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AOpen AX4SPE Max (Intel 865PE)
By CPU-zilla
Category : Mainboard
Published by Jimmy Tang on Thursday, 24th July, 2003
Rating : 4.5 out of 5 stars  

The Features

The new AOpen AX4SPE Max now comes with a new feature known as V4 Power Engine. Sounds like a race car? Yes it does and that's what AOpen actually associated this feature with. The V4 engine is actually the 4-phase PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) power supply circuitry that's found on the board. Unlike most motherboards which comes with a 3-phase power supply, AOpen claims that a 4-phase supply will make your system more stable and cooler. Their claims are quite true especially if you consider the CPU's power load on each of these supply phase. Obviosuly, a 3-phase power supply would be subjected to higher load and consequently dissipate more heat. This is primarily what AOpen is trying to solve with its V4 Power Engine design. So, besides Gigabyte's six-phase DPS, AOpen is currently the other alternative that features a more powerful power delivery system.

The V4 Power Engine technology. In other words, it's a 4-phase power supply for the CPU.

Powering the board's storage I/O needs is Intel's ICH5R southbridge which comes with two additional SATA RAID ports. These SATA ports could be configured into RAID 0 through the motherboard's BIOS, so it's a pretty simple to use RAID solution. Intel's RAID software also allows one to build the RAID 0 array on-the-fly in the operating system - thus making it less of a hassle to upgrade from a single drive installation into a RAID 0 system.

The two SATA RAID 0 ports powered by the ICH5R and AOpen's Die-Hard BIOS in the background.

If you want to put more SATA drives into your system, AOpen has also provided another two SATA ports based on the Silicon Image SiI3112A controller. Attaching your hard disk drives to these two ports located beside the controller would allow you to perform RAID 0 or 1 settings on the drives.

The Silicon Image SiI3112A two-port controller.

For FireWire support, AOpen decided to use the Agere FW323 controller instead of the more commonly used VIA VT6306 controller. You won't find any of the ports at the rear I/O panel because all of them have been placed on the board as headers. You'll need to use the supplied bracket to add these two ports via one of the PCI slots at the rear end of your chassis.

This Agere FW323 controller supports up to two 1394 ports.

The AOpen AX4SPE Max comes bundled with a 2-port 1394 bracket and a USB 2.0+Game port bracket.

Right above the AGP 8X slot, you'll find the Broadcom BCM5702 PCI-based Gigabit LAN controller. It resides on the PCI bus, so it doesn't really take advantage of the CSA bus provided by the 865PE northbridge. However, we've mentioned before that although it's on the PCI bus, there should still be an appreciable amount of speed gained by using a Gigabit LAN controller. It's just that its potential is not fully realized.

Powering the on-board audio is Realtek's ALC650 AC'97 software audio codec. A fairly simple audio solution that provides you with 5.1-channels of audio supported through the typical digital S/PDIF or analog stereo jacks. AOpen provided a bracket that lets you add support for both coaxial and optical S/PDIF input/output. Unfortunately, we didn't find any bracket supporting extra analog outputs for your rear, center and subwoofer channels. It's a little bit of a letdown there, but if you know how to figure out the pinouts of the on-board audio header, you should not have a problem making these extra connectors for your own use.

The Realtek ALC650 AC'97 audio codec.

AOpen's S/PDIF bracket comes with coaxial and optical input/output support.

The AOpen AX4SPE Max is equipped with the same standard set of overclocking tweaks. They are as listed below :-

  • System bus speed setting :- 100MHz to 400MHz (in 1MHz steps)
  • AGP speed setting :- 66.67MHz to 98.68MHz (in 1.33MHz steps)
  • CPU core voltage setting :- 1.100V to 1.85V (in 0.025V steps)
  • AGP voltage setting :- 1.50V to 1.70V (in 0.05V steps)
  • DDR voltage setting :- 2.50V to 2.675V (in 0.025V steps)
  • DDR memory ratio :- 1.33, 1.66, 2.00, Auto

    In our overclocking tests, the AOpen AX4SPE Max managed to run at a bus speed of up to 275MHz using a pair of Corsair TwinX DDR400 memory. Strangely, running the board with a pair of matched Kingston DDR400 memory with Winbond (CH5) parts only gave us a stable operating speed of only 250MHz although the DDR memory ratio was lowered to 1.33 (resulting in less than 333MHz). This shows that memory is also a very important consideration in overclocking, apart from the board's built and quality.

    The AOpen AX4SPE Max is one of the very few motherboards that come with six PCI slots.

    The rear ATX I/O panel.
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