Abit IP35 Pro Motherboard Review


Abit IP35 Pro is high-end motherboard based on the latest Intel mainstream chipset, P35, featuring several extra features like passive cooling with two heat-pipes (called Silent OTES by Abit), two Gigabit Ethernet ports, two FireWire ports, on-board optical SPDIF inputs and outputs, two x16 PCI Express slots, two eSATA ports, diagnostics display, solid aluminum capacitors and several other minor features. Let’s see the features and performance from this new release from Abit.

Abit IP35 Pro - Intel P35 ExpressFigure 1: Abit IP35 Pro motherboard.

Intel P35 succeeds Intel P965 chipset, being targeted to mainstream motherboards. The difference between these two chipsets is the support for DDR3 memories and the new 1,333 MHz bus on P35. Please note that DDR3 support does not mean that all motherboards based on P35 accept DDR3 memories: since DDR2 and DDR3 sockets are different, is up to the manufacturer to decide which kind of memories the motherboard will accept. IP35 Pro, for example, only accepts DDR2 memories. We think that’s ok, since DDR3 memories are still not so easy to find and the performance gain is questionable.

Officially Intel P35 chipset supports DDR2 memories up to DDR2-800 and DDR3 memories up to DDR3-1066. However, just like it happens with Intel P965 chipset, P35 unofficially supports DDR2-1066 and we could set our DDR2-1066 memories to run at 1,066 MHz without any problem. On this motherboard sockets 1 and 3 are blue and 2 and 4 are black, so to enable dual channel feature just install your memory modules on sockets with the same color. This motherboard supports up to 8 GB of RAM.

Another difference between P35 and P965 is the south bridge chip. Intel P965 uses ICH8 chip, while P35 uses the new ICH9 chip, which comes in four flavors. The vanilla ICH9 is identical to the “old” ICH8 chip found on Intel P965 chipset but supporting 12 USB 2.0 ports instead of 10. The ICH9R variant, which is used on IP 35 Pro, supports RAID, six SATA-300 ports (the plain ICH9 support only four), Viiv support (i.e., support for Quick Resume technology, which allows the PC to imitate the behavior of TV sets, where by pressing the power button located on the remote control the screen goes dark, the sound is muted and the keyboard and mouse stop responding) and the new “Intel Turbo Memory” technology, codenamed Robson Technology, which is a disk cache technology using flash memories, available through the installation of a x1 PCI Express card. ICH9DH (a.k.a. Digital Home) has the same specs of ICH9R but no RAID support. And ICH9DO (a.k.a. Digital Office) has the same specs of ICH9R but no Viiv support – i.e., no support for Quick Resume technology.

As mentioned Abit IP35 Pro is based on the ICH9R chip, which controls the six internal SATA-300 ports available on this motherboard, supporting RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10. The two eSATA ports and the ATA-133 ports are controlled by a Jmicron JMB363 chip, supporting RAID 0, RAID 1 and JBOD.

This motherboard has two x16 PCI Express slots. They don’t support SLI, as SLI is a feature found only on NVIDIA chipsets, however they support CrossFire. The main PCI Express x16 slot, which is blue, works at x16, but the second PCI Express x16 slot, which is black, works only at x4, so even though this motherboard has two x16 PCI Express slots it is not the ideal platform for CrossFire configuration. We see the second x16 PCI Express slot more like a way for you to expand the maximum number of independent video monitors you can have connected to your PC.

This motherboard also has one x1 PCI Express slot and three PCI slots.

This motherboard has two Gigabit Ethernet ports controlled by two Realtek RTL8110SC chips, which are complete controllers connected to the PCI bus. This is a problem, because the PCI bus doesn’t offer the necessary bandwidth to make the two Gigabit Ethernet ports to operate at their full speed at the same time. The PCI bus offers a maximum bandwidth of 132 MB/s, while each Gigabit Ethernet port can make transfers up to 125 MB/s (1 Gbps / 8). When they are working at the same time at their full speed, they will require a 250 MB/s bandwidth, which the PCI bus isn’t capable of offering. On the other hand, almost everybody uses the Gigabit Ethernet port connected to a 100 Mbps local network or to a broadband Internet connection, working far below the maximum transfer rate offered by Gigabit Ethernet standard. This motherboard has 12 USB 2.0 ports (four soldered on the motherboard and eight available through I/O brackets; this motherboard comes with a bracket for two ports, so the other six ports are left over). This motherboard also has two FireWire ports controlled by a Texas Instruments TSB43AB22A chip and available through an I/O bracket that comes with the board.

The audio section from this motherboard provides 7.1 audio, produced by the south bridge chip with the aid of a Realtek ALC888 codec. This codec provides fair specs for the average user, with a 90 dB signal-to-noise ratio for its inputs and a 97 dB signal-to-noise ratio for its outputs. The maximum sampling rate of its inputs is of 96 kHz, while its outputs supports up to 192 kHz. While these specs are enough for the average user someone thinking of working professionally with analog audio editing and capturing should look for a motherboard with at least 95 dB SNR and 192 kHz sampling rate for its inputs.

This motherboard also provides full 7.1 analog audio jacks on the rear panel, so you can easily hook an analog 5.1 or 7.1 set of speakers to this motherboard without “killing” your mic in and line in jacks. This board also provides optical SPDIF input and output, making it easy not only the connection of your PC to a home theater receiver but also providing a terrific way to transfer audio from other digital audio sources that provides an optical output such as DAT and Mini Disc players. Almost all motherboards that have an on-board optical SPDIF output don’t provide an on-board optical SPDIF input, and Abit IP35 Pro is a good exception. On the rear panel (Figure 2) you can find the PS/2 mouse and PS/2 keyboard connectors, clear CMOS switch, optical SPDIF input, optical SPDIF output, two eSATA ports, analog audio inputs and outputs, four USB 2.0 ports and two Gigabit Ethernet ports. As you can see this motherboard does not provide parallel and serial ports, not even through the use of an I/O bracket.

Abit IP35 Pro - Intel P35 ExpressFigure 2: Motherboard rear connectors.

This motherboard features a clear CMOS switch on its rear panel, which is great for the extreme overclocker, as you don’t need to overclock your PC with your case open to clear the CMOS memory when you change a configuration that made your system halt in such a way that it won’t turn on anymore.

Abit IP35 Pro - Intel P35 ExpressFigure 3: Handy clear CMOS switch outside the case.

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Author: Gabriel Torres

Gabriel Torres is a Brazilian best-selling ICT expert, with 24 books published. He started his online career in 1996, when he launched Clube do Hardware, which is one of the oldest and largest websites about technology in Brazil. He created Hardware Secrets in 1999 to expand his knowledge outside his home country.

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