Articles: Mainboards

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The last technology I would like to say a few words about is SilentTek. As you may have guessed, it is intended to reduce the noise from the system case. You need a special Windows utility for this technology to operate properly (the utility, of course, comes on the CD with the mainboard). Well, it may be better to adjust all the settings in BIOS, but I doubt all the options could be fully taken into BIOS. I won’t describe the settings and controls you can apply to the fans, just believe they are numerous and very flexible.

Summing up the mainboard’s features, I should say that AOpen did make an extraordinary mainboard and provided it with a number of original technologies, which definitely deserve paying attention to.

Let’s go on now and discuss the PCB design of AOpen AK77-400 Max.

AOpen AK77-400 Max:  PCB Design

This mainboard is well designed. Cables attached to connectors won’t hinder the airflow inside the case or PCI cards installation. Anyway, I found a thing to get annoyed with: the first two DIMM slots stand too close to each other, so if you use modules with heat-spreaders (for example, those from Corsair), there will be little space left between them. In this case, the heat-spreaders may make cooling worse rather than better.

This mainboard is also not free from the widespread problem of modern products: the installed AGP graphics card blocks DIMM slot latches. A slight drawback is the placement of one USB connector and the game port between PCI slots, so you may encounter difficulties in plugging-in an expansion card. However, these are all minor inconveniences.

The power supply of the mainboard is up to the mark, too. The CPU is powered via a three-phase circuit. Higher power voltage purity is achieved by using three high-value capacitors. Besides, the power supply circuit is impulse rather than linear as in most modern mainboards. Although, this is not critical, that’s a pleasant fact. By the way, notwithstanding the great attention they paid to power circuitry, they didn’t solder up an additional 12V connector.

The only thing that disappointed me in this board was the necessity to set up the FSB frequency with the jumpers. Not the exact frequency, of course, but the range we will work with in the BIOS. Well, actually three mainboards of the reviewed six can be blamed for that. You can set any FSB frequency directly from the BIOS only in the mainboards from ABIT, EPoX and Soltek. However, AOpen set me the hardest task with this jumper: its location is described in the enclosed poster I told you about, but not in the user’s manual. So, I spent about half an hour trying to launch the processor at its proper frequency. Of course, that was my mistake as I could be smart enough to check the poster, but why didn’t they duplicate the info in the manual? I think they should have done it and hopefully they will make up for this drawback soon.

Summing up, I’d like to say that the mainboard leaves a good impression, slightly spoiled by the accident with the FSB-setting jumper.

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