The Fatal1ty branding on this Socket AM2 motherboard makes it clear that Abit is aiming this high-end board at the gaming market. The large package displays the Fatal1ty AN9 32X in a clear case and it’s an impressive piece of kit. The colour scheme is red and black: it has a red PCB while two of the memory slots are red and two are black, the six SATA connectors are red and so on.
The layout centres around the pair of PCI Express x16 slots which are driven by the Nvidia Nforce 590 SLI chipset. This means that the Southbridge of the chipset may end up working for its living between a pair of hefty GeForce graphics cards where it’s hard to find cooling air, so Abit has used a heatpipe to link the passive cooler on the Southbridge to the passive cooler on the Northbridge, which is located behind the I/O panel.
Heat is then removed through a slotted I/O shield by a pair of 40mm OTES fans that sit next to the two PS/2 ports, the four USB 2.0 ports and dual Gigabit LAN ports. The Realtek ALC882 HD audio connectors are located on a riser card that uses a proprietary connector at the foot of the motherboard, which is next to the floppy connector.
You get six mini jacks with line-in doubling up as S/PDIF in, as well as optical output, but if you intend to install a dedicated sound card you’ll leave the audio riser in the box. There’s a potential problem on that score as a pair of double-slot graphics cards will block the single PCI slot.
In the event that you need more cooling, Abit has supplied a slim fan that fixes horizontally over your graphics cards, and even with that option plugged in you still have two connectors available for case fans.
Apart from the PCI slot the rest of the layout is exemplary, with the power connectors located at the sides of the board and a neat LCD display for BIOS POST codes in the corner of the board next to the neatly-marked front panel header pins.
There’s a bracket in the box that carries two more USB and two Firewire ports, which leaves two free USB headers that you can use in conjunction with USB ports mounted on your case.
Performance is as good as any other Nforce 590 model but the real strength of the Fatal1ty is the huge range of overclocking options in the BIOS. You can change every setting you’ve ever heard of individually and we have no doubt that you’ll be able to reliably clock your AM2 processor to new heights with the Abit board.
That’s the good stuff, but there are a number of points to bear in mind. This is an expensive motherboard. No doubt Mr Fatal1ty gets a slice of the cash, which is fair enough, and you get a decent selection of cables, which is nice, but there’s no avoiding the fact that you’re paying a steep price for the cooling and overclocking features.
Ah yes, the cooling. With the OTES fans whirring away at all times this is a noisy motherboard. Of course many gaming PCs get noisy when the graphics card cooling gets busy but this PC makes a continuous droning. You may consider that noise is a price worth paying for a fast, powerful gaming PC, but you’d better have a second PC for everyday use.
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