The black PCB gives the AX34 Pro II a sleek, sexy look (At least if you're hardware nuts like we are). Complementing this is the silver finish on the pure aluminum heatsink. Sure, it may not look as good as the 24K platinum-plated heatsink on the Millennium Edition, or the gold on the AX34 Pro, but it gets the job done and looks good to boot.
Shiny silver heatsink!
Nestled near the heatsink is an extra fan that can be used for blowing fresh, cool air over the top of the AX34 Pro II. Two other fan headers are present on the motherboard, one next to the PGA 370 interface (for the CPU cooler), and another at the bottom of the motherboard.
For ATA/100 support, our AX34 Pro II uses VIA's new 686B South Bridge. Older Apollo Pro133A motherboards used the 596B or 686A chip. Neither offered support for the newer ATA/100 protocol.
The 686B South Bridge
Rounding out the features on the AX34 Pro II (if you could call them that) are the AMR slot and AC'97 CODEC chip. On such a high-end motherboard, you wouldn't expect to find such low-end components, but sadly they are there. Fortunately, the onboard sound can be disabled via BIOS or jumper, an option we quickly exercised.
If the black PCB and shiny silver heatsink weren't enough to convince you that you've just purchased an elegant motherboard, the AX34 Pro II packaging certainly will. The box is standard fare (we're almost surprised AOpen doesn't package the motherboard in a silver tin) but the inside certainly isn't.
The board is well labeled,
as shown here
What's In The Box?
As soon as you open the box, you're greeted by a see-through display of your shiny new motherboard. Removing the motherboard from its packaging reveals the neatly bundled 2-port USB header, easy installation guide, ATA/66 and ATA/33 cables, floppy cable, user manual and driver CD, and finally, a copy of Norton Antivirus 2000. We've seen many newer motherboards that don't ship with both ATA/66 and ATA/33 cables, much less the extra USB header, so it's a welcome sight to see AOpen's attention to detail.
The user manual is very well laid out and offers a wealth of information on the board itself. If you're new to the intricacies of motherboards, the AX34 Pro II manual does an excellent job explaining the basics of modern motherboards, but sadly it doesn't offer enough information on physically installing the motherboard itself. The easy installation guide quickly outlines installation of components such as RAM and the CPU, but also doesn't explain the process of mounting the motherboard to the case. This is the only flaw in an otherwise excellent package that we could find.