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ABIT IS7 Max II Advance Motherboard: We take a look at the ABIT IS7 Springdale today, and if our benchmarks are any indication, this mainstream board demonstrates that the Canterwood is not the only game in town.
 
 
Date: July 1, 2003
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The ABIT IS7 Max II Advance

Targeted at the mainstream user, you'd think that i865PE motherboards wouldn't appeal to the enthusiast. A quick look at the the i865PE, and initially we'd say that there isn't anything special about it, but upon closer examination of the ABIT IS7, and you'll realize that ABIT designed this board for the power user. Unlike the IC7, ABIT reverted back to the orange PCB we're used to seeing on their boards. There are five three-pin fan headers (one which is used by the Northbridge fan), which should be more than enough for the majority of users.

The CPU socket is setup in a more traditional manner that we're used to seeing on Pentium 4 boards, with the key facing to the right (as pictured) of the motherboard. There's nothing noteworthy about the alignment, other than it may be a little to close to the edge. There's enough clearance for most heatsinks, and the capacitors don't get in the way when installing the retail heatsink clips. As with past ABIT boards, Rubycon capacitors are used here, and they are of high quality.

Moving to the left, we get a look at a sweet looking Northbridge HSF, which is the same one used on the IC7. There are clamps used to hold the heatsink down, which makes swapping it, or reapplying thermal paste, an easy task since you won't need to remove the motherboard as you would if there were push pins. ABIT used a thermal pad, but we recommend removing it and applying some quality thermal paste.

Next up is the AGP slot, which also has the AGP card retention clip we're normally used to seeing. One design issue I see is that the AGP slot is lined up with the edge of the ram slots. You will most likely have to remove your AGP card when removing/reinstalling your ram in DIMM1 (and possibly DIMM2). A minor nuisance, but I just call it like I see it. In practice, it is possible to jimmy the ram out with an AGP card installed, which I have done, but it isn't easy.

You also have five PCI slots, which should be more than enough for most users. There is a fair amount of space between the AGP slot and PCI#1, which means that unless you use an aftermarket VGA cooler that is excessively huge, you will not lose PCI#1 as you normally would. Again, ABIT is thinking about the enthusiast.

Just below the PCI slots are your SATA and IDE connections. Like the IC7, the IDE connections are aligned at the edge of the motherboard, facing away. Personally, I like this alignment, as it makes hiding IDE cables easier, but it is certainly not as easy to work with if your hard drives cover the connections. For the SATA connections, two are controlled by the ICH5R, and the Silicon Image SATA controller controls the other two.

Moving to the right, the power connection is located near the edge of the motherboard, just above the floppy connection. The location is good, as it is far away from the CPU socket. It is possible that your power cable may drape across your ram if you're the type who just plugs things in without routing it neatly.

Speaking of which, the IS7 supports up to 4GB of ram. Dual Channel support is available by using two sticks of ram in either slot 1+3 or slot 2+4. Feel free to read our Corsair TWINX review if you're wondering what Dual Channel is all about. Keep in mind the notes made earlier regarding AGP card and ram access.

One issue I have is the location of the CMOS reset. What is good is you don't have any capacitors grouped around the jumper, which makes it a simple affair to grab on to it. However, the location puts it int he vicinity of CDROM drives in standard ATX cases. Add the IDE cables and power connections, and if you have more than one CDROM drive, you can imagine it's a bit of an inconvenience to get to it.

Although the primary power is kept away from the CPU socket, the 12v AUX connection is not. Normally, I'd mention how this is an inconvenient location, but the 12v connection does supply the extra power to the CPU, and the shorter distance will keep the Pentium 4 itself happy.

For the rear panel I/O, I think there will be plenty here that should make people happy. You have your PS/2 ports, serial and parallel ports, S/PDIF and five audio ports, four USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire connection, and a Gigabit LAN connection.

The last items worth pointing out are the onboard peripherals. Above, left to right, is the Intel 865PE, the ICH5R, the Realtek ALC650, and a 3Com Gigabit NIC. I've never used the 3COM Gigabit NIC before, so it'll be interesting to see how it performs. I'm not too wild about the Realtek solution though. Sound quality has always been good, but CPU utilization has also always been higher than others.

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