AOpen AK77-400 Max
Like many other mainboards, this product from AOpen may come in various flavors. We happened to snatch the most advanced variant. There are also AK77-400N without IEEE1394, Dr. Voice diagnostics system, Serial ATA and the backup BIOS chip and the simplest model, AK77, that doesn’t also have the network besides the features mentioned above.
The package is smaller than usual: the numerous accessories are packed like sardines in a tin box. However, we didn’t find any treasures inside. The user’s manual is made in an original format, while a double-sided A2 poster with colorful photos can serve as a guide to various settings and connections.
AOpen AK77-400 Max: Features
As I have already mentioned, this mainboard offers a wide range of functions, although most of them don’t need many comments. Yeah, we have Serial ATA, FireWire, 6-channel sound with S/PDIF support (and an appropriate bracket for the case rear panel), but we see the same things in other mainboards, too. So, we’d better talk about the unique features of this particular product.
First of all, it is the voice diagnostics system called Dr. Voice. The technology works when there is some problem during POST. The mainboard stops starting up and informs you about it in a woman’s voice through the PC speaker or the external speaker set connected to the sound card. In the first case, the quality of sound is very poor, and sometimes it’s not quite clear what the mess is all about (I deliberately tried this function by alternately uninstalling memory and the graphics card and over-overclocking the processor). The mainboard offers you one more doctor – Dr. LED. This chubby guy does the same job as the diagnostics LEDs in MSI’s mainboard. He is smarter, though. The problem is indicated by means of a LED with an appropriate caption so you don’t have to refer to the manual to decipher it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t test Dr. LED in action: although the necessary connector was onboard, the Dr. LED bracket was missing in the package. Anyway, I had enough fun with Dr. Voice shouting at me through my own speaker set.
The second technology to draw my attention was Die-Hard BIOS: two BIOS chips onboard to restore one another in case of failure. Such technologies (for example, DualBIOS from Gigabyte) were quite popular during the epidemic of the Win32.CIH virus that damaged BIOS chips. In a while, the epidemic subsided and the technology was abandoned: it did make the mainboard more expensive. Anyway, the problems with BIOS remained acute. For example, in case of accidental power disconnect during BIOS re-flashing. So the Die-Hard BIOS from AOpen is a definite advantage. By the way, now that we are talking about BIOS, I should mention the VividBIOS technology: the mainboard allows selecting the startup logo. The logo can be in the GIF format and even animated!