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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [04.11.02]
Manufactured by: Abit


The Next Generation of motherboards...?

Never has the announcement of a motherboard created as much buzz around the PC hardware enthusiast community as the Abit "MAX" series of motherboards (something tells me they really wanted to call it "Matrix" instead).  This line of boards, available on both Athlon and Pentium 4 platforms, is Abit's attempt at taking motherboards one step into the next generation, leaving things like legacy ports in its dust.

Windows 2000/XP/ME only.  Win98 users need not apply.

How significant is this step though? If you've been paying attention to the hype surrounding these boards, you might think that it is a giant leap for motherboard kind.  We're going to find out if this is the case, or if the MAX series is rather a baby step.

Giant leap or baby step, one thing is for certain, the AT7, Abit's first board in the MAX lineup, is definitely one of the most unique boards you'll see today.  The AT7 uses the newest, fastest chipset for the Athlon platform, VIA's KT333.  KT333 supports most of the newest features you'll need, such as native ATA/133 hard drives, onboard 5.1 audio with digital output, support for DDR333 SDRAM, and more.  Abit takes that one step further, and adds a ton of integrated components intended for the next generation of computing.  This includes both FireWire AND USB2.0 controller, a 4 channel ATA/133 RAID adapter (making for an unprecedented support of 12 ATA drives onboard), onboard 10/100 LAN, and MediaXP support.  These would all be excellent useful addons for most boards, but that's where the MAX series is different - these aren't just addons for the motherboard, they actually replace all legacy parts on the board.  Have a look!

This is definitely the most unique ATX rear panel I've ever seen on a consumer board.  Notice the complete lack of legacy ports - this includes PS/2, ATA, serial, parallel, the whole shebang! Instead, we get 4 USB 1.1 ports, 2 USB 2.0 ports, a pair of IEEE1394 FireWire ports, full analog 5.1 audio out, digital audio out, and a LAN connector.  This is what really sets the MAX boards apart.  It is FINALLY time to get rid of that old Dexxa ball mouse that came with your first SVGA card.  While you're at it, toss out that old Dot Matrix printer, and even the $13 keyboard with the ASDFJKL: keys completely rubbed off! Abit steps into a new era of computing with the MAX boards

There are some other noticeable differences in the board layout.  First off, you are only going to get 3 PCI slots.  This is because most of the peripherals that would use a PCI slot, such as the Ethernet adapter and sound card, are already onboard.  Personally I've never used more than 3 PCI slots, and with this board, not a single slot it used.  Yep, 3 should definitely be enough.

Despite having all the next-gen high performance capabilities, SCSI is still absent.  This proves that while the AT7 is a very high end board, it is still targeted to the consumer market.  Thanks, Abit!

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