Articles: Mainboards

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PCB Design and Functionality

The noble black color of the abit AW9D-MAX PCB goes very well with the shiny metallic surfaces and reminds of a black tux with a white shirt. This is a classy product, without any vivid multi-color parts.

You can get a better idea of the location of certain elements from the scheme in the user’s guide. Here it is:

abit engineers paid special attention to the cooling solutions for different mainboard components. This seems to be one of the greatest strengths of this product and one of the most evident advantages. The chipset cooling is provided by the Silent OTES 2 system – a noiseless solution made of passive heatsinks and heatpipes. The heatpipes drive the heat to the heatsink covering half of the MOSFET transistors of the four-phase CPU voltage regulator. The other half of transistors hasn’t been forgotten, and is provided with a few smaller heatsinks to ensure proper cooling. All heatsinks on the mainboard are made of aluminum, but the small South Bridge heatsink features copper base.

By default, the chipset requires no active cooling, because the North and South Bridge heatsinks will be cooled down by the airflow generated by the processors cooler. However, very often it may be not enough, especially if the CPU is equipped with a liquid-cooling solution, if the processor cooler is relatively tall and there is no airflow generated around the socket, and during overclocking with significant increase of the chipset voltage. In this case additional cooling is necessary, but there won’t be any trouble putting one up on abit AW9D-MAX mainboard.

It is equipped with 8 fan connectors – an unprecedented number! Moreover, they are located exactly where you might need them. For example, two of them marked as OTESFAN1 and OTESFAN2 are right next to the MOSFET heatsink that receives the heat from the chipset. It will be the first one to require additional active cooling. Another connector is next to the chipset North Bridge heatsink, etc. We can control the rotation speed of all fans, which is also not a frequent feature on most mainboards. And the most interesting thing is that the rotation speed of all eight fans can be automatically adjusted depending on the temperature readings!

If we try to rate the abit AW9D-MAX mainboard from 1 to 5, it would get 6 points, or even 7 for the cooling system design and implementation. But this is not all about its great features, of course. Very often the mainboard developers would equip their products with additional onboard controllers in order to expand the product’s functionality or override some of the core logic limitations. In particular, one of the most widely spread examples is the additional RAID controller, and abit AW9D-MAX even has two of them! The first Silicon Image SiI3132 provides external eSATA support and one regular serial ATA connector, while the second one adds another two Serial ATA ports to the four already provided by the chipset. So, there are 7 internal Serial ATA ports total, which explain a pretty non-standard number of SATA cables included with the mainboard. Besides, abit AW9D-MAX mainboard is equipped with two gigabit PCI-E Realtek RTL8111B controllers and an additional IEEE1394 TSB43AB22A controller from Texas Instruments.

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