AOpen AK77-600 MAX
This content was originally featured on Amdmb.com and has been converted to PC Perspective’s website. Some color changes and flaws may appear.Layout
The AOpen KT600 motherboard is one of the first I have seen from the manufacturer that is aimed squarely at the enthusiast market. It is great to see a manufacturer trying again to find out what the hardcore market wants to see. Did they get it right with this attempt?
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Starting with the CPU socket, we see that AOpen included the 4 mounting holes required for some larger heatsinks that enthusiasts often use. The holes are actually lined with a metal protector unlike many of the other boards that leave bare PCB on the holes. While the socket is turned so that the removal of your memory DIMMs is required for installation and removal of the heatsink, there seems to be adequate room around the socket for some of the larger heatsinks – the only possible problem lies with the capacitors to the left of the processor socket.
The ATX power connector is placed below the processor and to the left of the north bridge. This placement forces the ATX cable to go over the heatsink, which we don’t like. Add that to the fact that the tab that locks the connector down is placed right next to a fan power connector, and I just can’t see why they put it there. If they had simply turned it around to face the other direction, I’d be content. AOpen opted to not include the additional 4-pin ATX power connector on their board which promotes a stable current to the processor.
The three DIMM slots on the AOpen KT600 boards do pose a problem when an AGP graphics card is installed. It is a test to install or remove the DIMMs in this case. I recommend just removing the graphics card rather than squeezing them in behind it.
The north bridge is covered by your basic heatsink that offers no particular benefit to the enthusiast. It is attached merely with some thermal tape, so don’t expect a lot from the heatsink if it comes to overclocking.
AOpen takes a mixed approach to the IDE configuration. The two standard IDE channels from the VIA south bridge are up with the DIMM slots making installation easy. The floppy connector and additional IDE channel from the Promise controller are on the bottom half of the board, pointed away from the board itself. The Serial ATA ports are separated enough to be able to tell the primary channels from the secondary channels.
There is a unique AGP retention clip on the board as well, that makes it a bit easier to open when a large graphics card with capacitors all over it is installed. AOpen also took it up a level with the addition of a 6th PCI slot as well. Though, with all the features on these boards, the need for more than a few PCI slots is becoming questionable.
The case jumper connector panel on the board is color coded for easy installation without the need to look in the manual for a detail layout of the board.
The AOpen AK77-600 MAX board is packed with features. There are a total of four SATA channels on the board, two from the VIA VT8237 south bridge and the other two from the addition of the Promise PDC 20378 chipset. Both channels 1/2 and 3/4 support RAID functionality, so this is a storage enthusiast’s dream.
AOpen has adopted a dual BIOS safety option they are calling DIE-HARD Bios. Basically, if your primary bios gets pooched, you can switch to the backup and restore the primary bios.
On the external headers on the board, we see there are 6 USB 2.0 channels easily accessible, as well as a Broadcom Gigabit network integrated onto the motherboard. A Realtek chipset adds 6-channel audio support to the motherboard, but you’ll need the additional header installed to complete all 6 channels. Two channels of Firewire are included on the motherboard as well, but require the additional headers.
AOpen also tried to give the user all they would need, right out of the box. They have included two SATA data cables and one SATA power adaptor. A USB + Game connector header is included as well, which is a rarity in motherboards. A Firewire header with two connectors is included to take advantage of the Firewire on the board.
You get two IDE cables and a floppy cable as well as a connector for Optical and Composite Input and Output for use on the Realtek chipset. You get Norton Antivirus software and some more with it as well and a good quality manual.
The AOpen bios had a few unique points that I haven’t seen before – like a credits section! 🙂 It also allows you to save your own EEPROM defaults instead of having to the use the factory defaults. This is great news for overclockers that want to set a default series of options, then work up from there, as it allows you to easily revert to a past setting if your overclock fails.
Here you can see the CPU frequency adjustments and voltage settings. The frequency goes up to 248 MHz and the DDR ratio can be set to 1.33x, 1.66x, 2.00x the CPU frequency. The voltages available are – CPU: 1.85v, AGP: 1.60v, DDR: 2.8v. Also, I think their layout of this screen is something new and a good way to display a lot of the information all at once.
The memory timings screen looks like something we are quite familiar with. All the settings you see here are at their minimums, so there is a lot of room for overclockers to try and push their systems.
AOpen also included a good little SilentBios hardware monitor feature that allows you to adjust the fan speed at different times including during boot and when entering the operating system.
Finally, I though AOpen’s screen during POST was a good example of how a motherboard manufacturer can make the enthusiasts life easier by displaying all the major settings during each reboot of the machine.
I ran into a few of the same problems with the AOpen motherboard and memory configurations as I did with other boards like the Abit. However, the AOpen was more “consistent” in its inability to use some memory configurations.