On the bright side, the AX4GE Max is only cramped because of the number of features AOpen has included. In addition to the two parallel ATA channels supported by the ICH4, Promiseís 20375 controller is also integrated onto the board. The Promise chip adds a third parallel ATA connector and two serial ATA ports that can be configured to run in a RAID array (though only one serial ATA cable is provided).
Moreover, the Realtek RTL8100BL PHY/MAC provides 10/100Mbps Ethernet operation. AOpen has also opted for the Texas Instruments TSB43AB22 IEEE 1394a controller, supporting two Firewire ports through an included header. AOpen has thrown in a second header with two more USB 2.0 ports, bringing the total up to six. Sadly, in the interest of cutting costs, most motherboard manufacturers have transitioned to using a software audio codec, rather than spending money on a hardware solution. Realtekís ALC650 is one of the most popular, as it provides for 6-channel output. The latest revision of the codec, Rev. E, enables S/PDIF input. AOpen bundles a third and final header with S/PDIF input and output, through both optical and coaxial interfaces.
Promise Serial ATA controller
3 DIMMs for memory
AOpen's unique Jukebox CD player
We would have preferred a more robust three-phase power solution, but AOpen follows the example of the larger manufacturers by settling for a dual-phase implementation controlled by a Fairchild Semiconductor FAN5093MTC dual-phase buck converter.
AOpen has done a commendable job paying attention to some of the smaller details, though. For instance, the Watch Dog Timer automatically resets the system should an overclocking attempt fail. Upon restart, the BIOS will automatically detect the processorís default settings and revert. Dr. Voice II provides audible diagnostic messages should a system component fail. Unfortunately, we couldnít tell if the kind Doctor was speaking English, Spanish or gibberish.
And lastly, the AX4GE Max features its own software CD player called Open JukeBox Player. Even without an operating system installed, the JukeBox can play a CD immediately after the POST screen. We played with the feature for a minute or two, but it requires an analog CD-IN connector, making it a bit of a hassle. Even still, we can appreciate AOpenís ingenuity and creative thinking.