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As the Fatal1ty AA8XE is quite an old board by now – it was announced in November of 2004 – it’s using the 925XE chipset. There are no real disadvantages with this though; unless you want to use DDR2 667MHz memory as the 925XE chipset still supports the 1066MHz bus. You also don’t get the advantage of the latest SATA-II interface and some other tweaks that Intel applied to ICH7.
For some this might be a deciding factor in what motherboard to purchase, but until Abit updates its Intel Fatal1ty board, you have to live with a product that’s a couple of features short of cutting edge. But it’s not all bad news as the Fatal1ty AA8XE still comes with a pretty solid feature set.
What you get are dual Intel Ethernet controllers, one Gigabit and one 10/100Mbit controller. This might seem slightly odd, but the idea is that you use the 10/100Mbit controller for gaming and the Gigabit one for heavy file transfers between machines on your network. FireWire is also part of the package with one six-pin port fitted to the rear I/O and a further two sharing a bracket with two USB ports – one six-pin and one four-pin.
The onboard sound solution is rather unusual in as much as all the ports are on a small riser card. However, this means that Abit has sacrificed a space on the motherboard which could have been fitted with a normal slot rather than the back to front x1 PCI Express slot that now occupies that space. The riser card is plugged into the slot just like any other expansion card and it offers outputs for 7.1-channel audio as well as optical S/PDIF in and out, line-in and a microphone port. The sound follows the Intel High Definition standard.
There are four SATA connectors which, in combination with the ICH6R offer a wide range of RAID configurations. On top of RAID 0 and 1 the ICH6R also supports Intel Matrix RAID. The downside is that there is only a single IDE connector, so this board is not ideal for upgraders. In terms of expansion slots there is a single x16 PCI Express slot, two x1 slots and two PCI slots, which should be more than plenty for most users.
The rear I/O has the least ports I have seen on any recent motherboard, mainly due to the fact that the OTES fans take up most of the space here. What you get is the aforementioned FireWire port, two PS/2 connectors, four USB 2.0 ports and the two Ethernet connectors.