Abit Fatal1ty AN9 32X is the latest addition to the Fatal1ty series where performance and the potential for overclocking are the keys. We investigate whether this is true.
Abit needs no further introduction. Among overclockers and game enthusiasts it has always been a manufacturer you can trust because performance is high on the wish list. Through the years, Abit has manufactured motherboards that manage to deliver an outstanding overclocking. Many of us certainly remember the Abit KT7A, which was one of the most overclocking friendly motherboards on the market a few years ago.
The first motherboard in their Fatal1ty series, the Fatal1ty AA8XE, was released in 2005 and was based on the Intel 925XE chipset. The latest addition is the Abit Fatal1ty AN9 32X which we will take a closer look at in this review.
To begin with, we will look at its specifications.
Abit Fatal1ty AN9 32X – Specifications
|Processor support||AMD Socket AM2|
Athlon64, Athlon64 X2, Athlon FX, Sempron
|Chipset||NVIDIA nForce® 590 SLI MCP/SPP 190|
|Memory||4x 240-pin DIMM Unbuffered ECC/Non-ECC|
Dual Channel DDR2 800/667/533
|Expansion slots|| 2x PCI-Express x16|
2x PCI-Express x1
|Storage|| 1x Floppy drive |
1x Ultra DMA 133/100/66/33 IDE
6x SATA 3G (RAID 0/1/0+1/5/JBOD)
|Internal connections|| 6x USB 2.0|
2x IEEE 1394a (Firewire 400Mb/s)
1x CD/AUX input
1x uGuru Link
|External connections|| 1x PS/2 Keyboard |
1x PS/2 Mouse
2x RJ-45 (10/100/1000Mbit)
2x S/PDIF (optic) via AudioMAX™ card
1x IEEE 1394 (Firewire)
6x audio connections via AudioMAX™ card
|Size||305 x 245mm|
|Other||SLI bridge |
Compatible with all uGuru-compatible hardware
Like on most Abit motherboards, the Serial Port and Parallel Port connector have been removed. Where they used to be, there are now two fans that move hot air away from the OTES cooling system.
Like many manufacturers, Abit has two network connectors that support up to 1 Gb/s. In order to save space on the back panel, Abit has chosen to us a separate expansion card called AudioMax™. It contains all the audio connectors that are necessary for 7.1 surround.
Something worth mentioning is that this motherboard supports up to 8GB of RAM which has yet to become a standard on the market.
But what do you get when you chose to buy this kind of motherboard?
Something that immediately makes for some jaw-dropping action is the huge and well designed box that the motherboard is shipped in. No cost has been spared making the box, which makes you feel like you’re holding a high-quality product the moment you start unwrapping it. Also, a carrying handle has been implemented, that also adds to the good impressions, although it might not be something used all too often.
Abit has really made an effort with the box, which you also notice when you open the box; the most important specifications are printed on the box inlay, and the motherboard itself becomes partially visible through the plastic windows.
The bundled accessories come neatly stuffed away into smaller boxes inside the ”mother box”, these boxes lie below the motherboard in the bigger box. One of the boxes holds a manual and drivers, whilst the other is full of cables, I/O shield and other accessories. The cables bundled are 6 SATA cables, which is something good, as not all manufacturers send cables enough for every port available. Naturally, also an IDE and a floppy cable are included as well. For additional USB and external firewire ports, an expansion bracket is included for the purpose. In addition to this, a SLI connector, a lever to push the SLI connector down as well as an extra fan which provides extra cooling for the video cards if you have dual cards installed in SLI mode is bundled.
Abit also bundles the motherboard with a good documentation which consists of a quick installation guide, a more thorough conventional manual as well as a separate manual for the µGuru software. But why stop there, when you can throw a peel-off sticker which shows jumper settings and connections for the Power On/Reset/HDD-led and so on, to attach into your case? This could well come in handy if you’re not quite sure of which jumper does what, or simply attaching your front panel connectors to the right places. As if this wasn’t enough, Abit puts the finishing touches to the consumers by sending a mouse pad which is designed like a soccer field.
We move on and study the layout of the board.
The red color found on the box is almost the same one mainly found on the motherboard itself. Even though the color may not affect the tasks the motherboard will be executing, Abit has thought of red as the color that will represent Fatal1ty.
As this motherboard belongs the higher price classes, we expect it to have a good layout and that connectors shouldn’t interfere with each other. All in all, Abit has managed to do this pretty well, the flaws being that DIMM-slot 3 and 4 are placed right next to the mounting bracket for the CPU cooler, something which might interfere when installing an all too wide cooling solution.
Something you simply can’t miss is the OTES™ GT cooling (Outside Thermal Exhaust System) which helps transporting heat away from the motherboard’s chipsets, more of that later. Abit has mainly chosen the colors red and black on many of the components, something which hopefully leaves an impression.
The distance between the PCI-Express ports is somewhat larger compared to the Abit AN8 32x for instance, something which opens up for better air flow and possibly installing bigger coolers if you choose to run in SLI mode.
The motherboard gets its power supply from a 24-pin ATX connector and a 4-pin ATX12V (P4) contact; both are placed on the outer edges of the motherboard in order to make things as smooth as possible if you choose to install a big CPU cooler. The 4-pin MOLEX connector present north of the northbridge is for extra juice in SLI mode.
Unlike earlier Abit boards, this one has the IDE connector turned 90 degrees in comparison to the motherboard, something which should help if your case isn’t too spacious. Among the bundled cables, we were overwhelmed by the very long floppy cable. This is something explained by the location of the floppy connector, which is located far down on the motherboard, thus requiring an extra long cable.
The connectors for Power On, Reset, Power LED, HDD LED, Sleep LED and Speaker are placed in their usual position in the lower right corner, just like most motherboards. The connectors are color coded as well, making it all a walk in the park in the end. Something we really like. Right above the previously mentioned connectors, we find the SATA connectors built-in, and the number assignments has become a bit more logical than the aforementioned AN8 32X.
Let’s check it out some more.
The OTES™ GT cooling dissipates heat from the southbridge via a heatpipe to the MOSFET-cooler, where the 40mm fans placed next to the MOSFET cooler helps exhausting the hot air out of the case. The two fans have been placed where parallel and serial ports usually sit. The northbridge is cooled passively, but may get some assistance from the CPU cooler’s airflow.
Fatal1ty AN9 32X is equipped with a LED panel which helps for debugging the board if something decides to go wrong. The manual provided has error-codes in a chart, along with nice descriptions for every error imaginable.
Both on the front and backside of the board, diodes are placed out, and these blink in varying patterns. It is however possible to choose how you want them to blink via Windows in the µGuru software, and you can turn them off if you want. If you happen to be one of those left with a plexiglas case and want some extra fireworks, Abit provides these little extra visuals though.
In order go gain access to the built-in sound card (AudioMAX 7.1), the riser card must be installed in the sole port available for the card right below the lower PCI-Express port.
We were a bit confused by the thermal compound used by Abit to increase the heat dissipation from the northbridge among others. It was a plastic-like compound, comparable to wine gum in its consistence.
Let’s look out what the BIOS offers.
Also in the BIOS, Abit has chosen to utilize the red color-scheme to add up to the sum of total redness, which of course provides a quite nice impression in total. Everyone who has used a motherboard from Abit will feel like home in BIOS, the navigation is the same.
Under the Advanced Chipset Features menu we find a few of the settings that might appeal to one who feels like tweaking and overclocking their computer. HT Speed can be set to 1x, 2x, 3x, 4x, 5x and Auto and you can separately set the speed between CPU to northbridge and northbridge to southbridge independently.
The PCI-Express buses can be set between 100 and 200MHz (in increments of 1MHz) as well as Auto for additional tweaking.
The memory settings available in BIOS surely please most potential buyers and doesn’t leave much to ask for. Something Abit really should receive credit for is the presentation of which speed and timings the modules are running at at the moment, something which can be seen in the image above. The memory dividers are set by the DRAM Clock setting, and to get a clearer view of it, check the chart below:
Let’s look up the BIOS settings for µGuru
In the µGuru menu you find settings that let you overclock the CPU and change the different voltages.
|Processor bus||200 – 400MHz (1MHz increments)||Processor voltage (vcore)||1.3000V – 2.0750V (0.025V increments)|
|Memory voltage (vdimm)||1.75V – 2.30V (0.05V increments)|
|Reference voltage – memory||-60mV – +60mV (10mV increments)|
|Northbridge voltage||1.20V – 1.50V (0.05V increments)|
|Southbridge voltage||1.50V – 2.00V (0.05V-0.10V increments)|
In addition to that, there is a sub menu called Abit EQ, containing lots of settings that lets you change temperature warnings, fan speeds and voltages. You can of course set the system to shut of, when any of these values are exceeded.
On the next page, we will review our test system.
|Motherboard||Abit Fatal1ty AN9 32X||Asus M2N32-SLI Deluxe|
|Processor||AMD Athlon64 X2 5000+|
|Memory||Corsair XMS2 8500 (2x512MB)|
|Graphics card||XFX Geforce 7800GT|
|Power supply||Enermax EG651P-VE 550W|
|Operating system||Windows XP (SP2)|
|Chipset drivers||nVidia nForce 9.35|
|Graphics drivers||Nvidia Forceware 93.71 WHQL|
|Benchmarks||SiSoft Sandra 2007|
Everest Ultimate 2.80
As a reference in our tests, we have chosen a corresponding motherboard, the Asus M2N32-SLI Deluxe. To get results that are possible to compare, we used the same hardware and drivers. The same goes for memory latency settings. The frequencies and memory settings were set to the same values and checked in CPU-z.
The enclosed and usable µGuru software will be next in our review.
Even if we’ve discussed µGuru in previous reviews it’s still worth mentioning as there are so many settings that can prove useful. The application that comes along is frequently updated and we recommend you to visit Abit’s website to check for the latest updates. The picture on the left shows what the program looks like when it starts and the drop-down menu has been expanded to show the different profiles available. The image in the middle shows OC Guru monitoring voltages and displaying statistics for the system, for example how many hours the system has been running. To the right you can see an overview of the fans of the system and also the different temperatures.
On the above images we see the different sensors we have to choose from and what threshold values you want the program to react upon. It’s possible to set the threshold for each profile which could make things easier if you, for example, want to overclock and are aware of the higher voltage which in turn generate a higher temperature.
As we previously mentioned there is not only the possibility to turn off the diodes on the motherboard via µGuru but also pick different patterns and order they should flash. There is also the possibility to show the temperatures in Fahrenheit or change the update frequency for the various values the application reads to ease the load on the system.
We move on and test the performance of the board.
The results clearly show us that there is no greater difference between the two boards, which isn’t surprising at all as they’re both based on the same chipset. Note: Shorter memory delay is better.
|Abit Fatal1ty AN9 32X||Asus M2N32-SLI Deluxe|
|8M||6m 18.579s||6m 12.407s|
|32M||30m 08.219s||29m 56.625s|
Abit gets beaten just by a little by the ASUS boards, which is because of the Abit board running the CPU at almost exactly 2600 MHz while the ASUS board is slightly higher at 2610 MHz.
We can see in the WinRAR benchmark that the Abit board gets a slightly better result than its opponent even if the difference is within the margin of error.
Moving on to the synthetic benchmarks, in this case 3DMark, PCMark and Aquamark3.
As these motherboards are based on the same chipsets and the rest of the hardware being identical, the test results are the same. The boards’ perform almost identically in every benchmark and the result differences are within the margins of error which makes us unable to choose a winner in these benchmarks.
Moving on to the gaming benchmarks.
The results here follow the same pattern as the ones on the previous page. Small differences within the margins of error, making us unable to announce a winner in the gaming benchmarks even though Abit performs just a little better.
Let’s take a look at how Abit manages when it comes to overclocking.
For those of you who want to tweak and overclock your stuff, the Abit Fatal1ty AN9 32X offers a lot of possibilities like memory settings and numerous voltage settings. Naturally, you can control multipliers and HTT frequencies to necessary levels. We begun by testing how high we could set the HTT frequency, but we were a bit disappointed when we couldn’t get any higher than 316 MHz by overclocking through the BIOS. When using higher HTT frequencies than that made us unable to pass BIOS, despite which levels of voltages and settings of memories/multipliers/dividers we used. But when we booted into Windows, the board ran Prime2004 stable without issues for more than an hour. The settings for this was reached by using multiplier factor at x8, external clock at 315 MHz, HT speed at x3 with a CPU voltage of 1.4000V.
Considering the fact that it’s possible to overclock by using the µGuru program for Windows, we expected a better result than when using BIOS. As you can see in the picture below, we managed a lot better.
By using memory dividers and lower HT speeds, we managed to reach a stable HTT frequency of 350 MHz. Clearly acceptable, but we had to increase the voltage feed to the CPU to 1.48V. The µGuru program is something that every Abit owner should keep installed to squeeze out the maximum performance from the motherboard. We used fan cooling for every benchmark including the overclocking. The cooler we used is not among the best but it handled the job well. If we had used water cooling, we could have reached higher speeds in the overclocking session. By some reason, Prime2004 won’t show us the right CPU frequency so we’ll also show you a screenshot of CPU-Z that was running side by side.
We also managed to log in to Windows with higher HTT frequencies but it caused the system to be unstable. 361 MHz was as high as we could get.
Let’s summarize our experiences with this board.
Packaging and first impressions
As soon as you see it, you’ll be impressed by the well-designed box that the board comes in. It comes with a practical carrying handle and a lid that gives you a first glimpse of the board and a presentation of Jonathan ”Fatal1ty” Wendell.
Layout, Design and Accessories
Abit has created a board with an overall good design. The red and black colors that dominate the box can also be seen on the board itself. In addition to the board itself, Abit supplies every cable that you can possibly need including an extra fan to improve the cooling if you’re using two graphics cards in SLI mode. The motherboard’s more vital circuits are cooled by the OTES™ GT cooling system which fits well into the design of the board with its black heatsinks. Abit has chosen to mount two 40mm fans to transport hot air from the OTES cooling which increases the noise coming from the card. But considering that it’s possible to control the speed of these fans, you can minimize the noise coming from them if you wish.
BIOS and software
Abit delivers a BIOS of the highest quality with numerous settings for those who want to tweak and overclock their systems. For those who don’t want to install the µGuru program and control settings for voltage, fan speeds and monitoring levels, you can simply use the BIOS’s integrated µGuru functions.
Performance, stability and overclocking
Abit’s latest slogan is ”Get ready for the Next Generation” and we get the feeling that this motherboard stands for a piece of the expression. The settings found in the BIOS make it possible to optimize performance and secure stability. Performance-wise, the Abit Fatal1ty AN8 32X is in the same league as our reference board and manages very well in overclocking. With better cooling than the one we used, it is very probable that we could squeeze some more out of this piece of hardware. With additional updates and improvements of the BIOS, there are big possibilities of the board having a long life span.
In the end, we can only bow to a board of the highest class for AMD Socket AM2 that from the first moment radiates quality and keeps it throughout all of our tests.
We would like to thank Abit for supplying us with the motherboard for evaluation.