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AOpen AX4SG Max II “Prescott Ready” Review

AOpen designed AX4SG Max II with a 6-layer PCB design as opposed
to the normal 4-layer PCB of many boards for better shielding against noise and
electronic magnetic emission, better heat dissipation, better trace impendence
matching and better voltage current flow. It also reduces signal cross-talk and
signal noise.

AX4SG Max II is fitted with 9 Super ultra low ESR capacitors known as
Functional Polymer which is a new material acting as electrolyte of 820μ, 2.5v
each normally seen only on server boards to provide additional
stability of CPU power especially for the Prescott processors. It allows more
stable performance and higher reliability over the expected lifespan than normal
liquid electrolyte capacitor.

The 4-phase power design ensures optimized power density, transient response
and thermal performance for increasing high CPU temperature. Even the power
choke is well taken care of as AOpen uses oxygen-free Copper Power Choke for
better electrical conductivity, less heat generated by resistance and therefore
higher efficiency. If you compare an oxygen-free copper power choke and normal
one, the normal one tends to have more coils around it. So far, high quality
Intel desktop boards like 875PBZ is using oxygen-free copper power choke.

AOpen AX4SG Max II is fitted with a passive aluminum heatsink on the
Northbridge. Intel 865G chipset is a discrete chipset and consists of two
controller hubs; 82865G (MCH) and 82801EB (ICH5). The 8287G
MCH supports a 800 MHz system bus, 4GB of DDR400 SDRAM providing memory
bandwidth up to 3.2GB/s and linked to the Southbridge on

Intel® Hub Architecture with 266MB/s of
bandwidth and has an
integrated Intel Extreme Graphics 2 core. The
82801EB supports 2 x ATA-100 ports, 2 x 150MB/s SATA ports, 8 external USB 2.0
ports, AC ’97, CSA and Intel RAID Technology with RAID 0 functionality.


AX4SG Max II uses ICS952619CF clock generator that supports up
to 400Mhz FSB. Users can change the FSB within Windows environment using SetFSB
or Clockgen for ICS952607 as they are compatible. As you can see, the clock
crystal is somewhat different from the normal clock crystal as it is a
Temperature-Compensation Oscillator. As frequency may drift during operation due
to temperature, a drift correction circuit is used to automatically bring an
oscillator back onto its assigned or tuned frequency. It allows high precision
signal quality as well as higher stability related to operating temperature.


From the left to right (Rear Out / Center & Subwoofer Out / Side Surround Out /
S/PDIF Out (RCA) / S/PDIF Out / S/PDIF In)

AOpen uses the new Realtek audio CODEC ALC850 comply with the
new standard, AC’97 Rev 2.3, providing a Jack-Sensing function, a PCBEEP
Generator, and Interrupt Capability. Realtek ALC850 features a 16-bit
eight-channel DAC, four pairs of stereo outputs, with 5-bit volume control and
multiple stereo and mono inputs, along with flexible mixing, and gain and mute
functions. The Ex_Sound connector on the board together with the EX_Sound audio
module that comes with the package supports the latest 7.1 Channel and S/PDIF


AX4SG Max II is paired up with the Intel 82547EI Gigabit
Ethernet Controller that enables full-duplex Gigabit Ethernet performance using
CSA. It bypasses the PCI bus, freeing its bandwidth for other I/O operations,
and connects to the dedicated CSA bus on the MCH allowing conventional
"PCI-like" configuration. The Intel 82547EI combines Intel’s fifth-generation
Gigabit MAC design with fully integrated physical-layer circuitry (PHY) to
provide a standard IEEE 802.3 Ethernet interface for 1000BASE-T, 100BASE-TX and
10BASE-T applications.



Silicon Image SiI 3114 is a
single-chip PCI to 4-port Serial ATA (SATA) host controller. Software RAID 0
(striping), RAID 1 (mirroring) and RAID 1+0 (mirrored stripe) functions are
supported through Silicon Image’s SATARaid™ RAID management software utility. In
total,. AX4GS Max II supports 6 S-ATA ports.


Agere Systems IEEE1394a controller can support up to three IEEE Std
1394a-2000 fully compliant cable ports at 100M bits/s, 200M bits/s, and 400M
bits/s. AOpen has provided an IEEE1394 cable to support 2 firewire ports.


AOpen has designed a special PCI slot known as the Self-Powered
PCI slot which is blue in color that has a separate set of 3.3 Volt power
circuitry from the rest of the slots. In addition, traces around this specially
designed slot power delivery are upgraded in terms of their trace thickness,
making its signals much more robust than their normal PCI slots. This slot
should be used for high end PCI cards like SCSI cards, RAID or high definition
Audio cards.


AOpen Die Hard
BIOS has 2 system BIOSes on the motherboard where one is the Main BIOS while the
other is the Backup BIOS. If the Main BIOS is corrupted, the Backup BIOS will
take over the function without you knowing that there is a failure.


The back panel multi IO consists of the PS/2 Keyboard and PS/2
Mouse Connectors, 1 Parallel Port (EPP/ECP), 1Serial Port, 1 VGA Port, Audio connectors
(Center/Subwoofer/Front Speaker), 4 USB Ports, 1 RJ45 LAN connector. AOpen has
provided an USB 2.0 cable to support another two more USB 2.0 ports.

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