Abit Computer A8N
- Easy to install, stable
- Difficult to access floppy controller.
All things considered, we really liked this board's ease of installation, stability and performance and have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone who wants a well-performing Athlon system, but doesn't need the plethora of features that ASUS and MSI offer.
Price$ 198.00 (AUD)
This Nvidia nForce4 board was easy to install and very stable during our tests. Indeed, we had no trouble at all installing Windows XP on our RAID 0 array using the supplied floppy diskette, and the board ran our dual-core processor without any fuss.
As it's not based on the nForce4 SLI chipset, it has a single PCIe slot, which is located just below the fan-cooled nForce chipset. Immediately to the right of this slot are the SATA ports, and immediately below the SATA ports are the pin-headers for the additional USB 2.0 ports. This area may get crammed if you use a large graphics card. Another layout quirk is the placement of the floppy controller on the bottom edge of the motherboard just under a PCI slot. This makes it difficult to access, especially once the board is attached to the chassis.
ABIT's use of its OTES (outside thermal exhaust system) cooling system is in full effect on this board, with fans located in the rear port cluster in place of audio ports and serial and parallel ports. The rear cluster does retain a FireWire port as well as PS/2, Ethernet and USB 2.0 ports, but the audio ports need to be connected to a special slot through the supplied audio expansion bracket. Because the OTES cooling system sits on the top corner of the board, you would have to remove its shrouding in order to access the screw-hole when mounting it to your chassis.
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Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.
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