Issues and Conclusion
The performance from the Abit Fatal1ty AN8 motherboard was very consistent with what we have seen from other nForce4 motherboards so far. The performance on the board is fantastic — just not much more fantastic than the other three we tested. The fact remains that if performance is a big part of your buying decision (and surely it is) that decision really comes down to AMD vs Intel, not board vendor vs board vendor. With the memory controller no longer in the hands of the chipset designers, all motherboards are basically put on equal ground in terms of performance; this used to be the case for similar chipset motherboards. (And in fact, that still is the case on the Intel front, but that’s another article.)
The overclocking performance was a different story, and this is one area where board manufacturers can compete still. The Abit Fatal1ty AN8 registered our fastest stock overclock of this Athlon 64 4000+ processor with a FSB of 272 MHz without any other changes in the BIOS. That is a hell of a mark, and if we started to play with voltages and lower multipliers, I think we’d see 350 MHz as a very feasible option.
Features is what a motherboard is all about now and is one of the last areas where products and vendors can be differentiated. The AN8 features four SATA channels, and support for all ten USB 2.0 connections that the chipset provides. The OTES system that cools down the motherboard MOSFETs and capacitors is a unique and useful addition to an enthusiast motherboard, as is the RAMFlow cooling device. The 5.1 channel audio using the AudioMAX riser card is still based on an AC’97 codec, but it does have SPDIF optical support.
The Phoenix BIOS that Abit has developed for their Fatal1ty line is the best and most well rounded I have seen in some time. It offers all the overclocking features that enthusiasts are going to want as well as introducing useable extras like the FanEQ, and detailed voltage, temperature and fan monitoring. Taking all of that into Windows via the Abit uGuru software makes it all the more appetizing.
The board does lack the pure abundance of features that are on both the Gigabyte and Asus motherboards: 8 Serial ATA channel, dual Gigabit networking, 7.1 channel audio. If you need those features or would really like them, then peruse those reviews as well.
Some might question the ability to call the Abit Fatal1ty AN8 the “ultimate gaming motherboard” simply because it lacks support for the current, ultimate gaming feature: SLI. Simply adding an SLI chipset and placing another x16 connector isn’t going to work; there are a lot of other design changes that are going to have to be made to make it fit.
Back when discussions of the AN8 began, there was mention of another Abit motherboard coming (after the NF4 Ultra) with the SLI chipset on it. But unfortunately I haven’t been privy to any additional information on it since.
Pricing on our past reviews has found that the latest round of AMD motherboards have become significantly more expensive, due no doubt to the cost of the nForce4 chipset. But, those were all SLI boards we have reviewed in the past, what about the new Fatal1ty AN8? From our pricing engine, we found the Fatal1ty AN8 for under $190 — a decent, but not “must have” price point. More interestingly, we found the standard Abit AN8 motherboard for under $140 at many locations! That is a more reasonable price point for the enthusiast buyer. What do you lose for that price reduction? Basically just the RAMFlow device and the pretty box. I’d definitely look into both options before making your final purchase.
To my great surprise, I didn’t run into a single issue while testing the Fatal1ty AN8 motherboard in terms of features, drivers or stability. They all worked right out of the box, the first time, which is a feature that often gets left off of motherboards. Heh.
If I had to pick something on the board to be disgruntled about though I would choose the lack of a higher quality audio system. MSI and Asus are both coming out with boards including a Creative on-board sound chip and that would help sound quality and overall system performance when gaming significantly.
My impression on the Abit Fatal1ty AN8 motherboard is that it is a much better candidate for “ultimate gaming motherboard” than the previous Fatal1ty product we reviewed. The board is a great performer, floating at the top of all of our benchmark results. It has a competent feature set to meet a majority of enthusiast’s and gamer’s needs. It has a BIOS to kill for. That alone makes it worth a good, long look for an upgrade.
But there are just a few things that linger with me about the board: no SLI support, lower standard audio support, standard I/O support. None of these are fatal mistakes for the AN8 at all, it just seems like Abit chose to go the more “meager and faster” approach to the motherboard, rather than include a bunch of additional features. There is a good sized market for boards like this, gamer’s being one of them. But there is also a large portion of the enthusiast market that does want the high quality on-board audio, additional SATA channels and SLI, etc.
If these are items you don’t need or want, then the Fatal1ty AN8 may end up being the perfect board for you.
Be sure to use our price checking engine to find the best prices on the new Abit Fatal1ty AN8 , and anything else you may want to buy!