking options. They are purposely making this BIOS more difficult to come by, as it is going to offer things like a 4.0v VDIMM options and much higher VCORE options as well. So, they obviously don't want "average-joe" playing around with these kinds of dangerous settings. Right now, the distribution method is still up in the air, but it seems certain that in order to get it, you are going to have to register the motherboard with the serial number with Abit to receive the BIOS, and even then the BIOS may be hard-coded to that serial number and be unable to be distributed to other board owners. But again, none of this is finalized, but sounds very interesting and I can't wait to test one of these new BIOS' out.
Final Thoughts and Conclusions
Overall the Abit Fatal1ty AA8XE motherboard more than impressed me. From the packaging to the performance and everything in between. Abit really has done all it can to get the best performing Intel platform motherboard you can buy. It is able to out pace the Intel reference board at the same memory timings and definitely over shadows any other motherboard BIOS I have seen when it comes to pure capacity to tweak and modify the system settings. If only Intel鈥檚 processors weren鈥檛 locked by default, we might be able to see where this board can really go.
While the Fatal1ty board does have a lot of strong suits, it does lack a few features that other motherboard manufacturers have been putting in. Namely, the ability to have more than a single IDE channel and additional SATA channels over the four that are provided by the Intel chipset would have been a welcome change. Other features that you might see on competing boards include wireless internet and additional USB headers, but those aren鈥檛 nearly as important to the PC enthusiast, at least in my mind.
So while the Abit Fatal1ty board is indeed a great performer for the Intel platform, it is not the best performing motherboard for the gamer overall. That title belongs to another platform completely: the AMD Athlon 64 line of processors and motherboards. Abit and the Fatal1ty group made the decision many months ago to go ahead with this project under the Intel platform and it would seem that it was a mistake to do so. If they wanted to claim to have the fastest gaming platform available in their motherboards, then one based on an Athlon 64 FX-55 processor would be required for that.
Take heart though, because as surely as I know this, so does Abit. They are already in the finishing stages of their Fatal1ty motherboard based on the NVIDIA nForce4 SLI chipset that may be able to truly make the claim of the fastest gaming motherboard. Until then, Intel users can rest easy knowing that Abit has produced one of, if not THE, best motherboard for them.