The first feature that caught our eyes on the IT7-MAX2 was its distinctive black printed circuit board (PCB). We're big fans of black PCBs, it gives the IT7-MAX2 a sleek, stealthy look. For added flair ABIT also bundles the IT7-MAX2 with black IDE cables. The original IT7-MAX was tan, so the IT7-MAX2 is a huge improvement over its predecessor in the visuals department. ABIT also includes tie downs for neatly bundling the IDE and power supply cables inside your system case.
With the original IT7-MAX, ABIT strived to remove all legacy components from within the system. This included PS/2 ports for the keyboard and mouse. ABIT must have received lots of negative feedback on this as they've brought the PS/2 ports back for the keyboard and mouse for the IT7-MAX2. Also included on the back panel of the IT7-MAX2 are six USB ports (with a 2-port USB header also provided) two Firewire ports, one RJ-45 connector, a SPDIF out, and audio connectors for all six channels of audio supported by the IT7-MAX2's audio controller. Clearly this board is stuffed with features.
The back panel of the IT7-MAX2
The top half of the IT7-MAX2 motherboard
In terms of board layout, ABIT did a wonderful job with the IT7-MAX2 considering just how many goodies this board boasts. The ATX power connector is located on the upper right edge of the motherboard, leaving plenty of clearance for the CPU's heatsink/fan unit. The ATX12V connector is on the other side of the CPU socket, which is a bit disappointing, but if we had to choose between one connector or the other next to the CPU interface, we'd definitely go with the ATX12V connector.
The DIMM slots are placed a little close to the AGP slot, so you will have to install your DDR memory before installing the video card, but this is the case with most motherboards on the market so we really won't fault ABIT too much on this point.
Initially you may be a bit disappointed to only see four PCI slots on the IT7-MAX2, but when you consider the level of integration the motherboard provides four PCI slots should be more than enough. Just think, you've got all the storage capacity you'll ever need with the Serial ATA and HighPoint controllers, plus you've got 10 USB ports available, 5.1 audio, and 10/100 networking all provided natively by the motherboard.
To the right of the PCI slots is ABIT's excellent diagnostic LED display. When the motherboard boots up, the LEDs display the current stage of the boot sequence. That way, if your system locks up during a particular point in the boot sequence all you have to do is look up the appropriate number code in the IT7-MAX2 manual to determine what went wrong.