AOpen is the second manufacturer we've seen that's taking advantage of Intel's i820 delays by releasing one last i440BX board. We saw ABIT's ultimate i440BX solution with the BF6 and now it's AOpen's turn with the AX6BC Pro II Millennium Edition. The Millennium Edition is AOpen's way of getting in on the new millennium hype and is a special limited edition version of the AX6BC Pro II, which is in turn the sequel to the AnandTech Editor's Choice Gold winner AX6BC Pro Gold.

With all that in mind, the AX6BC Pro II Millennium Edition has quite a bit to live up to and expectations were high when the board arrived in the AnandTech labs. Despite the amazing quality of the AX6BC Pro Gold, AOpen has managed to raise the bar yet again in the quest for the ultimate i440BX board.

New Anand Tech Report Card Rating

Motherboard Specifications

CPU Interface Slot-1
Chipset i440BX
L2 Cache N/A (on-chip)
Form Factor ATX
Bus Speeds

66 / 68 / 75 / 83
100 / 103 / 112 / 117 / 124 / 129
133 / 138 / 143 / 148 / 153

Clock Multipliers 2.0x - 8.0x
Voltages Supported Auto Detect
Adjustable to 1.3V - 3.5V
Memory Slots 3 168-pin DIMM Slots
Expansion Slots 0 AMR Slots
1 AGP Slot
6 PCI Slots (5 Full Length)
0 ISA Slots
BIOS Award 4.51PG

The Good

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To come up with the AX6BC Pro II, AOpen started with the original AX6BC Pro, dropped the 2 ISA slots, and added a 6th PCI slot for a 6/0/1 (PCI/ISA/AGP) slot configuration. Virtually everything else remains the same, including the placement of the floppy, HDD, and ATX power connectors. One PCI slot may be blocked from accepting a full length card due to a fan connector, but 5 full length PCI slots should be sufficient for most users. Three DIMM slots round out the expansion possibilities.

The Millennium Edition part of the equation is a series of modifications to the AX6BC Pro II design that go above and beyond the call of duty - almost into the realm of the ridiculous. This includes the use of a 24 karat Platinum-plated heatsink and monster 2200uF for better heat dissipation and enhanced stability, respectively. Those capacitors are the same low ESR (equivalent series resistance) capacitors from the AX6BC Pro Gold and further enhance stability. Emphasizing the limited edition status of the board is a, "special military grade" black PCB, Platinum-plated "Millennium Edition" plaque, and the names of the board's designers inscribed at the front of the board.

Whether or not these changes significantly enhance the stability of the board is debatable, especially features like the Platinum-plated heatsink. Rather, what is clear is that the AX6BC Pro II Millennium Edition is quite possibly the most stable board to pass through the AnandTech labs in both overclocked and non-overclocked situations, edging out the previous champ, the AX6BC Pro Gold, by a small margin.

A point of criticism for the whole AX6BC line, including the AX6BC Pro II from the layout standpoint has been and still is the placement of the floppy connector at the back of the motherboard.  Although this does allow for the ATX Power Supply connector to be placed in a highly desired position at the front corner of the motherboard, it does provide the user with an unfortunate cooling obstruction as you have to channel the floppy cable across the motherboard to get to your floppy drive.

Click to Enlarge
Click to Enlarge

From an engineering standpoint, it makes sense to place the floppy connector up there as it is physically closer to the Winbond controller chip.  However most users don't usually look at their motherboard and say "hmm, that is a beautiful piece of engineering" as they stretch their floppy cable across the length of their motherboard.

There is another option that makes much more sense and removes the placement of the floppy connector as a downside to this, and many other AOpen motherboards.  Instead of routing the floppy cable over the motherboard, why not route it under the motherboard?  Provided you have a long enough cable (which most of you probably should), try running your floppy cable underneath your motherboard as diagrammed in the picture to the right on the AX6BC Pro Gold.  It can help to eliminate air flow problems, and makes perfect sense when you think about it.  It seems like there's a reason Apple has been doing it for this long...

More Good

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