There are not one, but two versions of the Abit's IP35 motherboard, but both use the Intel P35 chipset. There's the IP35 Pro that we're reviewing here and the basic IP35 which costs £76. The IP35 has a single graphics slot, SATA RAID, HD audio and Gigabit Ethernet so in essence it's a basic motherboard that supports the latest Core 2 processors. Truth be told the IP35 doesn't look too impressive as the list of features is very similar to P965 motherboards from last year yet the price is £15 higher.
By contrast the IP35 Pro packs in a stack of extra features that are aimed at overclockers and gamers for a price that is only £29 higher than the IP35. During the testing for this review I gave the IP35 Pro an especially good thrashing because it was the platform that I last week used to review a 2GB kit of Kingston KHX9600 memory.
The layout of the IP35 Pro is dictated by the dual graphics slots, which split the 20 lanes of PCIe in the usual P35 way with 16 lanes going to the primary slot and a mere four lanes going to the secondary slot. The main graphics slot is spaced sufficiently far from the latches on the DDR2 memory slots that you can remove memory without touching the graphics card, and if you do need to remove the graphics cards you can release them without trouble. This sounds simple - heck it IS simple - but it's amazing how many motherboard manufacturers get this sort of detail wrong and make life difficult for their customers.
Abit has equipped the passive cooling system that links coolers on the Southbridge, Northbridge and power regulation hardware with heatpipes. It's the cooling system of choice on modern Intel motherboards as it enables the use of a tiny low profile Southbridge cooler that stays clear of even the most chunky graphics cards. Abit has named the cooler SilentOTES, which is a bit grand as it's all quite conventional but the copper colour looks very smart and the extensive finning provides plenty of surface area to assist cooling.
The area around the LGA775 processor socket is very tidy with stacks of space for even the largest CPU cooler. The two power connectors are positioned neatly at the edges of the board with a four-pin Molex connector just above the second graphics slot in case you feel the need for extra juice.