Abit IN9 32X-Max Wi-Fi Motherboard

ccokeman - 2007-03-31 19:39:45 in Motherboards
Category: Motherboards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: April 6, 2007
Abit
Abit
Price: $329.99 USD

Introduction:

        Can you tame the beast within? This fire-breathing beast of a motherboard will make all of your overclocking wishes and dreams come true! That's the challenge put forth by Abit. The IN9 32X-MAX is touted as the company's premiere 680i chipset mother board. It boasts features such as quad core support, true 32X SLI support, physics capabilities and silent OTES cooling for the motherboard chipsets. Being the latecomer to the 680i playing field, I have high hopes for this motherboard. Today we will be looking at one of Abit's newest socket 775 motherboards, the IN9 32X-MAX.

The Abit computer corporation was started back in 1989. In that time frame they have had many success stories, including being the fastest growing motherboard company in 1989 with sales in excess of $10,000,000 US. Following up that feat, in 2003 they saw sales increases of over 100 percent. Looking forward, Abit is designing its products with “Bulletproof Technology” to ensure a long-term positive experience for the end user.


Closer Look:

        The packaging of the motherboard shows the beast that we will be attempting to tame right on the top panel. The beast looks like a cross between a horse and dragon, it's different, but that's what sets Abit apart from the rest of the crowd. The back side of the box goes into detail about the features of the motherboard. This is something that I like since i am more of a visual person.


Opening the box cover we get a view of some more of the features of this board including the two extended SLI bridges and the included AirPace wireless card. A highlighted feature seen more and more is the heat pipe style, noiseless cooling solution for the chipsets and PWM circuit.


Finally, it's time to actually dig inside to see what we have. The motherboard comes in a clear covered box that appeared not to have any means of protecting the board during shipping. Not even a sheet of high density foam underneath for a bit of shock dampening.

Closer Look:

        The bundled accessories are shipped in boxes below the box containing the motherboard. One box containing all of the cabling, documentation, and software.




Abit has provided an assortment of cabling options to fill all of your needs with this board. The documentation for the wireless card is included, rather than only being a file on the driver CD. The box artwork is carried over to the driver CD, so you will never have a problem figuring out which board it belongs to.


The SATA cables that come with this board have a 90 degree bend on one side and a locking straight end on the other. Abit also includes a fan retention bracket to mount a 40mm fan onto the chipset heatsink. This is a nice extra considering the reputation the 680i has for running hot.


With this bundle you receive not 1 but 2 SLI bridges. Possibly thinking ahead for SLI 2.0? Also included is a bracket to hold the SLI bridge in place for you LAN party guys and gals.


The AirPace wireless LAN card will take up residence in the uppermost PCIe 1x slot on this board.

Closer Look:

        Finally, we get to see the heart of this beast. This board features three full size PCIe slots to allow for SLI as well as the installation of a physics processor, and a full 40 PCIe lanes that are dedicated to graphics solutions. One thing that surprised me was the amount of bow in the board before a heatsink was ever attached. I was more than a little afraid that this one would be DOA and need to be sent back.




As we can see here the southbridge , northbridge and power management circuits are all interconnected via heat pipes and what appear to be copper heatsinks. Notice the fan mounting holes on the northbridge sink.


Looking at the I/O panel we have quite a few different connections. Of course you have the normal PS/2 for your mouse and keyboard, USB and dual LAN. Some of the newer features are dual E-SATA and optical in/out sound connections. Easily one of the coolest things for me is the EZ CMOS clear switch. This allows you to clear CMOS without opening your case. This makes it so much easier if you are running dual graphics cards. No more trying to get at that pesky jumper under your two slot gpu cooling solution.


As you can see there is plenty of room around the cpu socket for a large cooling solution. You will notice there is a lack of capacitors near the socket; this is the result of the 5 phase digital power management circuit. This design was chosen to provide increased stability and efficiency in the cpu voltages to increase your overclock. Looking at the back of the board we have the use of additional cooling strips to help cool the board in the area of the cpu socket and power management circuits.


This board contains plenty of goodies for the enthusiast. Power and reset switches built in for those who go caseless and an on-board debug LED which is quite helpful in diagnosing boot issues. Abit's Uguru chip allows us to monitor the installed hardware and make the adjustments needed to get the most from whatever hardware you install. This tool is useful in both BIOS and in Windows. As with the AW9D-MAX this board uses 100% Japanese solid state capacitors with a life span of over 40,000 hours. This is much longer than many enthusiasts will keep their hardware.

Closer Look:

        The BIOS on this board is quite a bit more complicated than the Abit AW9D-MAX. Just looking at the amount of options and settings will let you know that this board can be tweaked for ultimate performance. As you can see in the first picture, I have neither a Nvidia video card nor SLI-EPP memory installed. The areas of the BIOS I will concentrate on are those that interest the enthusiast crowd, because in reality, that's who this board is designed for. (Especially the UGURU section)




This board has an upper limit of 750 FSB for the CPU and 700 FSB for the memory. This point is probably out of reach for all but the most extreme overclockers, it doesn't mean you can't try though.


For your basic CPU settings, you can run at your processor speed, linked; meaning the cpu and memory speed are linked together and will rise equally when adjusted and then unlinked; meaning the CPU and memory speeds can be adjusted independently of each other. The CPU strap setting has 1333 available to assist in reaching a higher clock speed.


The voltage options on this board run to the high side of the spectrum. 1.925 volts is available for the cpu, great googly moogly! That just might be the death zone! 3.00 volts is available for the memory. This is indeed pretty high up in the killer voltage realm. Not to say that it will, but just be careful in choosing your voltage settings. The voltages for the the southbridge, northbridge, hypertransport and CPU vtt are down at the usable end of the spectrum.


The adjustments available for the system memory are an improvement from the last MAX series board that I have worked with. One glitch I ran into was setting the USB mouse and keyboard support to BIOS from the default of OS.This caused a no boot into windows condition that i could only resolve by setting this adjustment  back to OS.


This brings us to the Abit EQ section of the BIOS. Here we are able to set up the on-board LED light show and set up the monitoring software.The three main options are temperature, voltage and fan speed.


Now that we have seen the complete package, looked at the BIOS, and gotten a general feel for this board, I think its time we move on to the next phase; installation.

Installation:

        Installing the motherboard in a case of your choice is next on the agenda. The first thing I usually do is to mount the CPU into the socket. Then I will mount my cooling solution. Even if you don't plan on overclocking, you will still need to have a heatsink for your cpu. But if you are considering this board for your next computer, you probably already have the biggest heatsink you can find ready to go. After mounting the heatsink, it is time to put the board in the case. Install the standoffs that came with your case to secure the motherboard in the chassis. Tighten down the mounting screws (9 in this case) evenly to prevent undue stress on the board. Install your graphics cards, sound card and any other devices. The IN9 32-MAX comes with a wireless LAN card to use in the pcie 1x slot so I mounted it as well. Next, I prefer to install the power connections and drive cabling. Last but certainly not least, I install the system memory. Index the modules so that the notch in the module and DIMM socket are aligned. Press down on each end until the retaining levers lock the modules into place and you should be ready to step up and attempt to tame this beast.


One of the issues I had with the installation was the location of the 8 pin 12v power connector and the 4 pin molex plug at the bottom of the board. If you have a large cooling solution for your CPU, you will have to install the 8 pin connector before mounting the motherboard in the chassis. The 4 pin at the bottom of the board makes it extremely difficult to get a second video card installed.


There was plenty of room on the board to get everything installed. The CPU heatsink I have is one of the largest on the market and this board leaves all the room you will need to fit your hands in to the DIMM slot area. As you can see there is ample room between the graphics cards on this board. This is huge compared to the last few boards i have had my hands on. No way shape or form was there going to be any thought of using a pci device card on those boards but this one is vastly different.


Here the beast lies just waiting to breathe a little fire! It's home is a little messy, but speed and performance don't always come in a pretty package.

Configuration:

The AirPace wireless LAN card comes with its own software setup and proved to be easy to use. I installed the drivers/software and took all the defaults in setup. Lucky for me, that it  connected to my wireless router on the first try.





While the default setting worked for me you can set up this piece of hardware to your liking. You can set the unit to access point or station mode, turn power on and off, adjust your security settings and even allow for internet connection sharing. The screenshots below illustrate the softwares capabilities and options.

Specifications and Features:


CPU

Designed for Intel LGA775 processors with 1333MHz FSB
- Support Intel Quad Core, Core 2 Duo & Extreme Edition, Pentium® D & Pentium®4 Processors
- 5-phase Digital PWM Designation provide high quality and efficient power

Chipset
Nvidia nForce 680i SLI
abit Engineered

abit µGuru™ Technology
- abit Silent OTES™ Technology
- 100% Japan capacitors
- 100% Low ESR and high ripple
conductive polymer aluminum solid capacitor- Digital PWM
- EZ for CCMOS
- On board LED Lighting

Memory

4 X 240-pin DIMM sockets support max. memory capacity 32GB
- Supports Dual channel DDR2 800 Un-buffered / ECC or Non-ECC memory

Graphics

Two PCI-Express X16 slots support nVidia Scalable Link Interface

LAN

Dua lNVIDIA Gigabit Ethernet
- Timing and TCP/IP acceleration

Audio

On board 7.1 CH HD Audio CODEC
- Supports Jack Sensing and S/PDIF In/Out
- HDMI ready header (SPDIF header)

Expansion Slots

2 x PC-EX 16, 1 x PCI-EX16(X8 bandwidth for X4, X8 and X16 devices), 1 x PCI-EX1, 2 x PC I

Internal I/O

1 x Floppy port, 1 x ATA 133 connector
- 6 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors
- 3 x USB 2.0 headers, 2 x IEEE1394 headers
- 1 x FP-Audio header, 1 x HDMI header
- Quick Power & Reset Button

Back Panel I/O

1 x PS/2 Keyboard, 1 x PS/2 Mouse
- S/P DIF Out and IN, CCMOS switch
- 4 x USB 2.0, 2 x RJ-45 LAN
- 2 x eSATA

Serial ATA

nVidia MCP55PXE: 6 x SATA 3Gb/s supports nVidia MediaShield RAID with SATA RAID 0/1/0+1/5 and JBOD
- Silicon Image Sil3132: Support 2 ports eSATA

IEEE 1394
Supports 2 Ports IEEE 1394 at 400Mb/s transfer rate
Form Factor

ATX form factor 305 x 245mm
- PCB Color: Black

Testing:

        I will be running the IN9 32-MAX through a series of benchmarks to compare the performance of the board and 680i chipset to it's cousin the AW9D MAX. I will be using both system and video benchmarks to make this comparison in performance. All clock speeds and memory timings will be the same on both of the boards to eliminate any variables. For the video benchmarks the comparison will be a little lopsided. This board does not offer crossfire support and will be compared against that setup. You may be surprised at the results. All video card settings were left at setup defaults again eliminating any variables.


Testing Setup:

Comparison System:

The system tests we will be using are listed below:


Lets get started with Apophysis. This program is used primarily to render and generate fractual flame images.

Lower is Better

Testing:

Specview is a benchmark designed to test Open GL performance. The tests used for comparison are


Higher is Better


Higher is Better


Higher is Better


Pretty surprising to see a single gpu setup keep pace with a dual gpu setup! Interesting!


WinRAR is a tool to archive and compress large files to a manageable size. We will use 10mb,100mb and 500mb files and test the time needed to compress these files. Time will be measured in seconds




Testing:

PcMark05 is used to measure complete system performance.The test I will focus on is the System Suite.




Higher is Better


Sisoft Sandra is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful. For this test I will be concentrating on four tests: processor arithmetic, multimedia scores, memory latency and bandwidth scores.


Higher is Better


Higher is Better


Higher is Better


Higher is Better


Lower is Better


Higher is Better


Higher is Better


It looks as though the the AW9D pulls ahead in the processor based tests while the IN9 32X-MAX seems to really shine with the memory benchmarks.

Testing:

Sciencemark tests real world performance instead of using synthetic benchmarks. For this test we ran the benchmark suite and will use the overall score for comparison.






Higher is Better!


Cinebench is useful for testing your systems CPU and OpenGL capabilities using the software program CINEMA 4D.We will be using the default tests for this benchmark.

Higher is Better


Higher is Better


HDtach measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers. For this test we used the 32mb test for our comparison.

Higher is Better


Higher is Better


Lower is Better


Looking at these numbers it looks as though the 680i chipset lags behind the 975X in performance. While it may fall behind in this comparison, it is something I have not noticed in day to day operation.

Testing:

Now that the system benchmarks are complete, we will move on to the video benchmarking portion of the review. At the time of this test I did not have 2 Nvidia video cards to use in SLI configuration. That being said, I will be using my trusty ATI 1900XT as the video card of choice for today's test. I was kind of hoping for a miracle and finding i could run a Crossfire configuration on this board but alas no luck. For today's test we will be using an assortment of games to test performance across platforms to look for a performance advantage.


The game tests that we use are as follows:


First up we have Far Cry. This game makes extensive use of pixel shaders and features Polybump normal mapping technology to increase character details.


We will be using the Hardware OC benchmarking utility version 1.7 with the following settings.





Not really the kind of results I was expecting. It seems as though the single card was holding it's own.

Testing:

F.E.A.R. is a newer game that includes its own benchmarking utility. We will be using this test to benchmark this game. This game introduces a new AI model that emulates real squad behavior. It has the ability to counteract the moves you make rather than having a predictable routine.


The settings we will use today are below:




Testing:

Microsoft Flight Simulator X is the newest edition of the popular flight simulator. For testing I will fly the same route through each resolution while using Fraps set to capture 120 seconds of the run. Testing will start at a resolution of 1024X768 since this is the lowest resolution available.


The settings we will use are listed below:






It looks as though the crossfire setup shows it's muscle in this test.

Testing:

Call of Duty is starting to age but looking at the amount of time my son and I spend playing this game, it's still fairly popular. This test will consist of a 120 second run on the Stalingrad multiplayer map. Average FPS will be the measure used.


The settings used are listed below:






Again the single card seems to hold it's own.

Testing:

Quake 4 is next up for testing. We will be using the Hardware OC Quake 4 benchmark utility version 1.5  to complete the testing with this game. You will need to update to the most current version to avoid the time demo failing with a floating point error. Average FPS will be the measure used.


The settings we will use are listed below:






 

Testing:

Need For Speed Most Wanted. For this test we will use Fraps to run a 120 second snapshot of each "race".


The setting we will use are listed below.






It's just amazing to see how little an impact the crossfire 1900xt's had at the resolutions tested.

Conclusion:

        Well did I tame the beast within? I think i did. It was somewhat of a challenge to get the same overclocks I have had on several other socket 775 motherboards. Was it worth the effort? It sure was. The availability of options in the BIOS makes for a more satisfying experience if squeezing the most out of your hardware is what you prefer to do. The 32X PCIe lanes obviously help with the graphics throughput as evidenced by how close the single 1900XT kept the benchmarks when compared to a 2 gpu 2x8x lane setup.

The strengths of this board are the graphics and memory buses. With the same timings and clock speeds across the two platforms, the IN9 32X-MAX showed its colors.The maximum stable overclocks for this setup is 3.6ghz on the processor. This took a bit more voltage than I thought was necessary due to the voltage swings in the CPU voltage. At times it would show swings of up to .12v. I found that memory voltage needs to start much lower than you are used to. My memory is spec'd at 2.1 volts and runs great right up to 2.4v. But no matter what, it would not cooperate until i started dropping the voltage and have settled at 2.05v.

My max overclocks are comparable to other boards but stability is what i look for. So far the IN9 32X-MAX has delivered. Next up is how to convince the wife I need new video cards so i can really see what this beast can do on the graphics front. Would I get this board again? I certainly would.

The one thing that really got me was the issue of how immature the BIOS was. After a few weeks of working with this board most of my issues are taken care of by the official 1.1 BIOS. A few items such as setting USB keyboard and mouse support to the BIOS, would give you constant problems loading and installing windows.

Pros:

Cons: