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Abit Fatal1ty AN8 SLI



Abit Fatal1ty AN8 SLI

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Introduction

Over the last few years, the name Johnathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel has become synonymous with gaming prowess. In the same way ABIT’s line of motherboards under the same name have themselves become synonymous with being the powerhouses of gamers computers the world over. Today I have managed to get my mitts on the Abit Fatal1ty AN8 SLI, lets see how well it lives up to its reputation.

A little about Abit

For nearly 15 years, ABIT has been the brand of choice for hardware enthusiasts worldwide. ABIT Engineers work year end and year out to deliver products that are powerful, flexible, and stable – fulfilling the needs of users that demand nothing less than the very best. In the past, PC enthusiasts have chosen ABIT products because of the level of flexibility they offer. A good example of this is our SoftMenu™ technology which allows an unrivaled selection of BIOS options, including operating frequencies and voltages. With SoftMenu, users finally had a way to optimize their systems the way they saw fit, empowering them to squeeze every drop of performance available.

Over the last 24 months, we’ve made significant changes to the way ABIT products are developed, designed, and manufactured. The result on these changes is something we like to call BulletProof Technology. BulletProof Technology ensures a superior product by focusing on four key areas: Quality, Stability, Reliability, and Engineering. With BulletProof Technology, users can count on ABIT products to consistently deliver award-winning performance and stability today and tomorrow.

Some of these changes include utilizing 100% Japanese capacitors on ABIT-branded motherboards and graphics cards. This insistence on quality ensures that ABIT products are built for long-term, problem-free use. For total stability under extreme conditions, all ABIT products must pass the Torture Test before ending up on store shelves. ABIT Approved test reports detail all components which are problem-free with ABIT motherboards, ensuring that users can count on ABIT reliability. Finally, ABIT Engineering continues to deliver what it has from the very beginning – exclusive features that provide added convenience, stability, and performance for the discerning computer enthusiast.

By incorporating BulletProof Technology, ABIT has transformed itself into a company that not only delivers superior performance, but also top-notch quality, stability, and reliability. If you’re new to ABIT, I invite you to try our products and feel what many call the “ABIT Experience” – products that deliver as promised right out of the box. For those who have been with us these past 15 years, thank you for making ABIT the number one enthusiast hardware brand. We’ve come a long way together, but we have even more to come.

Johnathan Wendel’s Take on the Fatal1ty AN8 SLI

As a gamer I know how frustrating it is when you get fragged because your computer dropped a few frames or froze just as you were coming around that corner. Of course skill is the most important factor in gaming, but the performance of your hardware can hold back even the best gamer and make the difference between winning and coming in second.

That’s why the ABIT Engineers and I have designed a motherboard that is truly designed for gamers. The Fatal1ty AN8 SLi was built with one purpose only; to be the fastest, highest performing motherboard available. Features that gamers don’t use were removed from the board, freeing up performance and allowing us to add features that you would actually use.

It’s one less thing for you to worry about. That way you can focus on your game and not your hardware.”
Experience the ABIT Fatal1ty AN8 SLi and turn up your game!

Specifications

NVIDIA NF4 SLi Based AMD Athlon 64/64FX Mainboard
2GHz HT
Dual DDR400, NVIDIA SLi Technology
SATA 3G RAID
NV GbE, NV Firewall
IEEE1394a, ABIT uGuru™ 2003
Guru Panel
ABIT OTES and AudioMAX

Features

μGuru
Exclusive ABIT Engineered motherboard technology designed for unprecedented power, convenience, and control over your PC.
Copper Chipset Cooler
Copper chipset cooler conducts and dissipatesd heat from the chipset thres times more efficiently than aluminum.
SATA 3Gb/s
Doubles bus bandwidth which provides blazingly high disk performance.
NVIDIA Native Gigabit Ethernet
The industry’s fastest Gigabit Ethernet performance eliminates network bottlenecks and improves overall system efficiency and performance.
NVIDIA Firewall
NVIDIA Firewall protects your PC from intruders by filtering unauthorized traffic. Integrated into NVIDIA nForce4 MCPs, it provides professional grade traffic inspection capabilities, instant on protection, advanced management features. NVIDIA Firewall will also utilize the NVIDIA ActiveArmor secure networking engine.
MOSFET Thermal Solution
With a special layout and heatsinks, this exclusive PWM design keeps all MOSFET < 50C and promotes rapid heat dissipation around the CPU.
Dual OTES™
Exhaust heat from your PC like never before with Dual OTES cooling technology. Works with ABIT FanEQ™ to automatically adjust fan speeds for the optimal balance of thermal and acoustic performance.
On-board LEDs
A godsend for case modders, ultra-bright LEDs surround the motherboard for a stunning futuristic look.
AudioMAX Technology
Reduces noise interference from high frequency signals with an independent card for outstanding 5.1-channel audio quality.
BulletProof Technology
Uncompromising quality, stability and reliability for the end user. Top quality components such as 100% Japanese capacitors provide unmatched reliability. Each motherboard is painstakingly assembled, and then put through the Torture Test, ensuring a product that stands up to the heat of battle. With BulletProof Technology, the Fatal1ty AA8XE delivers advanced durability for the discerning gamer.

A First Look

Upon receiving the AN8, I was immediately struck by the almost OTT box! A sleek charcoal colour coats the main part of the box, with a stylish white hash/scratching effect along some of the edges. The top and sides sport John Wendel’s Fatal1ty logo, alon with the name of the board. The top shows the compatible processors for the boad, along with some of its more notable features, such as its Nforce4 chipset and that this board is SLI ready.

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The back of the box goes into much more depth than the front does. Detailing the features of the board with arrows pointing to the certain parts of the board – on a large picture of the board – that the text is describing.

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The front of the box also lifts up to provide a close up view of some of the motherboards features. This “Under Lid” surface has some clear plastic which show straight through to some of the board’s highlights, with little descriptions to tell you what they are.

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After sliding out the main box containing the motherboard you are given a view of the entire board and its little extras, the sound card and SLI bridge.

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Once you have removed this tray there are two boxed underneath the mainboard’s box. The first of these contains the uGuru panel and its peripherals, and the other contains the instruction manual, driver CD and a few miscellaneous cables.

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As you can see, you get quite a hefty pack when laying out for a Fatal1ty AN8, lots of goodies, Woo!

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A Closer Look

The motherboard itself is racing red in colour, as are its additives, the sound card and SLI bridge. This all adds to the racey feel of the board.

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The boards red and black style is run throughout the board, its read mounted fans running along in this vein, with a black shell and red led fans when powered on. The RAM slots also run in this vein:

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Right, now we’ve had a little sight seeing of the board, its time to get on and see what its like for installation.

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Installation was relatively simple; the cables were all easy to connect and everything sat very snuggly once installed.

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The DIMM slots placement on this board was a small cause for concern for this reviewer, as they were very close together. The ram that I used for the testing on this board kicks out a lot of heat as it is the OCZ PC4000 VX edition. When overclocking I usually set the Vdimm to 3.3, and at those voltages the RAM is kicking out a huge amount of heat. Efficient air flow around each stick is important and having the sticks so close together was a cause for concern.

The chipset placement unfortunately suffers from the same placement problems as other NF4 boards. Its placement is so close to the first PCI-E (PCIE1) slot that the card placed in that slot usually overlaps the chipset HSF, lowering its effectiveness.

I loved the intuitive way that this board allows you to switch between Single card mode and SLI mode. You simply turn over the card that is sat next to the PCIE1 slot and voila, you are in SLI. Having used some boards in the past that required the removal or moving of jumpers, this was a much preferred method for me.

Unfortunately the 8 channel sound card included with the board was wasted on me, as I was only able to test it on a 2:1 speaker setup. However the sound quality was very good indeed. There were no discernable problems with it whatsoever.

Bios

Now that is was all set up and ready to go, I decided to have a quick check of the bios and its available features.

I had a look through some of the secitions and all the standard things are present for the that should be there: support for usb mice, usb keyboards, boot orders and the like. However, the uGuru utility is where this board really shines.

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The uGuru chip is ABIT’s way of helping very person Overclock, by grouping every little overclocking feature into one section of the bios. I was a bit surprised however, not to see the ram timings or divider sections included in this part of the bios. Still, there is still plenty to keep every overclocker busy here. The Cpu frequency, or HTT can be adjusted here, as can the multiplier, PCIE clock, CPU core voltages, ddr voltage, chipset voltage and even HT voltage.

The uGuru section also has another page, this one is entitled ABIT EQ. This page holds lots of helpful little bits of information about the running temperatures of certain components, fan speeds and current voltages.

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Found them eventually; the DRAM timings and frequency controls can be found in the advanced chipset features section. Here you are able to modify any timings you may have heard of and many you haven’t. The only thing it would have been nice to see here would have been the shortened names of certain timings, such as TRCD for Ras to Cas delay, so that those who are reading guides on memory timings will find it easier to understand, as in quick help guides, the shortened terms are often used.

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Testing

Now I had everything set up, I was ready to begin the testing. The test setup that I used was as follows:
AMD 3500+ Venice
XFX PCX6600 256mb
1gb OCZ PC4000
Hiper TypeR 580W
WD Raptor 36gb 10k
Sony DVD Rom CDRW Combi Drive

The Comparison Board I used for these tests is the DFI NForce4 SLI-DR board.
The Graphics drivers I used for this testing was the 81.84 official release version.
All benchmarks are run with hardware at stock, and all benchmarks themselves are at stock settings.

Benchmarks

First up, 2 tests in Sisoft Sanda. CPU Arithmetic and Memory bandwidth.

ProsCPU Arithmetic Memory Bandwidth
ABIT AN8 Fatal1ty 9630 DhrystoneInt Buff’d 5719
DFI NF4 SLI-DR 9417 DhrystoneInt Buff’d 5696

A pretty close call there, but the AN8 just nudged ahead slightly in both tests… however plenty left to play for.

lign=”left”>Next up is a quick SuperPi 1m, let’s see how that turned out:

ProsSuperPi 1million Time
ABIT AN8 Fatal1ty 39 seconds
DFI NF4 SLI-DR 40 seconds

Another slight win for the AN8, at this point I had begun to sit up and take notice. Was this board going to topple the giant that is the SLI-DR on every test? Lets see…

Next I decided to run a few graphics benchmarks to see how that went, out with 3dmark01 and 05 and an aging, but still relevant aqumark3. Here are the results:

Pros3Dmark013Dmark05Aquamark3
ABIT AN8 Fatal1ty 14201214437515
DFI NF4 SLI-DR 14284215737740

This time around we see the DFI board push ahead ever so slightly in the testing. There is very little between these two boards, in terms of scores. So I ran a real world test to see how they performed in game. The game test I ran was the Test sequence on the Fear multiplayer demo at 1152*968 with computer and graphics settings set to medium.

DFI NF4 SLI-DR

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ABIT AN8 Fatal1ty

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Again the DFI takes the lead ever so slightly. However since this game is unlikely to be very affected by the motherboard this was as expected.

Overclocking

If you are spending over $200 on a motherboard, you are probably what many call a computer enthusiast. For this money you expect several things, one of these being overclocking ability. To make sure that this board gave good overclocking ability I decided to test how much it would be able to take by AMD 3500+. The results were very good, by raising the VCORE to 1.6v I was able to take my CPU from 2.22 upto a very nice 2.68 before hitting a wall. Since my cooling was air I was unable to give it more volts to gain those few more mhz. This result was nearly as good as the DFI NF4 Sli-DR board I compared it with, which managed to get 2.75 with the same vcore.

For this overclocking I had to reset the cmos a couple of times due to pushing things a little too far. Since this is usually a cumbersome task of either switching tiny jumpers or popping out the cmos battery, I was very happy to be using this board as included in the pack – as mentioned earlier – is the uGuru control panel, which has a handy switch that resets the cmos in seconds. The USB ports, firewire port and headphone and microphone sockets would also come in handy in everyday usage.

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To finish off this review, I want to take a quick look at the software bundled with the AN8. You get the usual stuff, the drivers at the time of the boards release, Direct X9.0c etc. However ABIT have also bundled in their ABIT uGURU software, designed to make overclocking that little bit easier for the windows based OC’ers. This little program was put through its paces, and although a little hard to understand at first, it doesn’t take too long to get to grips with and you are on your way to OC heaven!

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Conclusion

Well what can I say, this motherboard performed amazingly. Its benchmark scores were almost in line with that of the DFI SLI DR, a fear few can achieve. Its looks are awesome to behold, the bright racy red PCB and LED’s really create an overclocking feel that those who buy this board will surely want. The boards overclocking ability is fantastic, and will help anybody pull almost everything they can out of their hardware. In terms of features this board has it all; from Firewire, USB2, onboard sound and more. The instruction booklets are helpful and informative, making sure that anyone who buys this board will be able to set it up with ease. This board is a perfect choice for overclockers and PC enthusiasts, as it provides the looks, features and overclocking ability that rivals the very top end boards, with a slightly reduced price tag. All in all, a fantastic product, no question about it, ABIT have done themselves proud.

ProsCons
Great looksNot quite top of its class
Good overclocking ability
Excellent array of features
Helpful handbooks

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