ABIT is a company that needs no introduction in the world of enthusiasts and overclockers. Their most recent product line called the Fatal1ty series has generated a lot of hype and expectations in its target market. We had the pleasure of reviewing the first Intel offering in this line, the Fatal1ty AA8XE, a few months back and was very impressed by its performance and overclocking capability. It was an overclocking gem.
However as the line is marketed for gamers, it was only necessary that they come out with an AMD counterpart. Though a little bit late, the market was so looking forward for this offering.That is why when they released the Fatal1ty AN8 board based on the socket 939 nForce 4 Ultra chipset, we were excited to say the least to find out if it would overclock and go the limits just like the 1st Fatal1ty board we tested.
Well today we will find out as we put the ABIT Fatal1ty AN8 to the test and run it through its paces. We’ll find out if ABIT has brought us another winner with their much awaited AMD Fatal1ty offering.
Engineered by ABIT. Game-tested and approved by Fatal1ty. The Fatal1ty Hardware Series represents the culmination of ABIT Engineering with the gaming prowess and experience of Johnathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel, the world’s most recognized professional gamer. The result of this collaboration is a gaming platform with no equal, specifically engineered for the gamer that demands nothing less than the very best.
By harnessing the power of the NVIDIA nForce 4 Ultra chipset with AMD Athlon 64/64FX support and combining it with exclusive ABIT Engineered features, the Fatal1ty AN8 delivers extreme stability and performance for the discerning AMD gamer.
The packaging of the ABIT Fatal1ty AN8 is no different from the Intel counterpart. It comes in a black box with the Fatal1ty logo emblazoned in the center. Opening the fliptop box cover, you will find the “BUILT TO KILL” trademark and windowed cutouts showcasing some of the unique features of the board. The motherboard itself is encased in a shockproof, antistatic, clear plastic container for further protection from accidental damage on the box during transit.
The motherboard also follows the same red and black color coding as the first one that we find very attractive and appealing to a gamer. It’s a safe choice of colors for most tastes.
This nForce 4 Ultra chipset uses a socket 939 platform. There are capacitors around the socket area but should not post as a problem to whatever cooling solution you may use. This ensures that those using extra large heatsinks or waterblocks won’t have any space restrictions placed on them.
Just like its old brother, the ATX power supply header is located on the bottom center of the PCB and is directly below the DIMM slots. This means less clutter caused by power cables resulting in better airflow inside the case. Note that it also uses the new ATX 2.0 standard, thus, the 24 pin configuration. Do note though that it is backward compatible to old PSUs, thus, there is no need to upgrade at the present just so you can use this board. We used an old 20-pin PSU on ours and it showed no faults or errors whatsoever. It also has a +12v connector situated on the right side of the board just beside the DIMM slots.
The ABIT Fatal1ty AN8 uses the NF4 Ultra chipset which supports four DDR DIMMs up to 4Gb maximum. The DIMM slots are also color coded for easy Dual Channel configuration. The memory DIMMs also employ an ABIT first integrated memory cooling system called OTES RAMFlow. This unit has an overhead fan that actively cools the modules and their heatspreaders from the above. Finally, there is a fan header located just below the DIMM slots to power the fans. In the first Fatal1ty board, you have to run the fan cable to the other side of the board to power it.
Clearance between the PCI-Express card and the DIMM slots is excellent. There is heaps of room to add and remove RAM without having to remove the graphics card. It also comes equipped with a PCI-E lock which is quite handy when moving your rig from place to place as in the case of LANs.
There are 3 PCI slots, 2 PCI-E x1 slots and one PCI-E x16 slot. The PCI-E graphics slot delivers up to 8GB/s per direction for 3.5 times more bandwidth than AGP8X. There is also the presence of an Audio Riser port for the included audio riser card.
The board supports 2 Ultra DMA 33/66/100/133 connectors which is really good especially for those who are still using IDE HDDs. It also has 4 x SATA II connectors that supports up to 3Gbps data transfer rate. NV SATA RAID is also supported- SATA RAID 0/1/0+1 JBOD.
Firewire is provided by Texas Instrument’s TSB43AB22a chip. This IEEE1394 chip provides up to 400Mbps transfer rate. A total of 3 firewire ports is supported with this board. Included in the package is a USB/Firewire bracket. It has 2 USB ports, 1 Firewire port and a Digital I/O port.
The Fatal1ty AN8 board of course features ABIT’s uGURU technology. µGuru integrates a hardware microchip which interacts with Windows-based software applications to maximize PC performance and stability, while allowing for zero CPU usage. µGuru features ABIT AutoDrive™ overclocking, advanced audio features, auto FAN speed control, self-diagnostic H/W monitoring, one click BIOS updating, and 24 hours e-service. µGuru combines ABIT EQ, OC Guru, FlashMenu and BlackBox applications with a user-friendly interface, providing users perfect environment for performance and stability. For a full understanding of the uGURU technology, go here.
Audio performance is also top-notch with 5.1 channel audio backed by ABIT’s AudioMAX technology. By using a separate daughter card for audio connectors, ABIT Engineers have greatly reduced the amount of noise caused by high frequencies generated from the motherboard.
There is a total of 5 fan headers which all strategically positioned on the motherboard. 2 headers are exclusively used by the northbridge fan and the OTES fans leaving 3 available fan headers. Place the cpu fan and the OTES RAMFlow fan and you are still left with one free fan header.
This board also features on-board ultra-bright red LEDs integrated underneath the PCB that lights up the board’s surroundings. LEDs are also located around the inners of the OTES cooling system. Great light effect for those with windowed cases.
You will also find a 2 digit LED display attached to the board. It is a diagnostic tool aimed at providing vital information on what’s happening to your board. It is located just above the IDE connectors. Enthusiasts will find this tool very helpful when subjecting the board to extreme overclocking. The LED displays a corresponding number, hex code, for every task and error that will occur on the board. There is a list of the meanings of each number on the user’s manual as reference.
The Fatal1ty AN8 delivers impressive thermal performance for the serious gamer right out of the box. It boasts some of ABIT’s most innovative cooling solution signature to the Fatal1ty Hardware Series. All automatically controlled via µGuru for the optimal balance of thermal and acoustic performance.
ABIT Dual OTES Technology- This is an exhaust system designed to extract heat away from the mosfet and the socket area. It acts as a vent where warm air is sucked out by dual fans located at the back of the I/O panel. Works with ABIT FanEQ to automatically adjust fan speeds for the optimal balance of thermal and acoustic performance.
ABIT OTES RAMFlow Technology- As the name suggest, it is an active cooler for the RAM. The design of the RAMFlow allows for the overhead cooling of the memory modules. This special cooler adjusts according to system loading for automatic fan speed adjustment.
All-Copper Chipset Cooler- The Fatal1ty AN8 also features an all-copper chipset cooler, which draws heat three times more efficiently than conventional aluminum coolers.
MOSFET Thermal Solution- With a special layout and heatsinks, this exclusive PWM design keeps all MOSFETs
Just like the nForce 3, the nForce 4 Ultra chipset employs a single chip design. Meaning it doesn’t have a northbridge and southbridge like most core logic chipsets. This design eliminates the need to communicate between chipsets thus removing any possible bottlenecks or blocks. Partnered with an Athlon 64 chip that has its own memory controller built-in, the nForce 4 Ultra single chip design sounds like the perfect package. This unique single-chip, low-latency architecture offers one of the industry’s best core-logic solutions with outstanding performance and market leading features.
NVIDIA nForce4 Ultra MCP- This is the media and communication processors that handle all the chipset’s functions. This unique single-chip, low latency 64-bit architecture offers maximum performance with the lowest latency and some very unique features and the latest technologies—PCI Express, secure high-speed networking, and high-performance storage—and ensures that your PC stays ready for the newest games, future applications, and next-generation PC specifications. The nForce 4 Ultra’s single-chip design also means less power consumption and less heat dissipation.
The nForce 4 Ultra MCP is actively cooled by an all copper heatsink. This is indeed a step up in onboard chipset cooling as most boards uses aluminum. Note that they also used thermal paste which to me is far better than a thermal pad.
PCI Express Support- Designed to run perfectly with the next-generation PCI Express bus architecture. This new bus doubles the bandwidth of the AGP 8X bus, delivering over 4 GB per second in both upstream and downstream data transfers.
ActiveArmor Secure Networking Engine- Enhances network security while delivering the highest system performance by offloading CPU-intensive packet filtering tasks in hardware, providing users with a PC networking environment that is both fast and secure.
ActiveArmor Firewall- A high-performance, hardware-optimized firewall, ActiveArmor Firewall protects your PC from intruders by filtering unauthorized traffic. Integrated into select NVIDIA nForce MCPs (media communication processors) with NVIDIA Gigabit Ethernet, it provides professional-grade traffic inspection capabilities, advanced management features–remote access, configuration, and monitoring–and is easy to use and setup via a user-friendly wizard.
SATA II 3Gb/s- Take advantage of the latest SATA 3Gb/s hard disk drives, which double bus bandwidth and provide blazingly high disk performance. SATA 3Gb/s drives include full support for native and tagged command queuing, and for hot plug. Native command queuing provides higher disk performance in a multi-threaded environment by performing out-of-order disk accesses.
NVIDIA Native Gigabit Ethernet- The industry’s fastest Gigabit Ethernet performance, eliminates network bottlenecks and improves overall system efficiency and performance.
?Guru- Exclusive ABIT Engineered motherboard technology designed for unprecedented power, convenience, and control over your PC. Allows you to control a variety of settings manually and/or automatically.
BulletProof Technology- Uncompromising quality, stability and reliability for the end user. Top quality components such as 100% Japanese capacitors provide unmatched reliability. Each motherboard is painstakingly assembled, and then put through the Torture Test, ensuring a product that stands up to the heat of battle. With BulletProof Technology, the Fatal1ty AN8 delivers advanced durability for the discerning gamer.
Just like the first Fatal1ty board, the AN8 doesn’t offer any other extra aside from the normal bits that goes with most motherboards. Included in the box are SATA cables, SATA power cables, rounded ATA100 cable, rounded floppy cable, 5.1 Channel HD Audio Daughter card, manuals, installation guides, software CD, I/O backpanel shield, a USB and Firewire bracket and an ABIT Case Badge.
We will only focus on the 2 most important parts of the BIOS, the uGURU Utility and the Advance Chipset Features. These areas are the ones that you would likely be fiddling with when pushing this board to the limits. Most of the other options are the common ones you see in most BIOSes and are self explanatory. Note that we flashed our AN8′s BIOS to the most current one at the time of the review, BIOS ID: 1.3.
uGURU Utility- This is the board’s overclocking control center. This is where all your overclocking options are located. You can also find the ABIT EQ here that controls all the fans and monitors all the voltage and temperature readings.
The amount of voltage and frequency options is indeed very comprehensive. Out of the box, the BIOS will definitely provide you with all the tweaks you can manipulate. Some enthusiast though will find the voltage ceiling in some areas as conservative. Whether the BIOS adjustments are enough to push this board to the max, we will soon find out.
External clock (HTT)- Can be adjusted up to 410MHz in increments of 1MHz. That’s a lot of headroom for systems that are up to it.
Multiplier Factor- As Athlon 64s are unlocked, this feature will be very important when overclocking. Multiplier options on AMD Athlon 64 chips are only unlocked from its default multiplier going down. The AN8 allows the BIOS to go down to as low as 4x and up to 10x in increments of 0.5x. This is of course based on our test processor, an Athlon 64 3200+ Venice core.
PCIE Clock- Can be adjusted from 100 to 145MHz. We left ours at the default 100MHz. We thought leaving this option untouched would be the best.
Voltages Control- This can be set as Auto Detect or User Define. CPU, DDR, DDR VTT, nForce4, and HyperTransport voltages can be adjusted manually. There is also an additional voltage adjustment for DDR and CPU voltages where you can adjust the voltage by increments of 10mV on top of the reference voltage. That is indeed a comprehensive list of options that you can tweak. Every imaginable voltage adjustments necessary for pushing the system to its limit is present in this Fatal1ty AN8 board.
CPU- Can be adjusted up to 1.75v for our particular processor. This can done in increments of 0.025v. Default for our processor is 1.4v.
DDR- Can be adjusted from 2.5v to 2.8v. Default for our particular test DDR is 2.6v.
DDR VTT- Can be adjusted from 1.25v to 1.4v. Default for ours is 1.3v.
nForce4- Can be adjusted from 1.5v to 1.8v. Default for ours is 1.5v.
HyperTransport- Can be adjusted from 1.2v to 1.35v. Default for ours is 1.2v.
DDR Ref. Voltage- Can be adjusted up to 1.0v in increments of 10mV over reference voltage.
CPU Ref. Voltage- Can be adjusted up to 1.0v in increments of 10mV over reference voltage.
ABIT EQ- This is further divided into ABIT EQ Beep Control, Temperature Monitoring, Voltage Monitoring, Fans Speed Monitoring, FanEQ1 and FanEQ2 Control. The Fan EQ controls the CPU, Northbridge, System, OTES 1 and OTES 2 fans and can be setup to automatically turn off and on at a certain reference temperature and voltage.
Advance Chipset Features- This controls the HT and the DRAM configurations . You can set it automatically or manually. HT Frequency adjustments can be set on Auto or 1-5x. The DRAM Configuration will give you all the memory timing adjustments you ever need. We only played with the DRAM clock and common CAS Latency timings. We left everything else on default.
Now that we have seen the phletora of BIOS options made available to us by the Fatal1ty AN8 board, let’s see how far we can overclock this board…
As we want to include results generated from the highest rock solid overclock this board could afford, we will go straight to this area of the review. I am pretty sure that this is what interests most of you anyway.
We will find out its overclockability in 2 ways: the maximum HTT and maximum MHz using our Athlon 64 3200+ (2GHz) Venice core chip.
Maximum HTT Overclock
We were able to take this board up to an incredible 345MHz HTT rock solid! Ran it 24/7 for a week without any errors whatsoever. Now that is indeed extreme. At this HTT,we are already running our 2GHz A64 @ 2.76GHz. Our multiplier was set at 8x with the HT at 3x. DRAM configuration was set at DDR266 giving us a memory bus speed of 230MHz (460MHz DDR) at this HTT speed.
At this overclock, we have achieved the highest rock solid FSB/HTT overclock of any board we have used or tested to date. It edged out our previous record holder set by another ABIT Fatal1ty board, the AA8XE i925XE. Now’s that keeping a good track record.
Maximum MHz Overclock
With the aid of our Athlon 64 3200+ Venice chip rated at 2GHz, we were able to overclock the chip using the Fatal1ty AN8 board up to an amazing 2.8GHz rock solid! That’s 800MHz overclock, brother. Even for an Intel chip, that would be exceptional. We achieved this feat by setting our processor’s multiplier at 8.5x and running it at 330MHz HTT. We added the customary few voltage adjustment here and there when overclocking and set the HT at 4x this time. At this HT setting, our total frequency is at a whopping 1320MHz. We also set our DDR to run at DDR266 whilst maintaning a CAS latency of CAS 2-3-2-5.
So in the graphs below, 2000/1000/400
would mean that the system is running at 2GHz
with the FSB/HTT running
at 1000MHz and the Memory Bus
Speed running at 400MHz.
is better applies to all benchmark scores unless specified.
scores show the higher spec Intel systems leading against the stock A64 3200+
powered AN8. But as soon as the A64 was overclocked, the P4s were no match
against the AMD systems.
the AN8 shines against the Intel system. The overclocked AN8 once again leading
this raw fps test, we can clearly see why the A64 is the best choice for gaming.
The AN8 systems lets the competition bite the dust. Look at the scores generated
by the overclocked 3200+.
proof that even a cheap A64 3200+ can outgun the more expensive Intel systems.
Overclocked, there’s more proof why the A64 is the premier choice for gaming.
story here with the stock AN8 beating both Intel system.
test shows the stock Fatal1ty AN8 at par with the Intel systems. However when
overclocked, the A64 leaves them all behind.
again, the cheaper A64 3200+ powered Fatal1ty AN8 cementing its dominance over
the Intel systems in this test.
and time again, ABIT has proven to us why they are the enthusiasts’ motherboard
manufacturer of choice. The Fatal1ty series has showed us that once again. The
Fatal1ty AN8 nForce4 Ultra board is another evidence of ABIT’s continous
commitment in producing boards that can go the limits.
board performed like magic in the 2 weeks that we tested it. Both at stock and
overclocked settings, the Fatal1ty AN8 never showed any sign of weakness.
Stability wise, this board has exceeded our expectations. Its performance
against the more expensive Intel counterpart is definitely impressive.
Overclocked, well, the results will speak for itself.
only issue we had was the inability of the board to function at 1T command rate
when all 4 DIMMs are populated. However this is not the board’s fault as this
issue can be blamed on the Athlon 64 processor’s memory controller. You will
find that this is a common problem with any Athlon 64 motherboard. When we tried
running the system with 4 x 512mb DDR modules, the board would not boot. We had
to remove the 2 modules and clear the CMOS at the same time before we can
initialize the board again. So do keep that in mind.
it comes to overclocking, it is where this board really shined. The components,
the cooling and the BIOS options all helped in making the Fatal1ty AN8 an
overclocking monster. How can anyone complain of 345MHz HTT rock solid with only
stock cooling. I have to give credit to the Venice core A64 3200+ that we used,
as it complemented this board perfectly. An 800MHz overclock using an AMD chip
is no simple feat out of the box. No doubt, the Fatal1ty AN8 is not only
“built to kill” but most definitely “built to overclock”.
the ABIT Fatal1ty is currently the most expensive AMD non-SLI board. As always,
quality and performance has its price. However, partner this with an inexpensive
Venice core AMD chip like the 3200+ and you have yourself one of the fastest
gaming rigs at budget price. The extra performance you will get from
overclocking will obviously offset the premium you paid for getting the Fatal1ty
you want to overclock your socket 939 processor, then you won’t be disappointed
with ABIT’s Fatal1ty AN8 nForce 4 Ultra board. This is one board that will
surely take your overclocking to the limits. It lived up to our highest expectation.
This board is a must have for all hardcore gamers and enthusiasts looking at an
extreme non-SLI setup. Of course, they now have the SLI version of this board.
If it performs and overclocks like this one, then you’ll have one of, if not,
the fastest gaming rigs available today.
What’s amazing is that all of this was achieved with just the stock cooler that came with our AMD chip. No added cooling was added on the mix. Now that is indeed one of the most amazing overclocks we have achieved on stock cooling here in our labs most especially for an AMD chip. And all out of the box.
Some probably thought that the lack of more DDR voltage adjustment would limit this board in their overclocking experience, then they are dead wrong. Because of the amount of DRAM configurations made available by this board’s BIOS, we never really needed that extra voltage in pushing our system to the limits.
It would be interesting to see as well how far we can go further if we strap a watercooler or a VapoChill LightSpeed to this system. But due to time constraints, we weren’t able to do so. However we will cover that soon and post an update to this review. For now let’s just see what an extra 800MHz on an AMD A64 3200+ chip can do to its performance.