Backing up Dr. LED is Dr. Voice. Dr. Voice can literally tell you if the problem you're encountering is an issue with an installed component or with the motherboard itself. We haven't had a chance to test this feature as we're waiting on a few things from AOpen, but we'll let you know if anything significant develops.
AOpen's optional DIE-Hard BIOS is another feature that sets it apart from most of the other motherboards available on the market. DIE-Hard BIOS consists of two BIOS chips, one is a standard BIOS flash ROM that can be programmed at any time by the user. If this chip fails or is corrupted by a virus, the second, optional chip can be used to reprogram the affected chip. This rescue BIOS chip cannot be reprogrammed, it's a fixed BIOS.
DIE-Hard BIOS, with
both chips installed
Like Dr. LED, this extra BIOS chip doesn't come with the motherboard, and will have to be purchased by the end user. For evaluation purposes, our AX34 Pro II sample included the rescue BIOS chip.
The first thing that got our attention with the AX34 Pro II was the size of the motherboard -- the board is slightly larger than the KT7-RAID
! We're used to seeing large KT133 motherboards, but this usually isn't the case for Apollo Pro133A boards. As a result, installing this motherboard in a smaller case may be a bit more of a hassle than usual.
One of the benefits of using such a large PCB is a very clean layout. The ten 2200 uF capacitors are placed away from the PGA 370 socket, allowing plenty of space for the largest of heatsinks (For this review, Alpha's PEP66 was used).
Plenty of space for our
Alpha, although the 'sink itself
may not fit in some cases
Speaking of the capacitors, at 2200uF, they're beefier than the implementations we've seen from ASUS and MSI. In theory they should be excellent at supplying the CPU with plenty of juice in the most demanding of situations. As Tim said in his AX6BC Pro Gold review: "This extra bit should help especially in overclocked operation, where the demand for power can come often, and quickly."
Like the older Apollo Pro133 motherboards that were offered last year, you'll need to adjust jumpers on the AX34 Pro II to determine your selection of bus speeds. For instance, if you need the bus selections from 133 to 155MHz, rather than 100 to 124MHz, jumpers 23 and 29 will have to be set appropriately.
Before you cry out in pain (we almost did when we saw this!), realize that AOpen uses very large jumpers on the AX34 Pro II. In particular, JP23 and JP29 are placed 5mms away from each other. This may not sound like much, but in comparison to the other jumper selections we've seen from other motherboards, it's quite a bit.
Jumpers that are actually
easy to use!
In any case, adjusting the jumpers was a breeze, but since the jumpers are located near the IDE connectors, you may have a few frustrating moments reaching them once the drives are connected to the motherboard inside the system case.