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Apart from the FireWire and Audio brackets, there is a bracket with two USB 2.0 ports and a game port supplied. You also get two IDE cables, a floppy drive cable and finally two S-ATA data cables with matching power adapters. I would rather have seen some of the ports supplied on the brackets to be part of the standard connectors on the motherboard, perhaps by removing one of the serial ports, but this is a matter of personal preference over real functionality. A copy of Norton AntiVirus 2004 is also included, which is a useful freebie.
The manual is, as always with AOpen, excellent and all the pictures are in colour which makes it a lot easier to pin-point things on the motherboard. You also get a setup sheet that covers the basic installation procedure.
AOpen also offers a wide range of handy software and BIOS utilities that add some extra functionality to the board, such as its SilentTek fan speed adjustment and the WinBIOS utility that allows you to change your BIOS settings from within Windows.
All well and good so far, but one critical aspect of every motherboard is performance. Luckily the AX4SPE Max II doesn’t let itself down here as it is one of the fastest Socket-478 boards we have tested recently with a SYSmark 2004 score of 167. It performs similarly well in the remaining benchmarks, all of which you can take a closer look at on the graphs page.
There is however one caveat with the AX4SPE Max II – with a street price of £100 it definitely resides among the more expensive Socket-478 boards out there, especially since the price of Intel motherboards has plummeted over the last couple of months in anticipation of the new Socket-T arriving. Overall the AX4SPE Max II is a good motherboard, but the high price works against it as you can get similar boards for around £15-20 less, although you might not get the 7.1-channel audio support.
The AOpen AX4SPE Max II is a quality motherboard with a lot of features, but there’s nothing that really sets it apart from any other i865PE motherboard and the high price ultimately robs it of an award.