Layout and Features (cont’d)
The 4-pin ATX connector here is mostly free of layout issues, though if you have SATA cables in the connections you might have to remove them to uninstall the cable if needed.
At the very top of the board you’ll notice an Abit-marked uGuru (pronounced micro-guru) and an LED diagnostic display. The Abit chip is actually made by Winbond and is the logic that keeps the Abit Windows-based software in touch with the hardware. The LED diagnostics display can help with some potential booting issues during initial installation.
Since are looking at an nForce4 SLI X16 motherboard, it should come as no surprise that we find two x16 PCIe slots. There are two additional PCI Express x1 connections as well as two legacy PCI slots for sound cards and other devices. There is a 4-pin Molex power connector at the bottom of the last PCIe slot for additional current on SLI configured systems.
Abit did try to improve on the PCIe GPU retention system that can be quite a pain in the rear when using two video cards. By placing the retention release mechanism on the outside of the top card, you can easily remove it without having to ram your fingers up under a heatsink. The secondary GPU slot has the clip facing down, making it more difficult to reach. Abit probably decided to not put it on the top like the primary PCIe slot as that would force you to remove the first card (and its dual slot heatsink in the way) in order to remove the second card. There seems to be no quick answer to the issue yet.
In the bottom corner of the board you find a large portion of input and output features. The SATA-II connections provided by the NVIDIA MCP are there as well as the header connections for the additional USB and Firewire dongles that Abit has provided in the box.
You can also see the two IDE channels that NVIDIA’s chipset provides for support of up to 4 legacy IDE devices like your CD and DVD burners.
The heatsink covering the NVIDIA MCP chip, supplier of the storage and networking connections as well as one of the X16 PCIe slots, is attached to the cooling system at the other end of the heatpipe. This allows the considerably hotter chip to be cooled even by the heatsink located at the top of the motherboard and have the heat moved out the vents on the back of the system back plate. The heatsink is low profile enough to cause no issues with any graphics cards on the market today.
Abit went with the Vitesse PHY chip to power the NVIDIA integrated Gigabit network connection.
The 8-channel audio support is driven by this Realtek ALC850 codec chip also in conjunction with NVIDIA’s built-in AC’97 audio solution.
Finally we see the exterior connections the Abit AN8 32X motherboard provides. There are two PS2 ports, a large gap for the heatsink airflow and then two SPDIF optical connections for both input and output signals. Analog audio connections are provided as well for up to 8 channels of audio as well as mic and input connections. A single Firewire and four USB 2.0 connections are provided as well as the single Gigabit network jack.