Articles: Mainboards
 

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As for the drivers, I suggest that you do not disregard the Realtek driver. The thing is that the drivers from this vendor ensure significantly lower CPU utilization. You can check it out by running an audiotest from the 3DMark03 test suite. Here are the results:

 

3D Sound Test
(No sound)

3D Sound Test
(24 sounds)

Performance Drop

NVIDIA Drivers

86.2 fps

71.6 fps

16.9%

Realtek Drivers

86.2 fps

75.3 fps

12.6%

So, the question about the most optimal audio driver for ABIT Fatal1ty AN8 mainboard is still open and the answer depends on your individual needs in each particular case. What is more important to you: sound quality or system performance? When you answer this question the choice will be made.

Speaking about other mainboard features besides onboard sound, we have to stress that ABIT engineers decided not to overload their solution with the whole bunch of additional onboard controllers. Almost all the mainboard features are determined by the NVIDIA nForce4 Ultra chipset it is based on. However, since this chipset is very feature rich itself, ABIT Fatal1ty AN8 turned out pretty rich in various functions.

The mainboard supports four Serial ATA II ports (with NCQ support and 3Gbit/s data transfer rate) and two Parallel ATA-133 ports. The hard disk drives connected to these ports can be united into RAID arrays of levels 0, 1 and 0+1.

The mainboard also features 10 USB 2.0 ports. Four of them are laid out on the back panel of the board, and the remaining six are represented as three onboard pin-connectors. ABIT Fatal1ty AN8 mainboard ships with a bracket with two additional USB 2.0 ports for this one of these connectors, which brings another pair of Hi-Speed USB 2.0 ports to the rear panel of your system case.

Due to the Gigabit network controller built into NVIDIA nForce4 Ultra chipset, ABIT Fatal1ty AN8 also supports 1Gbit/s network interface. We have already mentioned this network solution a few times in our previous reviews. All its advantages including hardware Secure Networking Engine and NVIDIA Firewall 2.0 work impeccably on ABIT Fatal1ty AN8 mainboard.

The only functional feature on this mainboard, which has been implemented via an external PCI controller, is IEEE1394 ports. TI TSB43AB22A microchip provides two IEEE1394a ports with 400Mbit/s bandwidth. One of these ports is laid out on the rear panel of the board. As for the second port, a funny thing happened to it. There is a pin-connector for the second IEEE1394 port on the mainboard PCB, however, the bracket supplied together with ABIT Fatal1ty AN8 board has two IEEE1394 ports on it. This way, you will be able to connect actually only one of these ports, while the cable leading to the second IEEE1394 port on the bracket will be just hanging idly inside the PC case.

Among the absolutely unique features of ABIT Fatal1ty AN8 I would like to mention the integrated diagnostic POST controller, which is an extremely useful tool for localizing hardware problems, if there are any.

 
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