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AOpen AK89 Max / AK86-L (AMD 64) Mainboard

Manufacturer: AOpen
Supplied by: AOpen
Street Price: AK89 Max ~ $125 / AK86-L ~ $110

by Dean Barker (3/29/2004)

Introduction

AOpen has long been known for offering a variety of products emphasizing stability and advanced features for the mainstream computer component and peripheral market.  One of the many products they produce are mainboards, designed for numerous chipsets and platforms.  Today we take an opportunity to look over a couple of the Athlon 64 boards being released from AOpen based on two competing chipsets.  The two boards we have for review are the AK89 Max based on the NVidia nForce3 chipset and the AK86-L based on the VIA K8T800 chipset. 

Both of these boards share many of the features AOpen has developed over time.  Some of the more noteworthy of these are the EZ Clock, WatchDog ABS System, SilentTek Noise Reduction Technology, SilentBIOS Noise Reduction Technology, EZ WinFlash and their EZ Restore.  Each of these is worthwhile and deserves some explanation.  So before we jump into the specifications and differences of the two boards we just mentioned, I want to take this opportunity to explain some of what they have in common as far as the features I listed above.

EZ Clock: AOpen has followed suite with several other mainboard manufacturers in offering software to change overclocking settings on the fly that previously you would have had to adjust from within the BIOS.  EZ Clock is exactly what it sounds like; it allows you the ability to change the CPU front side bus as well as the clock frequencies and voltages for AGP, VGA, PCI and your DRAM with ease.

WatchDog ABS: While this is not necessarily a new feature to AOpen, it is a very noteworthy one.  What the WatchDog ABS does is it detects your system when it POSTs.  If the system fails during POST, the WatchDog ABS reboots the system and resets your system to the detected factory settings for your processor.  This comes in handy if you are overclocking and lock your system up.  Without the WatchDog, you would be opening up your case to clear your CMOS if you served up too much sauce on your overclock.

SilentTek Noise Reduction: Most of us have seen the rheobus units that automatically adjust fan speed based on the temperature read from a thermal probe.  SilentTek is effectively the same thing but it ties the mainboard’s onboard hardware monitoring and fan headers together for the same end result of controlling a fan’s speed.  This can be set between the fully automatic “Smart Fan Control”, manually setting up the scaling of fan speed to temperatures detected or selecting a fixed speed setting for all times.

SilentBIOS Noise Reduction: This is effectively the same thing as the SilentTek except it runs while the computer is booting up before the operating system is loaded.  Its settings are adjusted from within the BIOS to “Smart Fan Control”, full speed or fixed speed to affect CPU Fan 1 and SYS Fan 2.

EZ WinFlash: Flash your BIOS from within Windows instead of with a floppy.  Nuff said.

EZ Restore: Most of us are familiar with Window XP’s System Restore which allows you to change your settings to be what they were at an earlier time.  EZ Restore functions along the same lines except it is done within the BIOS.  The value here is if you are playing with drivers/settings and hose up your box to the point you can’t boot up your OS, you aren’t screwed.  Enter the BIOS on POST and give yourself a ‘do-over.’


NEXT

Page 1 - Introduction
Page 2 - AK86-L  Layout and Features
Page 3 - AK86-L  BIOS
Page 4 - AK89 Max  Layout and Features
Page 5 - AK89 Max  Layout and Features (cont)
Page 6 - AK89 Max  BIOS
Page 7 - Benchmarking  Productivity
Page 8 - Benchmarking  Gaming
Page 9 - Overclocking and Conclusion


 



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