AOpen AX34 Pro II Motherboard

Nov 22nd, 2000 | By

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AOpen AX34 Pro II Motherboard


Date
: 11/22/00 – 02:13:35 PM

Author
:

Category
: Motherboard

Manufactor: AOpen

Price: $130

Thanks to MPL for supplying us with the AX34 Pro II!

Introduction

Woow, Let’s talk about this SEXY ‘Black Beauty’!! It had been quite a while since I managed to get a grip on an AOpen motherboard. Last week I got a hold on the AOpen AX34 Pro II, another AOpen black motherboard … (remember the AX6BC Pro II Millennium Edition?)

The black circuit board, the shiny fully-aluminum northbridge heatsink and very nice packaging fist gave me a feeling that AOpen engineers wanted to make a board which attracts your attention. Well, it worked for me … :)

The AX34 Pro II, AOpen’s new flagship S370 board, has specifications to match its looks. According to AOpen it’s a mobo for overclockers who feel the need 4 speed, designed to give you the best possible chance of getting your CPU running substantially faster than the number on the box says it should. Very nice indeed.

This doesn’t mean the board isn’t happy running CPUs at default speed, but if that’s all you want to do, a cheaper board might be a much better chose for you. If I say a cheaper board, it doesn’t mean the Pro II is particularly expensive though.

Things like a black PCB and a lovely shiny looking northbridge heatsink are nice, but these things don’t make a mobo perform huh …

Specifications

Like I said before, the AX34 Pro II is a S370 one, to suit current model P-!!!s and Celerons.

With 1AGP/6PCIs/1 AMR, 4 DIMM slots supporting 2GB of SDRAM and UDMA100 support (provided by the new VIA 686B Southbridge), it has become obvious that Aopen means bussiness!

CPU

Intel Celeron (PPGA, FC-PGA Type)

Intel Pentium III (FC-PGA Type)

VIA Cyrix III CPU Table

ASIC

VIA VT82C694X / TC82C686A or 686B(support Ultra DMA/100) AGPset

Architecture

6 PCI slots +1 AGP slot + 1 * AMR (ISA Type)

Max. Main Memory

Max. 1.5GB(PC-133) or 2GB (PC-100) SDRAM or VCM for 168pin DIMM*4

DIMM Type

8/16/32/64/128/256/512 MB

On Board Sound

Analog Devices AD1885 AC97 CODEC onboard

BIOS

Award Plug and Play 2MB Flash ROM BIOS

On Board I/O

2 Serial Ports (UART 16C550 Support)

1 Parallel Port (SPP/EPP/ECP Support)

2 Channel E-IDE (Mode 4 and Bus master Ultra DMA 33/66/100 Support)

(Ultra DMA 100 optional)

1 Floppy Drive Connector (1.2/1.44/2.88MB)

2 Channel Universal Serial Bus Ports

1 PS/2 Mouse Port

1 PS/2 Keyboard Port

Game/Midi Port ,Speaker-Out ,Line-In , Mic-In

Onboard Connector

IrDA , Wake-On-Lan , CPU Fan, Chassis Fan, Fan2 , CD_IN, MODEM_IN , AUDIO1, AUX-IN , GPIO x 2

Additional 2 Channel USB Ports (via cable)

Optional Die-Hard BIOS

A multi-language BIOS firewall design that provides an extended BIOS switch, allowing users to switch between two BIOSs without turning on the power system — keeping it in a stable status and remaining free of file loss.

Battery

3V Lithium Battery

Green Function

Yes

Board Size

305mm x 244mm, ATX Form Factor

My first impression

The black AX34 Pro II comes in a box with a window and a see-through shiny plastic case, so it doesn’t look normal even sitting on the shelf.

After you’ve defeated the packaging, you’ll find the motherboard. Then comes something I really like : a fold-out Easy Installation Guide, a well-sized paper manual, an USB dual port card (Of course the AX34 Pro II also has two USB ports built in), two IDE leads (one 80 wire ATA100, one standard 40 wire) and a floppy drive cable.

There’s also the usual drivers-and-manual CD, that gives you the manual again in Adobe Acrobat format as well as the support software for the board like the latest official VIA 4-in-1 driver set and a bunch of little AOpen proggies which might come in handy later on. You also receive a free copy of Norton AntiVirus 2000 v6.0, which is a classier pack of software than you often get with motherboards.

With the help of the Easy Installation Guide, anybody should be able to set up the AX34 Pro II without having to blow up your case (look @ me for example, even I could do it). The only issue is a mechanical one, with its 305 by 244 millimetres, this is an unusually large motherboard. It’s got the standard ATX mounting screw holes, but it may be a tight fit in smaller cases. I had take out my CDROM drive and CDwriter in order to be able to fit it in my AOpen HQ45 case.

The AX34 Pro II supports a few AOpen special features that I just couldn’t keep quiet :

‘DIE-HARD BIOS’ gives you switchable dual BIOS chips. You can set the two BIOSes up differently or set them up identically and use the second one as a backup BIOS in case of a failure by for example a virus attack. This is however a feature wherefor you need to pay some extra $$$ though. My AX34 Pro II just had an empty socket on the place of the second BIOS.

A second feature is ‘Dr LED’. It’s a motherboard status panel that can be mounted in the front of a drive bay and has 8 lights to show you how the POST is progressing and where it’s stopped, if it fails. There are 7 lights to indicated which device is (un)successfully started, but the main goal here is to see the last light turn on, then you know the POST is successful.

The last speciality this board has, is ‘Dr Voice’. This cool feature literally tells you when some basic thing like your memory or CPU isn’t working properly during the POST. It just says the name of the offending device in English, Chinese, Japanese or German depending on the setting of a jumper. A very useful utility, no?

Overclocking

First of all, the AX34 puts the big-ass CPU power supply smoothing capacitors far enough from the CPU socket that there should be room to mount the most outrageous of chip coolers, like I used the Golden Orb. You can adjust the CPU voltage from 1.3V to 2.05V in 0.5 volt increments, unfortunately higher voltage stands for more heat :(

As with all other VIA Apollo Pro boards, the AX34 Pro II lets you run the memory clock at the same speed as the FSB or at 33MHz more or less. This lets you use PC100 memory with an 133Mhz FSB, or wind up the memory clock for more RAM performance.

This isn’t a teeny-increments overclockers board, like for example the Abit SE6 or the ASUS CUSL2, that lets you set the FSB by 1Mhz increments. However, the FSB steps are small enough that you should be able to push a 100MHz FSB CPU to about as far as it’ll go. You get more FSB steps if you disable the clock spread spectrum function in the BIOS. Spread spectrum means reducing the radio-frequency noise created by the clock pulses and it doesn’t seem to affect system performance.

I could get my P3-700E to work rockstable @ 980Mhz (1.80v) with the spread spectrum function enabled and the RAM settings : CAS 2, speed to normal and PCIclock * 4 (35Mhz*4 = 140Mhz = same as FSB). I wasn’t able to run my 700E @ 1008Mhz like I can with the Asus boards (CUV4X / CUSL2), not even when lowering the RAM speed. Curious huh …

Benchmarking

System setup

- AOpen AX34 Pro II motherboard

- Intel PIII 700E @ 980MHz (7x140MHz)

- 128MB pc133 RAM (cas 2-2-2)

- IBM UDMA66 7200rpm 20GB

- Creative Geforce DDR

- Windows Millennium

- Nvidia Detonator 7.17 drivers + VIA 4.25a Service Pack

Sisoft Sandra 2001 Pro

Because I’m using the new Sisoft Sandra 2001 PRO for the first time, benchmarks look a little bit different than before but in fact it still is the same benchmark. These results are quite high, as they should be. They can be compared to the ones I took in my CUV4X review past month.

3D Mark 2k

Quake 3 Arena 1.17 Timedemo 1

It’s still a very close call between this AX34 Pro II and my reference mobo, the CUV4X. Performance-wise, you should be very pleased with both of them.

CPU Mark 99

FPU Mark 99

Good

- Awesome looks!

- 4 DIMMs

- Nice & really stable overclocking

- UDMA100 support (VIA 686B)

- Cheap mobo

Bad

- Lack of RAID support

- No 4 way interleaving memory BIOS tweak like most other competing mobos

- Special features like a DIE-HARD BIOS, Dr Voice and Dr Led are optional

Conclusion

The AX34 Pro II stayed within a close margin of the CUV4X in every game test as well in the synthetic benchmarks. So I believe I can say the AOpen AX34 Pro II is an incredibly nice & certainly good-looking board. At first glance, you notice AOpen wants you to look at their mainboard; but after a closer look, this board has actually also a nice performance. With the differences between mobos and mobo manufactors becoming smaller & smaller every day, we should look up to a manufactor like AOpen who brightened our life with this piece of art. I’d say: if you need a rather cheap, good-looking & good performing mobo … go for an AOpen AX34 Pro II

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