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There are plenty of fan connectors as well - apart from the four-pin CPU cooler connector, there are a further three spare fan headers. The location of the two fan headers at the back of the board could however be improved, as both of them are below the bottom PCI slot, which makes for untidy cable routing. The front one is just where you’d want it though, as far forward as possible.
I have to give credit to ABIT for using jumpers with little tails on them, making it a lot easier to grab them when you have to move jumpers around. There aren’t a lot of jumpers on the board, but anything to make life easier is a good thing.
Apart from the blocked mounting hole problem, ABIT has also managed to put a very large capacitor and a couple of shorter ones, close to the AGP slot. With a normal graphics card these won’t cause any problems, but if you intend to use something like one of Leadtek’s cards which comes in a casing, then you’re going to run in to problems with it hitting these capacitors.
Another minor issue is that the connectors for the case wiring aren’t colour coded, even though pretty much every other motherboard manufacturer now does this. Colour coding makes it a lot easier to see what goes where when you’re trying to wire up the power button and all the other wires, so please ABIT, colour code the front panel connectors on future boards.
One of the unique features with ABIT’s current boards is µGURU, which is a combination of hardware, BIOS and software. The software consists of ABIT EQ, ABIT OC Guru, ABIT FlashMenu and ABIT BlackBox. ABIT EQ is the audio configuration utility and comes with some more advanced equalizer settings than with generic audio drivers. The OC Guru is ABIT’s overclocking utility in which you can store your own overclocking settings as well as load presets. ABIT FlashMenu offers a one click BIOS upgrade; as long as you’re connected to the Internet, but you also have the option to manually select the BIOS file. Finally ABIT BlackBox is the bit that works together with a small micro controller on the motherboard and is a diagnostic tool that is meant to help ABIT’s engineers find faults that might occur with your PC.
The manuals are of good quality, but there is no quick set up sheet, so you have to make do with a black and white quick installation guide. There is no extra software supplied apart from the driver CD, which is a little bit poor, but it saves on cost both for ABIT and the consumer.
What is interesting to note is that the AS8 turned in a SYSmark 2004 almost identical with the Intel 925XCV motherboard. The AS8 does however lag behind in PCMark 2004 but the 3D scores are better with the ABIT AGP solution. That said, according to nVidia this will change with newer PCI Express drivers. All this goes to show that there is no great gain in going PCI Express and DDR2 quite yet, but the new platform should scale better than the current one.
The ABIT AS8 is not perfect, but it is definitely a viable choice if you’re looking at keeping most of your current hardware, but want to get a new Socket-T processor. The price is reasonable at £88.13; this does however place it a little higher than most i865PE board, but the price premium is understandable due to the new CPU socket and the fact that this board is one of a kind, at least at the time of writing.
The ABIT AS8 is a good performer with a lot of features, but it does have some minor design flaws that should have been addressed before the board went on sale.