AOpen AK89 Max: From Ugly Duckling to Swanby Wesley Fink on April 21, 2004 4:16 PM EST
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AOpen's first Athlon 64 motherboard, the AK86-L, was based on the VIA K8T800 chipset. After going through several BIOS updates, the AK86-L emerged as our Editor's Choice for Best Value in Athlon 64 motherboards. When AOpen's second Socket 754 board began appearing in the US market, we were interested in taking a closer look.
The AOpen AK89 Max, as suggested by the model number, is a premium board compared to the AK86-L. Based on the nVidia nForce3-150 chipset, the AK89 Max is loaded with features, including 4-drive SATA, Firewire, and the dual-chip die-hard BIOS. For those not familiar with the company, AOpen is the components division of Acer, the huge company that has their hand in many consumer electronics markets. They produce motherboards, chipsets with their ALI brand, optical drives, displays, memory, and many other components.
Just to clear the air from the start, we were very disappointed with the AK89 Max when we first began testing. The Front Side Bus was limited to 250, and the Clock Gen utility for nForce3 from www.wcpuid.com would not even work with the shipping BIOS. The AGP/PCI lock present in the BIOS seemed to stop functioning as soon as multipliers were selected. While the AK89 Max with the shipping BIOS was very stable, the most interesting options either didn't work or they exhibited very limited ranges.
However, AOpen supplied 2 BIOS upgrades during the course of the review, and this dramatically improved the flexibility and capabilities of the board. It was almost as if the AK89 Max grew from the ugly duckling into a swan.