”’Abit Flash Menu:”’ This is basically a Windows based BIOS flashing utility that can automatically compare your current BIOS revision with latest revision available on Abit’s website and if necessary take you through the flashing process automatically.
”’Abit AudioEQ:”’ This is Abit’s audio control centre allowing the adjustment of various sound functions including equalizer patterns, environment settings, speaker configurations and input/output modes. This utility works with Realtek’s ALC658 CODEC and features “Jack Sensing Technology” which advises you of incorrect connections.
”’Abit FanEQ:”’ This is the part of the Abit EQ function that actively monitors and adjusts fan speeds. From here each of three fans, Northbridge fan, CPU fan and OTES fan, can be set to run at one of three different speeds within three predefined or one user defined temperature ranges. FanEQ can also be disabled completely.
”’Abit BlackBox:”’ The clue’s in the name. Just like an aircraft’s black box this utility serves to record a host of vital hardware statistics including CPU type, speed and memory size and saves them to a text file which can be emailed to Abit to help trouble shoot specific problems you might be having.
The board is packaged in a cool blue box with pride of place taken by the µGuru logo. Inside the box things are well packaged into two individual cardboard boxes, a much neater option than just scattering them on top of the motherboard as so often happens. And while the bundled extras are perhaps a little sparse by some standards they’re certainly adequate. Credit must be given to Abit for the standard of the supplied documentation which is clear, concise and very easy to understand.
First impressions of the general design and layout were extremely positive. The orange coloured PCB is thoughtfully set out and features high-rise jumpers which are infinitely easier to manipulate. The only possible gripe is the very low positioning of the floppy connector which could be a problem for full tower users but it does at least stop it interfering with any full length PCI cards you may want to fit.
The CPU is rotated 45 degrees to the norm, presumably to optimise trace lengths and paths and help with stability which is further catered for by the addition of a fairly hefty cooler mounted atop the Northbridge.
Five PCI slots compliment the compulsory AGP slot and the slew of increasingly essential connectors including two USB 2.0 headers, two FireWire headers, two SATA 150 connectors and all the necessary pins to connect up your case’s front panel audio, assuming it sports this feature.
The back panel is a tour de force of hardwired connectivity coming as it does with optical S/PDIF input and output, four USB 2.0 connectors, a six pin FireWire connector, an RJ45 LAN connector, PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports, printer and COM ports and five various audio related jacks.
On the subject of audio the quality from the onboard Realtek ALC658 6-channel CODEC was very good, but as you’d expect not quite suitable for the genuine audiophile. The jack sensing technology is as impressive as it is useful and quite inspiring to see in action.
There was a bit of a surprise on the lower edge of the board which sports an Epox-esque two-digit debug LED. This displays a different code to identify each sage of the boot process so should anything go awry you can pinpoint the culprit by looking at the code displayed. Frustratingly none of the three codes I ran into while punishing the AI7 appeared in the manual, which kind of negated its usefulness.