AOpen AK77-8XN Motherboard ReviewFormer staff writer -
Price: $122.99 USD
I've been hearing the name AOpen more and more recently, as they continue to battle for market share in several segments of the computer hardware world - video cards, barebones systems, optical drives, all sorts of peripherals, and of course, motherboards. I've heard/read in particular good things about their P4 PE chipset board, but that's not what we're looking at today. I thought I'd check out one of their boards that I couldn't find a review of anywhere else (not to say there isn't one out there somewhere). Today, I'll be having a look at their AK77-8XN motherboard, based on VIA's KT400 chipset.
A very nicely designed box indeed, but it was when I opened up the factory sealed bubble wrap and pulled out the board itself that I really got an eyeful. Yes, shiny black PCB, very VERY nice looking board. Along with it came a black ATA 133 cable, a black floppy cable, Norton Anti-Virus CD, motherboard drivers & utilities CD, a large fold out full colour "Easy Installation Guide", the I/O plate, and a couple of other pieces of literature. Notice anything missing? I sure did, there's no printed manual. It's only available on the CD, and it's well laid out and colourful but I missed not having it to refer to at times when the computer wasn't in Windows. For sure the installation guide will get you up and running, but it's nice to have access to some of the more advanced information all the time.
Installation was easy. The standard "better damn well install your RAM first cause the lock is gonna be bumping your video card" does exist here, but I figured that one out early and went in the correct order. The board does have the 4 mounting holes if you need them for a hardier cooling solution, I had no problems installing the Aerocool X-Factor (reviewed here), there was plenty of room past the capacitors and it was done in about 10 seconds. Theres active cooling on the Northbridge, always a good thing.
AOpen tells us that they use a higher grade of capacitors than what is industry standard. I have no idea whether this is strictly true or strictly propaganda but I do know this: my voltage rails were exceedingly stable, I never saw a 5v below 4.96, 3.3v below 3.40, or 12v below 12.21. I reckon this is also a product of a decent power supply (SuperFlower 300W - don't laugh, it's off the same production line as your Enermax!) but I'll let the electrical engineers among you argue it out, feel free to use our forums!
The I/O panel is pretty standard stuff - well, maybe starting to fall slightly behind the times now, but I have no firewire devices and so didn't miss not having the ports.
I read up as much as I could find on this board before acquiring it, but this came as a shock to say the least. AOpens website, under "key features" for this board, states, "CPU Jumper-less Design" and "1MHz Stepping CPU Overclocking". A good lawyer could probably make their case BUT...you have to set a jumper for the basic levels of 100, 133, 166 and 200 fsb. With the board laying on my kitchen table, moving the jumper from the shipping location of 100 fsb to my desired 133 was no problem. Doing it later whilst performing my evil experiments with the board in my case was very trying - the jumper is just over top of the IDE inputs/cables and just off the end of my video card in a VERY tight spot, I dropped that little sucker I don't know how many times. A blast from the past I would have thought, in this day and age, to have to set a jumper to adjust front side bus.