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ABIT IC7-Max3 (Intel 875P)
By CPU-zilla
Category : Mainboard
Published by Jimmy Tang on Tuesday, 21st October, 2003
Rating : 4 out of 5 stars  

The Good Stuff

Most motherboards today come with very similar on-board features and it's not surprising that the ABIT IC7-Max3 would also adopt the same range of built-in peripherals. Besides the eight USB 2.0 ports integrated into the ICH5R southbridge, you'll also find a Texas Instruments 1394a controller which will add support for three 1394 FireWire ports. One of the port is located at the rear I/O panel and another two are found on the motherboard as headers. These headers can be routed to the front panel either with standard casing connectors or third-party accessories. If your case do not come with any of those, you can always fall back on the bundled bracket which lets you place two more ports to the rear end of your system. The bracket offers two types of connectors - a standard 6-pin port and a mini-DV port. Sharing the space on this bracket, you'll find another two USB 2.0 ports too.

The Texas Instruments TSB43AB23 1394 controller and a pair of 1394 headers in red.

A two port 1394 and two port USB 2.0 bracket provided with the motherboard.

Another familiar feature is the on-board Ethernet which is based on the Intel 82547EI Gigabit controller which resides on the dedicated CSA bus. To date, no other networking silicon provider has the license to produce chips that take advantage of the CSA bus. Thus, this is probably the best chip available for Gigabit networking.

The Intel 82547EI Gigabit LAN controller.

When it comes to storage, manufacturers today place a lot more emphasis in providing full-featured storage solutions to users. This is probably one reason why ABIT has decided to integrate an even more powerful SATA RAID controller into the IC7-Max3. Giving users an additional four SATA ports, the new SiI3114 controller will not only give users more freedom to increase storage capacity, it also comes with support for RAID 0, 1 and 0+1. We think this is one feature that will attract power users as it offers both performance and redundancy at the same time. Note that these four ports are in addition to what the ICH5R offers, so there are a total of six SATA ports on this board, and a grand total of 10 storage devices (four from the Ultra ATA-100 ports and six SATA ports).

The Silicon Image 3114 SATA RAID controller supporting four SATA drives.

Speaking of storage, ABIT also bundled a handy attachment that looks a little like the Serillel adapter. Instead of converting the parallel ATA into serial ATA, this adapter serves to protect your data using a 40-bit DES encrypyption done seamlessly through an X-Wall LX-40 ASIC. No device driver is needed for this adapter as it works by itself - encrypting and decrypting data through the X-Wall chip. Since it is an independent device, it does not consume CPU and memory resources. Two keys are provided in the package, with one of them as a backup. If you misplaced both keys, it's quite unlikely that you'll be able to recover your data from the hard disk.

The Secure IDE add-on that keeps your data and system safe from unauthorized use. It comes with two keys.

Powering the board's built-in audio is Realtek's ALC650 audio codec which can support up to 5.1-channels of audio. The codec has support for most surround audio formats, thus, it should be able to handle most of today's games. The more unique feature of the IC7-Max3's audio support is in its back panel I/O integration which comes with all the connectors you'll ever need. The audio output jacks for all six channels of audio are readily accessible from the rear, including two optical S/PDIF input/output jacks.

The Realtek ALC650 audio codec which supports up to 5.1 channels of audio.

All the audio connectors are provided at the rear I/O panel.

For overclockers, the OTES cooling solution provided on the IC7-Max3 should be worth a second look as it is no doubt very nicely done indeed. Unlike most motherboards, the IC7-Max3 is blessed with a four-phase power supply which could deliver more power to the CPU, in addition to a more stable power output for greater stability. Since there are now more power transistors, ABIT introduced the OTES cooling to counter the harmful effects of heat. Concealed in an air tunnel, you'll find four tiny aluminium heatsinks which is directly placed in contact with each power transistor. With a fan located at the back panel, hot air is drawn out of the air tunnel and at the same time cooling the hot power circuitry. On the side of the OTES cover, you'll find a strategically placed window which is directly below the Pentium 4's heatsink. Provided that you did not change to other types of cooler, the stock Pentium 4 cooler should direct hot air out from the bottom of the heatsink where some of it should be channeled into the OTES air tunnel. Thus, one should view the OTES cooling as more than just a cooler for the power circuits, but an effective exhaust system as well.

The OTES cooler.

The OTES cooler is lighted up with three bight-green LEDs.

An opening at the side of the OTES is used to draw hot air away from the Pentium 4's cooler.

With ABIT's SoftMenu, the IC7-Max3's overclockability is enhanced further with pretty good BIOS settings. The adjustable settings are as follows :-

  • System bus speed setting :- 100MHz to 412MHz (in 1MHz steps)
  • CPU core voltage setting :- 1.5500V to 1.9250V (in 0.0250V steps)
  • DDR voltage setting :- 2.5V to 2.7V (in 0.05V steps); 2.7V to 3.2V (in 0.1V steps)
  • AGP voltage setting :- 1.5V to 1.65V (in 0.05V steps)

    In our overclocking tests, we managed to push an unlocked CPU up to a very comfortable system bus speed at 285MHz. The board's overclockability is quite astounding though others like ASUS P4C800 Deluxe could hit 300MHz with much ease.
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