From a features perspective, the IT7-MAX2 is stuffed with goodies. Onboard you'll find Serial ATA (an upcoming next-generation storage technology from Intel and other partners), ATA/133 RAID, 5.1 audio, Firewire, networking and more! Quite simply, the IT7-MAX2 is the most feature-filled 845E motherboard on the market.
Serial ATA on left,
notice how much thinner it is
ABIT SERILLEL adapter
Serial ATA is an evolutionary replacement for today's Parallel ATA storage devices such as CD-ROM and hard drives. Rates of up to 150MB/sec are supported by Serial ATA giving it a theoretical performance advantage over today's storage technology, and for added flexibility Serial ATA cables are considerably thinner than their predecessors. The IT7-MAX2 features an onboard 2-channel Serial ATA controller bringing support for two Serial ATA devices. But, since Serial ATA hard drives aren't slated for release until next year, ABIT bundles its SERILLEL adapter for use with today's hard drives.
Simply plug the SERILLEL adapter into the back of your hard drive, power up both the hard drive and the adapter, and then hook your Serial ATA cable into one of the two Serial ATA ports on the IT7-MAX2 motherboard and you're good to go: one less gigantic IDE cable constricting airflow within your system case! We tested the SERILLEL adapter thoroughly with our IBM Deskstar ATA/100 hard drive in Windows XP and didn't encounter any problems. We see no reason why any IT7-MAX2 owner should not take advantage of this feature; it truly puts the IT7-MAX2 in a class of its own at the top of the 845E market!
Note two Serial ATA ports, one in use
A closer look at the HighPoint controller, and Serial ATA
HighPoint's HPT374 controller serves as the RAID controller for the IT7-MAX2. This is the same controller that was used on ABIT's original IT7-MAX motherboard and supports RAID Levels 0, 1, and 0+1. ABIT has been using HighPoint's controllers for years now with no significant problems in any of their newer controllers. With the two native ATA/100 controllers provided by the 845E chipset, the IT7-MAX2 can handle up to 12 hard disk drives! It goes without saying that the IT7-MAX2 won't disappoint in the storage department.
If you recall, Intel's 845E chipset natively supports up to six USB 2.0 ports. USB 2.0 offers up to 480MB/sec of bandwidth, in comparison USB 1.1 tops out at 12MB/sec. On top of this, ABIT adds VIA's VT6202 USB 2.0 controller to the mix, bringing support of up to four more USB devices (for a maximum of 10). A Texas Instruments Firewire controller supports up to three devices.
Realtek provides the audio and networking controllers for the IT7-MAX2, both of these chips are unchanged from the original IT7-MAX. We ran performance tests comparing the onboard audio provided by the IT7-MAX2 to Creative's Sound Blaster Live! as we were a bit concerned how well the controller performed. You'll have to turn to the Quake 3 benchmarks to see those results, but audio-wise the IT7-MAX2 doesn't disappoint. While we didn't test the 5.1 audio of the Realtek chip, in typical Windows applications audio was crystal clear.