AOpen is one of the worldâ€™s largest manufacturers of computer components and it shows. The AK77-600 MAX is a top notch motherboard and on top of that it came out as the fastest motherboard based on the VIA KT600 chipset in Sysmark 2002, even beating some of the nForce2 boards. Not a bad start and it doesnâ€™t stop there.
Looking at the board and comparing the features, youâ€™ll notice that it offers a very similar set of components to the MSI KT6 Delta-FIS2R.
The design of the two boards is similar, but not the same and AOpen offers a few extra features of its own. You get native S-ATA support trough the VIA southbridge as well as two extra S-ATA ports thanks to the Promise RAID controller, which also features and extra IDE connector capable of handling two devices. Other goodies include onboard Gigabit LAN, Firewire and 5.1-channel sound from a Realtek ALC650 chip. A rear bracket with optical and electrical S/PDIF inputs and outputs is also supplied. A further two rear brackets, one with two USB 2.0 ports and a game port and one with two Firewire ports, rounds off the package.
AOpenâ€™s Die-Hard Bios also comes as standard as well as Dr Voice, a simple but helpful diagnostics tool in case something goes wrong with your system. The advantage here is that the AK77-600 MAX actually features an integrated speaker that allows you to hear the voice prompts without the need of an external speaker. This is also the only motherboard in this roundup with four fan connectors. The neat thing here is what AOpen calls SilentTek as it allows you to control the speed of the fans connected to the motherboard from the BIOS or a handy Windows utility.
Talking about the BIOS, AOpen is, as far as we know, the first company that offers a utility allowing you to access the BIOS from Windows, although you have to reboot to make any changes active. This does make it any easier to change your BIOS settings, but with a handy thing like Windows remote support you could get a friend or even a computer engineer to log in remotely to your PC and set it all up for you. There is also a Windows based BIOS upgrade utility, but this is becoming more common by the day and AOpen is not the only company that supplies such a utility.
The manual supplied with the AK77-600 MAX is also one of the best we have seen, although it does lack a bit of details when it comes to the BIOS setup and only explains the most basic settings. Youâ€™ll also find an easy installation guide which is in colour and offers straightforward instructions on how to connect everything to the motherboard.
As mentioned earlier, the AK77-600 MAX performed very well in Sysmark 2002, but it was still more on a par with the other KT600 based motherboards in the rest of our tests. Overall we like this motherboard but it canâ€™t quite hold its own compared to the nForce2 based motherboards. That said, if youâ€™re board with the KT600 chipset, this is a top notch solution and well worth the asking price.
The AK77-600 Max is a quality board, but the high price tag and the fierce competition leaves AOpen in a bit of a grey area. If youâ€™re set on the KT600 chipset and want a fast board, this is it. But if youâ€™re not fussed about chipsets an nForce 2 based board could offer more.