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AOpen AOpen AX4GE Max Motherboard Review
Date Posted: Mar 1 2003
Author: Joe
Posting Type: Review
Category: Motherboard Reviews
Page: 1 of 4
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AOpen AX4GE Max Motherboard Review By: Joe

Now from the start, it seems like some over ruling power has wanted me NOT to post this review, now I may be paranoid, or not.. see for yourself:

I received this board in the mail mid January, pulled it out, fired it up, and BAM we had some fun.  Had it running some damn intensive MPEG2 DVD Compression codecs (TMPGEnc Plus), and fooling with nearly 100GB of digital video on the ATA 133 Drive.   All was good and I was about ready to get the review up and rocking. The weekend after I received it, I went out to participate in one of the many race events I drive in ( AutoX mostly).   A friend and I went out in my 2002 Subaru Impreza to go ice racing. Now I have done ice races before, and have been out to these exact events 4 times now.   It was January 19th, and it was -10F in the morning when we went out at 6:00am. On a quick test on the glare ice we were about to run on, we ventured along side of the planned course out of the way so we didn't endanger anyone. Well at 9:00am... Hmmm... lets cut this short:

The window was up when the car started to sink... was amazing it went down.

Yep sucked.  After my baptism by ice water, I will never again go on the ice.  Less the fact I destroyed a 20,000+$ car, I find it all pretty damn funny in hind sight.   Why am I saying all this??? Well all the pictures for this review are on a smart media card floating in that car some where.  So after getting over all the BS that goes with sinking a car in a lake ( and almost die'n... since I was near over my head in ice water for a bit) I also lost all my pics for the review. (If you want the complete thread on this click here)

So here we are. A little over a month after I planned to have this and another review/shoot out well out of the way...   I put the Mobo into a "production" use so I had to wait to pull the board out to retake all the pics, but all is good now... just sit back and enjoy the read. Not sure I can make you laugh as hard as the part above prolly makes you.. but I will sure try :)

So this is the back of the box that the board comes in.  Pretty sure if you are reading this review boxes are nothing new and exciting.  One thing I did want to point out is all the features they list on the back of the box. This was one of the things that caught my eye when I saw this board on a shelf at some geek place.   It lists just about every gizmo and gidget that you could want on a board it seems.  One thing I KNOW most hard core geeks are saying right now is "WTF?? the 845GE Chipset?  what looser wants onboard video?!" well I will try and answer that question in this article, but I did have a specific reason :)

The board is the almost trademark AOpen black PCB. I have been a fan of this PCB color ever since I had a AOpen Millennium board back a few years ago,

The board lacks a few key things I was hoping to see. One of them is a RAID controller on board, and the second was 4 DDR slots. ( now I know the specs for the 845GE Chipset do not say anything besides that they only support 2 double sided DIMMs, but the fact there are 3 slots on the board clearly shows there was some headroom there) I personally like the idea of 4 slots on most boards I use.

The board has a passive North bridge heat sink which I thought was all but extinct these days.  It's a fairly meaty heat sink but definitely not optimum for OC'rs.

Well lets check out everything specifically on this rig.

The Obligatory Specs:


Intel 845GE

FSB Supported:

400/533+ (OC 1 clock at a time)



IO Chip (Southbridge):

Intel ICH4


6 x USB 2.0


RealTek COAX/Optical 5.1


RealTek 10/100

FireWire (IEEE-1394):

Texas Instruments (2 ports)




Promise SATA150 / ATA133

The Specifics - (A per chip break down of the board)

Intel 845GE North Bridge (MCH)

Since the Intel 845E Chipset, Intel has unlocked the fun that's in the new generation P4 CPU's... Hyper threading.   The 845 has a handful of different versions, some with onboard video, some without, some that support DDR 333, some that don't.  I have 2 845 boards here, ones a PE and ones a GE. Both the PE and GE support DDR 333, Hyper threading, and all the other 845 love. 

This chipset specifically is a 845GE set,  it has onboard video  ( the Intel Extreme Graphics) but also packs a 4x AGP slot.

Intel ICH4 South Bridge

The ICH "hub" on the AX4GE is the newer ICH4.  This lil baddie packs USB 2.0 ( 6 of them), ATA100 ( no biggie...), and the ability to control a 6 PCI bus.

This chipset also supposed ( but unused in most boards) embedded LAN, and Audio. The AOpen board does NOT use the ICH4's Audio or LAN abilities.

Realtek LAN and Audio chipset.

The RealTek 8100 LAN adapter is fairly well known ( to me at least) I have seen this chipset used in the past and I was not terribly thrilled to see it used on this board.  I have long preferred a 3COM or Intel Nic, but this RealTek does work very well.  I have not seen one single issue getting it to work or move at full speed.

The little chip below is the Realtek AC97 audio chip.  This chip boasts one of the more impressive hookups I have seen.

The Audio not only supports the normal analog jacks on the back of the board, but also sports a SPIDF, and TOSLINK connection!  Sort of rare to find onboard audio to offer both those. I have used the COAX and on my fairly nice Onkyo DD 5.1 audio setup, the digital signal was clear and very nice to my ears.

Phoenix BIOS and the AOpen Die Hard BIOS.

For the last many years AOpen has offered this BIOS recovery system for their boards. They called it the "Die Hard" BIOS.  They released this a short time after the first CIH virus came around and was a threat of flashing your BIOS for you in a not so kind way.

The Die Hard BIOS also work nice for recovering from a screwed up setting you just made.  This feature has saved me before on my AOpen AX3S Max while trying to OC at different levels.  All it takes is a move of a jumper to get the machine back up.

The BIOS besides for the whole DieHard part is very simple and straight forward.  Its Phoenix, so I am not sure if I dig that or not hehehe.

Serial ATA / ATA 133

Serial ATA has been a fringe technology that's just now starting to become useful. For the last 2 years SerialATA has been the center of heated debates from geeks or even from the forum that regulates the ATA protocol. I still remember the talks about implementing the hard disk security and write protection items in to the serial ATA protocol a few years back.

Now that Serial ATA chips have been out for months, Hard disks are just NOW starting to get to the market.  With a performance difference that's comparable with ATA 133

(which is comparable with ATA 100), the only reason to swap over to SATA 150 would be to get rid of those damn 80 pin cables :)

The Promise controller also runs the ATA 133 header as well as the Serial ATA headers. The 2 ATA 100 headers are run by the ICH4 chipset.

IEEE 1394a / FireWire / iLink

TI is no small company when it comes to DSP products, or chipsets all over the computer industry. The TSB43AB22 is a fairly current Dual 1394 controller. The chips support the 100Mb/sec 200MB/sec and 400Mb/sec communications rates. It connects to the back of the PC Via a slot/cable thingy that's included. 

Break Down of the Features

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