The ABIT IC7
ABIT put a lot of thought into the layout of the IC7, and built it with enthusiasts and case modders in mind. To start, the black PCB is very nice, and it'll look great through a case window. There are four fan headers (five if you include the one used by the Northbridge fan), which is the most I've seen on a motherboard in quite some time.
The CPU socket is setup with the socket key facing the back I/O panel, which is a bit different from what I'm used to where it faces the top of the motherboard (or right side if looking at it with the I/O panel facing away from you). With the socket a little further away, and aligned the way it is, this may solve the problem for smaller cases where large heatsinks have problems fitting with a PSU directly above it. Speaking of which, there is plenty of clearance around the socket, so heatsink installs shouldn't be a problem at all.
Moving to the left, we get a look at a sweet looking Northbridge HSF. The fan is quite large, but the noise is negligible. I am quite confident that the cooling will handle serious overclocking, though after popping it off, I'm not too confident with the thermal pad. In my opinion, if you're going to be pushing this board, you should peel off the pad and use a quality thermal compound.
Next up is the AGP Pro 50 slot. I'm not sure how many of you own these cards, but this is something more important for workstation professionals. The slot is keyed though, so it's pretty much impossible to accidentally mess up your video card installation. Curiously missing though is the AGP card retention clip. You also have five PCI slots, which should be more than enough for most users.
Just below the PCI slots are your SATA and IDE connections. You can see the marked areas where the Silicon Image RAID chip and additional SATA connections would normally be on the higher end board. In anycase, you still have two SATA connections, and two regular IDE connections. What I like about the IDE connections is that they are pointed sideways, away from the board, rather than straight up as they normally are. For neat cable freaks like myself, this will make it easier to hide the cables when setting up your drives. It may not seem apparent, but trust me; it is a lot easier this way.
Moving to the right, the power connection is where we like to see it… away from the CPU socket, and at the edge of the motherboard. The floppy connection is right next to it, and it's too bad they didn't align it like they did the IDE cables. Maybe somebody forgot.
The IC7 supports up to 4GB of ram, though that would be an expensive proposition for those of us working in normal jobs. Dual channel support is available by using two sticks of ram in either slot 1+3 or slot 2+4.
The AUX12V connection is one item that I think could have been better placed. There is enough room to fit the power cable in there, but I think a bit more space would make it easier for people with large hands to connect and disconnect the cable.
Your I/O options are quite extensive, including a Firewire connection, and four USB ports. If that isn't enough, you have extra USB and Firewire connections with the included brackets. You'll notice the LAN connection is blocked off, which is no surprise since there is no onboard LAN support.
Speaking about onboard, pictured above, left to right, are the Intel 875P, the ICH5, and the Realtek ALC650. As mentioned, you will not find a LAN physical layer, nor will you find an onboard RAID device.
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