AOpen i865PEa-7IF review
Our 865 category reveals a range of motherboards from the ultra-budget to the ultra-specified, and AOpen’s i865PEa-7IF falls neatly into the middle of the pack. In terms of both price and specification, it’s Mr Average.
Unlike Gigabyte’s almost identically priced GA-8IPE775 Pro, the AOpen has FireWire nestling among the rear ports. There are two more FireWire headers on the board for connecting backplate-mounted ports, making the AOpen a slightly better specified board than the Gigabyte. Both have gigabit Ethernet, and both feature Realtek’s ALC850 sound chip. The AOpen wins out though – it has six dedicated outputs against the Gigabyte’s three.
The i865PEa-7IF has two Ultra ATA channels and just two Serial ATA ports, but you’re unlikely to need more – you can connect up to six devices using these connectors. Behind the Ultra ATA and floppy connectors are four DIMM sockets, which, like the other 865 boards on test, will accept up to 4GB of RAM in dual-channel mode.
We were generally pleased with the layout of the board, and particularly liked the coloured front-panel connectors. Although the exact colours are irrelevant, it will make it simpler to connect the hard disk LED, Power and Reset buttons. One point to note is that there are a few small capacitors nestled round the CPU socket, which might make life difficult for those installing larger heatsinks.
Overclockers are well catered for by the i865PEa-7IF. It allows overclocking through the BIOS and through Windows using AOpen’s EzClock utility. This allows GUI-based overclocking, which is much friendlier for those making their first foray into frequency experimentation. In our experience, you’ll only be able to retain a stable system if you keep the figures to within 10 per cent of the defaults, though. Another plus is AOpen’s SilentTek software, which lets you control fan speed and thus noise.
The AOpen is an excellent package too. The box contains a pair of rounded Ultra ATA cables, a rounded floppy disk cable and a Serial ATA cable. Norton AntiVirus 2004 is supplied with a 90-day licence for updating virus protection from the Internet.
With the AOpen, Gigabyte and ECS scoring virtually the same overall, picking a winner was tough. However, we felt that as the ECS offered only slightly less than the other two for much less money, it’s the better option for most people. But if you’ll fully use the AOpen’s extra features, it’s just as good a choice.