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ABIT KV8-MAX3 ABIT KV8-MAX3: With the Athlon 64 gaining momentum, we take a look at one of the better Socket 754 solutions around.
Date: March 3, 2004
Written By:

While the AMD socket 754 Athlon 64 didn't exactly make many people dump their Athlon XP CPUs when it was released, it is gaining momentum given its 32-bit performance and support for 64-bit computing. As of this writing, only two chipsets are available for the A64 platform, and we'll be checking out the VIA K8T800 based ABIT KV8-MAX3.

has earned the reputation as makers of some of the most innovative motherboards on the market. Although they may not pack in as many extras like front panels, and wacky LEDs, their innovations such as Softmenu BIOS and OTES cooling technology serve to improve the enthusiast's experience in areas that do matter... performance, stability and overclocking.


- Supports AMD socket 754 Athlon 64 CPU with 800 MHz FSB
CPU Integrated Memory Controller
- 72-bit memory controller supports DDR at 266, 333 and 400MHz (ECC)
- Support 3 DIMM DDR 333
- Support 2 DIMM DDR 400
- Support 3 DIMM up to 2GB Max.
- VIA K8T800 / VT8237 chipset
- Supports Advanced Configuration and Power Management Interface (ACPI)
- Accelerated Graphics Port connector supports AGP 8X/4X (0.8V/1.5V)
- Supports SATA data transfer rates at 150 MB/s (1.5GB bps)
- On board Serial ATA RAID PCI Controller
- Supports 4 x SATA 150 RAID 0/1/0+1
Gigabit LAN
- On board 10/100/1000 Mb PCI Ethernet Controller
IEEE 1394a
- Supports IEEE 1394a at 100/200/400 Mb/s transfer rate
- 6-Channel AC 97 CODEC on board
- Professional digital audio interface supports 24-bit S/P DIF optical In/Out
ABIT Engineered Technology
- ABIT OCP Technology
- SoftMenu™ Technology to set CPU parameters
- OTES™ Technology
- FanEQ Technology
- MaxFID Technology
- CPU ThermalGuard Technology
Internal I/O Connectors
- 1 AGP 8X/4X slot, 5 PCI slots
- Floppy Port supports up to 2.88 MB
- 2 x Ultra DMA 33/66/100/133 Connectors
- 6 x Serial ATA 150 RAID Connectors
- 2 x USB headers, 2 x IEEE 1394a header
- 2 x CD-IN
Back Panel I/O
- 1 x PS/2 Keyboard, 1 x PS/2 mouse
- 1 x S/P DIF Output, 1 x S/P DIF Input
- Audio connectors
(Front Speaker, Line-in, Mic-in, Center/Sub, Surround Speaker)
- 2 x USB, 1 x IEEE 1394a Connector
- 2 x USB, 1 x RJ-45 LAN Connector
- ATX form factor
- Hardware monitoring – Including Fan speed, Voltages, System environment temperature

There is a lot going on with the KV8-MAX3, and as you can see with the specifications, ABIT really packs in the features, including their patented OTES cooling technology and their new µGuru.

Everything is packed into a nice box, with individual boxed compartments for the included accessories. Other than the motherboard, you'll find a quick start guide, manual, a guide on µGuru, driver CD, SATA disk and a reference sticker to go inside your case. This sticker maps out the various parts of the motherboard, saving you from opening the manual for basic information.

You'll also find a couple rounded cables (floppy and IDE), four SATA cables, two SATA power adapters, a custom rear IO plate, and an USB Bracket.

The Secure IDE PCB card is also included to allow users to lock down an IDE drive with 40-bit hardware encryption. There are a couple of physical keys included, and you better not lose them or you won't be able to access your data.


The KV8-MAX3 is laid out fairly well, though due to the number of features present, there are a few problem areas which we'll discuss a little later. The K8T800 chipset, which this motherboard is based on, supports the Socket 754 variety of the Athlon 64 (which we'll be referring to as A64 for the rest of this review), and it is physically impossible to install an Athlon FX-51. Currently, your CPU choices are limited to the A64 3000+, 3200+ and 3400+.

I am not sure how many manufacturers omit it, but ABIT does not include the heatsink retention bracket. If you're shopping for a heatsink, or already have an A64 cooler, make sure it has this retention bracket if the heatsink requires it. So long as the heatsink meets AMD's clearance specifications, you shouldn't have any problems with installation.

Ed. Note: ABIT has informed us that their second batch of boards (likely those you'll find on shelves as of this reading) do include the heatsink retention bracket.

We've always preferred active cooling, as opposed to passive (fanless) and ABIT's solution does a good job of keeping the Northbridge cool. Though active cooling is naturally noisier than passive, ABIT's orb cooler is barely audible with all the other case fans blowing.

The power connections for ATX and ATX12V are located between the Northbridge fan and the rear IO ports. This location is not our favorite for a number of reasons. As you can see, the fit is fairly tight, and it is a bit of an annoyance getting to the power connections. The proximately of the Rubycon capacitors, which are of excellent quality, as well as the OTES cooling don't help matters either. Another problem with this location is that the ATX and ATX12V cables will pass through the area where the CPU heatsink and fan is located. You'll have to take some care that these cables don't interfere with the fan.

Ram support is limited to three DIMMS, up to 2GB total memory capacity. The K8T800 supports PC3200 ram in Single Channel mode via the A64's built-in memory controller. I should add that I did have some problems with some PC4000 modules (OCZ and Corsair to be exact), but Kingston's HyperX PC4000 works just fine. I also didn't have any problems with any PC3200 modules.

You can also see above that both IDE connections are located directly beneath the memory slots. This location (rather than being located by the PCI slots) should help those who have tall ATX cases and need to run IDE cables to optical drives in the upper area of their case.

Credit to ABIT for using jumpers with pull tabs, as it makes resetting jumpers a lot easier. Nothing frustrates me more than fumbling with a jumper, and these tabs make it easier. The CMOS reset jumper is in a good spot, with a lot of clearance around it, and you shouldn't have many wires in this area when your PC is set up. Granted, if you plug in SATA cables into the ports next to this jumper, it does complicate things, but I didn't find it to be a big nuisance.

The diagnostic LED nearby is another bonus, as it'll help with some basic troubleshooting. The only problem I have with it is unless you have a case window, you will have to open your case up to see it. I still prefer solutions where the diagnostic LEDs are located on a USB bracket (D-Bracket), but this is a step in the right direction.

ABIT jammed a lot of SATA connections on this board, so hard drive expansion should be a non-issue. There are two SATA ports, handled by the Southbridge, next to the CMOS reset, and four more along the outer edge of the mainboard handled by a different controller.

The K8T800 Northbridge is paired with the VT8237 Southbridge, and handles the storage and connectivity options on the board. RAID-0, RAID-1, RAID-0+1, and JBOD configurations are all supported, giving you more storage options than are typically available. 5.2 and 7.1 sound is supported, as well as VIA Gigabit Ethernet, 10/100 Ethernet and up to eight USB 2.0 ports. Peripheral support is dependant on the motherboard manufacturer though.

The Silicon Image RAID controller handles the four SATA connections mentioned earlier. The controller supports four individual SATA, RAID 0, RAID 1, and RAID 0+1.

The µGuru allows the user to tweak various motherboard features within Windows. The software CD includes applications where you can adjust FSB, voltages, audio settings, and monitor system health.

Networking chores are handled by the 3Com Marvell 940-MV00. It is a Gigabit LAN controller, and a PCI device, which means it'll share the bandwidth with other PCI based parts.

The Realtek ALC658 is a 5.1 sound solution, and supports 24-bit S/P DIF optical In/Out. Both the CD and AUX-in are located just to the right of the chip.

The ABIT OTES cooling technology finds its way to the AMD platform with the KV8-MAX3. For this motherboard, a translucent plastic shell surrounds the capacitors and mosfets, and the heat generated is exhausted by a relatively silent cooling fan.

Rounding things out are the rear IO connections. Located here are the OTES fan, two PS/2 ports, S/PDIF input and output ports, 5 audio ports, 1 FireWire port; four USB 2.0 ports, and the Gigabit LAN Ethernet port. Missing are serial and parallel ports, but this shouldn't cause many problems unless you have an old printer or PDA.


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