Universal abit made an impactful comeback into the high-end motherboard market with the revival of their flagship MAX series in October last year though the AW9D-MAX, or the Bushido motherboard as we'd like to call it. At a time where the Intel P965 chipset was taking most of the limelight in the enthusiast scenes, abit decided to give the old 975X Express one last run for its money and what a great board it was. Now, abit is gunning for another hit with their second post-revival MAX motherboard, the IN9 32X-MAX a.k.a The Beast.
The IN9 32X-MAX heavily emphasizes on overclocking capabilities and with abit's history in overclocking plus the fact that the board is based on the NVIDIA nForce 680i SLI chipset, we don't really much doubt the validity of its claim. In our experience with the nForce 680i SLI, hitting 480MHz FSB with a Core 2 Duo processor is not really a difficult feat to achieve. Of course, the same can also be said about Intel's P965 chipset. In fact, the P965 competes head to head with the nForce 680i SLI for overclocking potential and it is cheaper to implement as well, so why did abit favor the nForce 680i SLI for the IN9 32X-MAX? The answer is pretty obvious – its the Swiss Army Knife of chipsets.
The IN9 32X-MAX is designed to be an ultra enthusiast, overclocking feature-fest befitting its 'Beast' moniker. The board supports all LGA775 processors at the moment, boasts of a 32GB maximum memory configuration that supports up to DDR2-1200 speeds and certainly no nForce 680i SLI board would be complete without triple PCIe x16 interface slots; two full speed x16 slots for SLI and a third x8 slot to be used ideally for GPU physics.
Other standard components include a full featured 8-channel Dolby Digital HD Audio solution with analog, S/PDIF and HDMI connection options, dual Gigabit LAN with NVIDIA DualNet, FireWire-400, six internal SATA 3.0Gbps ports and two dedicated eSATA ports.
There are also versions of the board that come bundled with abit's PCIe AirPace Wi-Fi 802.11g add-on card as well, which makes it one of the few boards in the market that feature out-of-the-box wireless capability.
With a board such as this, one has to handle power management seriously and abit makes use of both full solid state capacitors as well as digital PWM components. Solid state capacitors improve component lifespan, while the 5-phase digital PWM replaces a whole array of traditional MOSFETS, inductors and capacitors around the CPU socket for more stable power environment that is also generates less heat.
The only problem we have with the board is a cosmetic one and that's regarding abit's marketing spin. We often get to see over hyped, over played marketing material, but the IN9 32X-MAX takes the award for the most hilarious box story ever written. However, in all its self-righteous babble on overclocking superiority, there is a cleverly hidden disclaimer that they (abit) are not responsible for any overclocking 'mishaps' from your actions. What a way to wash their hands and promote a product eh?
There is no doubt that the NVIDIA nForce 680i SLI is one of the most expensive core logic chipsets to implement and the US$330 price tag for the abit IN9 32X-MAX is a testament to this. However, if you're an enthusiast, the IN9 32X-MAX will get you your money's worth. It is a great balance between features and design, and every bit the high-end flagship model that it is without being over-engineered with redundant components and fluff. Just be careful when you overclock, because abit wants to remind you that when playing with fire, you could get burnt.