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Review: ABIT AT7 Motherboard

by Ryszard Sommefeldt on 6 May 2002, 00:00

Tags: abit

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Introduction

If you've been living under a technologically repellant stone (some stones have wireless I hear) for the past couple of months, this motherboard will have passed you by. It's being touted, as we speak, by the popular online technological press as the next step in personal computing, the next big thing. But why?

Change seems to happen quickly in the personal computer market doesn't it? It took us over 10 years to break the magical 1GHz barrier in a consumer microprocessor but less than 12 months to get to 2GHz. Every 6 months, the graphics card giant NVIDIA releases a new, faster graphics processor guaranteed to blow you away. They run on a 12 month product cycle per GPU. NV25 has just been released in the last couple of months. Expect to see the new one in around 10 months time. A lot happens in the computer industry in 10 months. Or so you'd think.

So called legacy ports and interfaces, such as ISA, serial, parallel and PS/2 have been around since I've owned a proper personal computer, some 7 years. 84 months is a long time in computing is it not? That's 7 full products from NVIDIA with a spring refresh for each! But still the 'legacy' interfaces live on.

Well here's the rub. ABIT have decided that now is the time for those interfaces to go. In the days of sweeping technological change, you'd think they have a point. These old interfaces are slow and clumsy right? FireWire and USB have sprung up in the last few years to become the defacto standards for connecting new peripherals to your computer. You buy a scanner or printer these days and it will connect to your computer most likely via the USB port. Sure you can buy a parallel scanner or parallel printer but on the whole, you'd be hard pushed to find one.

But it's the old adage that keeps springing to mind. If it isn't broken, don't fix it. So why should ABIT decide that these interfaces are to go? Why don't they want them around any more? For this I think you have to thank Microsoft. Every now and again, Microsoft brings out a forward thinking specification for future PC's. They describe what interfaces a PC will have and what ones it wont. They claim that the interfaces are old, cause instability in current operating systems (really!) and have no place in the future of computing. I don't know about you but my PS/2 keyboard and serial modem work great, every time.

But so it happens. Things must move on and these ports and interfaces must go. ABIT are the litmus test in a big industry experiment with their MAX series of boards (there are others!) that are ditching the physical serial, parallel and PS/2 interfaces in favour of USB, more USB and some FireWire with a hint of USB thrown in for good measure. The industry holds its breath while this motherboard does the rounds. Will people be glad to see the back of the old stuff? Will the USB convertor industry reach new heights? Will sales of USB keyboards go through the roof?

That's what these reviews are for! To convince you that boards like this AT7 with a lack of old interfaces are a good thing and to make those things happen. So I better have a good stab at it. Here goes...