..:: AG8 Review Conclusion ::..
Well, we’ve seen all that ABIT has to offer with their mid-range i915P motherboard, the AG8. This motherboard offered up nearly all of the same features and performance that we found with the AA8-DuraMAX. Another aspect that we found to be identical to that of the AA8-DuraMAX was the system stability. The AG8, as with the AA8-DuraMAX was very stable, even when we had all of the available components enabled, and added in a PCI sound card and Ethernet controller for added stability testing. I’ve come to expect only the best from ABIT when it comes to stability, and AG8 didn’t fail to live up to my expectations. Once again, ABIT comes through with a stable motherboard.
The product package for the AG8 is exactly what I was expecting. ABIT recently announced their “3rd Eye” and “Guru Clock” support for the AG8. This new technology adds some flavor to ABIT’s packaging that others have not yet venture into. It also allows for ever present monitoring of critical system measurements on an exterior clock / digital readout display. ABIT has also announced a version of the AA8-DuraMAX that also features this technology. I personally can’t wait to get a hold of one of these units for some testing, only then will we see if this is a real useful item, or more for looks and flash than anything. Overall, solid product package just as we found with the AA8-DuraMAX.
Much like what we initially saw with both the Intel and ABIT i925X motherboard, the AG8 is covered in electrical devices that are required to generate all of the various voltages required by the processor, PCI-Express, DDR and more. Given this, we were once again more than happy with the layout of the components. ABIT has done quite a nice job with the layout of the most important connections and headers, especially considering the lessened PCB available to the designers. The floppy connector, as well as the rear left fan connector could’ve been placed better, but think we can get by with these locations. The only problem with the floppy connector is airflow could be disrupted on its way up to the graphics card and processor. The main power connections are in ideal positions as well.
BIOS-wise, the AG8 was everything I was expecting. With the latest incarnation of temperature controlled fans, among other things that ABIT has added with their uGuru chip, these new motherboards go great lengths to offer the end user a perfect match between cooling performance and noise levels. I for one am sick of listening to high speed fan when I’m simply doing some work in Word or Windows. I need the speed to keep things cool during gaming, but otherwise it was a big annoyance. With these new four-pin fans, life is becoming much nicer. The uGuru section of the AG8’s BIOS also offers plenty of overclocking tweaks as well, so overclocking this board should be cake. The only problem you’ll encounter overclocking wise is how far the board will let you go.
Our overclocking experiences with the AG8 were quite similar to those results we obtained previously with the AA8-DuraMAX. The AG8, however, wasn’t able to go quite as high as was the AA8-DuraMAX, peaking out at roughly 247MHz with complete system stability. This is once again a far cry from the 1.20GHz marks we were hitting with i875P and i865PE motherboards in past reviews. Once we passed a FSB setting of 247MHz, we found that the system would begin to randomly crash, and soon after, simply wouldn’t boot or would display a corrupted video signal. Because the PCI-Express frequency floats along with the FSB, as the FSB is raised so is the PCI-Express frequency. This can cause all sorts of trouble…but manufacturers have found problems with locking the PCI-Express frequency as well. This overclocking locks is going to make it a tough market for performance oriented manufacturers. Currently, boards are being marketed with Northbridge voltage adjustment options to help with this problem, but this will only add 10MHz or so to the FSB capability. As always, don’t buy into marketing, wait and see what the real deal is before you spend your green.
In the end the ABIT AA8-AG8 is able to keep up nicely with both Intel’s D925XCV and ABIT’s own AA8-DuraMAX. Given the fact that the AG8 is based off of the i915P chipset which doesn’t utilize the memory bandwidth enhancements found in the i925X, and the fact it only uses DDR-I, I was quite impressed with the performance that ABIT has offered. In all of the benchmark’s the largest lead we saw the i925X motherboards put up over the AG8 was 5%, and that was in Quake III, a benchmark which is well known for it’s highly optimized support of Pentium 4 processors. Otherwise, we only saw a performance drop in the 3% range, a percentage that buyers should take note of. The i925X has failed to impress us, and once again we see that a cheaper motherboard using regular DDR-I and i915P will offer nearly identical performance. Why go out and buy an i925X motherboard, and purchase DDR-II for a whole 3%. It all comes down to the features, but on a performance level, you can’t really beat a solid i915P option as we have seen here today. I’ve seen the AG8 rumbling around in the $140 so far, and it is still making its way into the market. This is about 20-25% less than the AA8-DuraMAX offering, so whether or not 3% performance gain, and additive DDR-II costs make up for it is up to you. If you want all of the added features, then the AA8-DuraMAX is a solid choice, but if you’re looking to save some dough, look at the AG8 instead. The ABIT AG8 is an excellent motherboard, with competitive performance, a stellar BIOS thanks to uGuru, and fair overclocking.