The performance of the Abit AN8-SLI Fatal1ty motherboard is good, but nothing spectacular. Pretty much all motherboards that are based on the NVIDIA nForce4 SLI or Ultra chipset are going to show the same performance numbers. As the memory controller is no longer in the chipset on the AMD platform, both chipset and motherboard vendors have had a difficult time finding a way to differentiate themselves from their competition in terms of performance. This has lead to “cheats” such as the Asus PEG Link Mode that actually overclocks your PCIe video card in order to improve gaming performance. The jury might still be out on whether or not Asus and the other companies doing this were “cheating”, but without an option to completely disable the feature, it is definitely coming under pressure.
Back to the board at hand, the Fatal1ty branded Abit SLI motherboard performs very well, and simply because it is based on the AMD platform, should actually give some credit to the claim of being the “ultimate gamer’s motherboard.”
Subplot: PC Perspective Motherboard Benchmarking
This is a slight turn from the review itself, but Jon and I have been discussing the possibility of heavily modifying our motherboard review doctrine to put a lot less work and emphasis into the performance and benchmark sections of the review. As you can see in this review, the benchmarking showed that there were only very very minor differences between all the competitors; is that even worth showing? Would a review that focuses more on the layout and features and extras be preferrable?
One possible solution is to focus on performance as well as features during new chipset releases, but only on features on individual motherboard reviews of that same chipset. Thoughts? I welcome any and all comments to both Jon and myself.
Features and Extras
The features included on the actual PCB of the Fatal1ty AN8-SLI motherboard weren’t anything to jump up and scream about, but they encompass what I feel most enthusiasts (and thus gamers) would probably want to see on their motherboard. There are four SATA channels and two IDE channels, more than enough storage options for just about any user except the extreme case, without any extra baggage to increase the price or complexity of the system. The on-board audio is probably not going to be used by anyone in that category of user either, so the inclusion of something special in the form of the riser card might just be wasted when the user plugs in their Audigy card or upcoming X-Fi card.
The extras that Abit has included in the box though are surprisingly robust. The OTES cooling solution that is used for SLI video cards that mounts over them is unique and very useful in those systems that see heat levels rising. The uGuru Panel is also a nice touch, having just the right connectivity options, hardware monitor and of course, the CMOS reset button that should be on every overclockers check list from now on.
The BIOS on the AN8-SLI Fatal1ty motherboard is about as tweaked out as they come, with all the overclocking options you could ask for. Some of them, like the 3.55v setting on the VDimm are among the highest we have seen on any motherboard. All the settings are organized well and seem to be placed in the correct order. The hardware monitoring options that Abit offers are still the best we have seen anywhere and the OC GURU settings that control the various fans on the motherboard can also be very useful for users wanting a quiet, yet high performing system when gaming.
This has consistantly been an issue with the Fatal1ty branded products, and the AN8-SLI is still a victim to it. The Fatal1ty AN8-SLI motherboard is currently selling for about $210 while the standard AN8-SLI sells for a much lower $140; that is a $70 price delta. What is different between the two models? The Fatal1ty model has active OTES cooling on the heatsink and MOSFETs while the standard has passive heatpipe cooling. You get rounded cables in the Fatal1ty box as well as the OTES SLI cooling fan and the uGuru Panel. If those differences are worth the additional money to you, then by all means, head over and grab the Fatal1ty AN8-SLI motherboard. While we are definitely impressed with the SLI cooling fan and the uGuru Panel, it may be hard for many of you to swallow the $70 price increase they require.
For the first time since we have started looking at and hearing about the Fatal1ty line of products coming from Abit, we can honestly say that this is the ultimate gamer and enthusiast motherboard on the market. It has all the right features, including an excellent BIOS and overclocking potential, but without all the bloat that some manufacturer’s include on their top level boards. The added features such as the OTES cooling fan for SLI configurations as well as the unique uGuru panel with CMOS reset button add a lot of the overall prestigue to the product. The price may be too high for some, and for those Abit has a more value-oriented version of the AN8-SLI, but I think that many of you will fall in love with the the Abit AN8-SLI Fatal1ty.
Be sure to use our price checking engine to find the best prices on the Abit Fatal1ty AN8-SLI, and anything else you may want to buy!
Be sure to use our price checking engine to find the best prices on the standard Abit AN8-SLI, and anything else you may want to buy!