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Review: HEXUS Dragon Tour - abit's wares for early '07

by Tarinder Sandhu on 3 January 2007, 09:00

Tags: abit

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qahk7

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Motherboards ahoy

It's no secret that abit, once the most innovative motherboard company in Taiwan, has had its fortunes wane in the last few years. Whatever the underlying reasons and associated power struggles that went on behind the scenes, the physical impact was manifested in late arrival of abit's motherboards to the retail channel and, consequently, its customer base, the enthusiast, looking elsewhere, with the likes of DFI and ASUS all too ready to pick up the pieces and carve their own niche in the enthusiast community.

abit, it seems, has reversed the downward trend, with technical and, to some extent, monetary backing from USI, its new owner, so during our winter tour to Taipei, HEXUS had the opportunity to visit the new-and-improved™ abit, who, unlike most others, had plenty to show.

Looking suitably happy with themselves, and they have good reason to, were our hosts. Would you buy a motherboard from this trio? Of course you would. We'll be seeing many of the products below at the upcoming CES 2007, as well.

Speaking of motherboards.

NVIDIA's nforce 680i chipset, we reckon, will be the enthusiast's LGA775 choice for early 2007. NVIDIA's partners fall into two camps. On the one hand, partners take on the finished motherboard, manufactured by Flextronics and priced, well, exorbitantly, place their own sticker and market it as 'their' board. There's nothing wrong with this approach at all, and pure reference-based models, architected by NVIDIA, often hit 500MHz FSB with no additional voltage tweaks. The inherent problem in having someone else manufacturing is a high buy-in and, consequently, street price, with retail examples priced at around £200.

Then there's the other camp, with abit, ASUStek and MSI being the main proponents of purchasing the chipset alone and manufacturing their own motherboard, complete with signature touches. That's how the IN9 32X-MAX was born. Going down this approach, manufacturers will be later to market but should be both cheaper than reference designs and have some individual features.

abit is utilising a digital PWM and masses of heatpipe cooling for its nForce 680i board. Expect to see a massive range of voltage adjustment and a decent bundle. We hope it will retail for sub-£180, too. abit's nForce 650-based boards will be available very soon after the release of its own 680i, which was good to hear.

Continuing the LGA775 theme but with pricing that's more palatable to the masses, abit will also be launching a revised, upgraded Intel 965P motherboard that takes the best bits of the excellent AB9 Pro. The example we saw was running, stably, at 500MHz FSB with basic air cooling, as shown in the shot below. Impressive stuff and it should make for a viable alternative to those looking for nForce 680i-like overclocking performance but with a more modest budget. We wonder just how much higher it would go with a Vapochill cooling the CPU and enhanced cooling on the chipset?

We expect to see the AB9 QuadGT hit the retail shelves at the end of January, so stay tuned for an upcoming review. abit's still focussing on ATI's (AMD's, ahem) chipsets, and it's planning on launcing an RS690 board later this month, evidently.