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Aopen AX4C MAX first impressions

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Dec 15, 2002
Flint, MI
Just got my Aopen AX4C MAX but can't install it yet because i need to keep my AX4G Pro 845G board installed until tomorrow morning to show the guy who's buying it off me that it's working ok. Currently running it with the onboard graphics and am finding out first hand exactly why everyone says onboard graphics suck... this is terrible!!

Anyway, i digress....

As i haven't yet installed the board, i'll give my first impressions on the board layout and overall contents. The first thing that hits you when you open the box is that this is one very full package, it came with everything i needed... almost. My only slight gripes are that there was no IDE/SATA converter and it only came with one ATA-100 (poss 133) cable, along with the floppy and second IDE drive cable. I would have liked it if Aopen had included rounded cables as Abit did with their IC7-G, but i can't have everything.
Other extra's consisted of 2x IEEE 1394 ports via rear bracket, 2 USB 2.0 ports with serial/game port via another rear bracket (no idea why the game port was added), SPDIF connector which included optical in and out ports, 2 SATA cables, 1 SATA power connector converter, 1 floppy with SATA RAID drivers and 1 other floppy which the label says contains the IAA program and another set of SATA drivers. There is also the usual stuff like back panel cover, manual (with Aopen's usual tenuous grasp of English in full swing) and quick start guide. Finally, two included CD's which contain the usual Aopen motherboard CD with drivers, hardware monitors and various other programs with varying degrees of usefulness. The other CD is Norton's Anti-Virus 2003. Overall, the contents are very good.

The board itself has a very high quality look and feel to it. For those who care, the PCB is black (why do people care about PCB colour???) as all Aopen boards seem to be. The layout looks very good although i can now see exactly why the reviews i had read were having some gripes with the northbridge fan being very close to the retention mechanism. I'll post tomorrow on how much of a problem it presented to me, although i am only installing the stock Intel HSF.
The rear panel is quite well equipped, with 6 USB 2.0 ports present along with the gigabit LAN and the usual audio connectors, parallel port, 2 serial ports and 2 ps2 ports.

The 4 serial ATA connectors are all in easily reachable locations, as are the 3 IDE connectors, although the positioning of the IDE connectors isn't exactly ideal. Having all three connectors placed one on top of the other isn't what i'd really like to see, but simply having the third IDE connector to allow IDE RAID wins me over, this is my first board that has IDE RAID so i'll overlook it :D

The RAM slots next, no sign of any possible problems with them being placed so close to the AGP slot to cause any memory installation problems, but then my personal opinion on this is that there is no excuse for this problem occuring on a board with 5 PCI slots. If there were 6, then maybe it could be understandable. Anyway, the RAM is my real area of anxiety, my two DIMM's are not by the same manufacturer (1x Winbond, 1x Kingston) and although they are both PC2700 DDR, CL2.5 and have identical properties according to Aida32, i'm still not totally sure they will allow me to run dual channel or not, especially since the Winbond dimm is parity RAM while the Kingston dimm is not. Anyway, i'll find out tomorrow.

Usually I prefer 6 PCI slots rather than 5, but in all honesty i have no idea why. The most i have ever been using on any system is 4! The "Hercules PCI slot" is marked very clear, being the only blue PCI slot. For those unfamiliar with the idea, basically the Hercules slot runs off it's own seperate 3.3v power circuitry, making it run almost independently from the other 4 PCI slots. Aopen claim this makes it much more efficient for running power hungry cards like SCSI or RAID controller cards. However, since i can't afford SCSI drives and will only be running RAID via the onboard port and i have 4 SATA ports available, i doubt i will ever find out if that claim is true.

So to sum up so far.... The board layout is very good, even with it's couple of flaws, and the contents in the packaging is excellent as far as i'm concerned. Things look good so far, but tomorrow will be the REAL test. Will post my results as they happen.....

PS. Can anyone spare some web space for hosting pics? I took some with my digital camera but have no way of adding them at the moment :(