With the release of socket AM2, socket 939 processors have plummeted in price. Given this and the lack of any performance difference between the two sockets and many users are either happy to stick with their existing CPUs and buy new boards or take advantage of the price differences for a completely new 939 system. Today we are looking at Abit’s final socket 939 swansong – the AT8 32X.
The AT8 32X is based on the ATi RD580 chipset also know as the Radeon Xpress 3200. It therefore supports two full 16x PEG slots rather than its RD480 predecessor, which like the nForce 4 SLI, splits a single 16x PEG lane into two 8x PEG lanes when running with dual video cards. As with other enthusiast grade boards, the AT8 32X uses a ULi M1575 Southbridge, sidestepping some of the limitations of ATi’s own Southbridge and bringing SATA II RAID and fast USB 2.0 performance to the platform.
In terms of layout the AT8 32X is exceptionally strong. The IDE and SATA connectors are well placed and the bottom right of the board, and the 24 pin power connector is tucked out of the way of the CPU on the far right hand side. With a combination of PCI-E 1x and legacy PCI slots the AT8 32X caters well for both new and old upgrade cards alike. All the chipsets on this board are cooled passively, with the MOSFET heat sink and the Northbridge attached by a heat pipe. I was very impressed by how cool all the heat sinks remained throughout testing, even when heavily overclocked. Abit’s passive cooler solution is both elegant and effective.
The only niggles we have with the layout is the odd position of the two extra SATA ports to the left of the CPU socket and the floppy connector right at the bottom underneath the final PCI slot. Why Abit thought this would be a good place to trail a floppy cable we have no idea. Overclockers are very well catered for as the Abit has no fewer than six fan headers, all of which are fully temperature controllable from the BIOS. This is still a feature unique to Abit as far as I know and it is one I simply wouldn’t be without now I have become accustomed to my nearly noiseless PC!
Next to the floppy connector you will find the Clear CMOS jumper, which even when trying silly overclocks we never had to use. Should you over do it, simply hit reset and the BIOS enters a failsafe mode allowing you straight back into the BIOS. There is also an LED post reported that helpfully displays an error code should there be a problem during POST.
Abit has done really well with the bundle for this board, with six SATA cables with retention clips. These SATA cables are so much more secure than regular designs and are something I wish other manufacturers would also include. Whilst we like the slim line SATA cables the fact that they like to pop out in transit is far less endearing. As well as the SATA cables you also get a Firewire and USB backing plate, IDE and floppy cables, drivers on floppy disk for the SATA II RAID controllers, instruction manuals and an I/O shield. Abit also includes a quick reference sticker for applying to the inside of your side panel. This shows the location of all major jumpers and connectors. You also get a driver and utility CD.
Now we are familiar with the board and bundle, lets take a look at performance.