Abit AN8-Ultra Socket 939 Motherboard
Posted by: Rack on: 30.12.2005 01:00:00 [ Print | 0 comment(s) ]
Inside the box there is a fairly standard set of 1 x IDE, 1 x FDD, 4 x SATA and 1 x USB/Firewire cables. There are also 3 manuals – quick install, full manual and uGuru guide.
Software is a standard Drivers CD and SATA/Raid drivers disk. There is nothing outstanding included, but 4 SATA cables is welcome – a full compliment of cables.
The motherboard is also packed with a riser card for Audio (more details are on Specs page)
There is heaps of room around the CPU. Compared to any NF3 board, this is a godsend. There is no chance any CPU cooler will interfere with the graphics card or RAM.
The first thing to notice is the silent chipset cooler, or the Q-OTES system. The low profile cooler links up to a larger copper cooler on the edge of the board using a heatpipe. The low profile means there is no way for it to interfere with any graphics cards. With the generally low temperatures that the NF4 chipset has, this should be more than enough to cool the chipset.
The copper heatsink itself takes up half the room where the I/O ports normally are. It is the separate Audio that ensures there is still room. With all these passively cooled components, a bit of air-flow in your case will be essential.
Underneath the OTES cooler there is a thermal pad… not really the best solution for thermal transfer. First stop is the tube of Arctic Silver. I would recommend everyone buying this motherboard to remove the pad and replace with AS-V before installing.
The SATA and IDE drive connectors on the bottom corner are well placed near where drives typically are in a case. The SATA is 3Gb/s and is straight from the NForce4-Ultra chipset.
Here you can also see the dual seven-segment display which displays codes letting you know exactly what the bios is up to. There is a whole section of the manual dedicated to decoding this for when something goes wrong.
There are 3 extra USB headers and one additional Firewire header.
There are a couple of problems with layout. One is the floppy connector mysteriously placed right at the bottom of the board below the PCI connectors.
The CMOS Reset jumper is easily accessible at the bottom, however I would like to see something better and more innovative on this front.
2 PCI-E x1 lanes and 1 PCI-E x16 lane is more than enough for PC’s these days, and the same goes for 3 x PCI cards. The extra slot in the top left is for the Audiomax soundcard. The PCI-E x16 which will be for most graphics cards is in a great position, so it will not interfere with the RAM slots, or the chipset heatsink. Having used a motherboard where the graphics used to block the RAM clips, this is functionally a very important feature.
Even the transistors for the motherboard get passive heatsink setup.
Abit have used high quality components on this board. Rubycon are a well known Japanese capacitor manufacturer. Electrolytic capacitors are a common source of failure, and have a limited lifetime, so the quality of these is most important I recently read someone wasn’t happy because these capacitors weren’t as big as others. Let me put it this way: if you have correctly rated components (ie voltage and capacitance), size does not matter. Quality does. (He he he...Editors comment)
Sound on the AN8-Ultra is on an external card. This is a good move, as there are lots of signals on the motherboard which can interfere with audio, and even ground planes in the PCB are not always enough to eliminate them. The Audiomax card supports the ALC850 codec, which supports 7.1 surround sound, and there is a shared optical S/PDIF output.
One other thing which is not so great is the RAM slots, which are place very close to each other – and for dual channel, consecutive slots are used. That means that most people will fill slots 1 and 2 first, creating a very tight situation - if you want to turn up the voltage to your RAM you’ll need to add some active cooling.
The ATX Connector could be placed better, but not much. My favourite place is right up in the top corner, keeping the bulky cable away from all other large components, but anywhere near the edge is good, and Abit have got this right.
The 4-pin connector is also handily placed near the edge at the top.
Next page, Installation and bios