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  Abit's WI-1P, a serious workstation contender? 
  Dec 28, 2004, 07:30am EST 
By: Dan Mepham

In the late 1990s, Abit became the darling of enthusiasts everywhere thanks to a series of products that offered never before seen overclocking features. Despite its success with enthusiasts, though, Abit struggled to enter other market segments, and remained somewhat of a niche manufacturer. Without a size or market presence advantage, other manufacturers soon copied Abitís overclocking features, effectively trumping Abitís only hole card. Ever since, Abit has been left to grapple for smaller segments of several separate markets. Today we take a look at Abitís latest low cost workstation offering for the Pentium 4 platform, the WI-1P.

Abit's WI-1P

The small heatsink and fan featured on the Intel 875P chipset of the WI-1P.

The WI-1P is a single processor workstation board based on Intelís 875P chipset, and incorporates Intelís excellent embedded Hance Rapids 6300ESB I/O controller hub. The 6300ESB is a derivative of the ICH5 that offers some improved features, such as 64-bit, 66 MHz PCI support, as well as internal improvements. Abit has outfitted the WI-1P with three 64-bit, 66 MHz PCI slots, and just a single 32-bit, 33 MHz slot. The board is also outfitted with an AGP Pro graphics slot for workstation graphics cards.

WI-1P 64-bit 66 MHz PCI Slots

The three 64-bit PCI slots and a single 32-bit PCI-slot as featured on the WI-1P.

Abit says the WI-1P has been designed with an improved power delivery system capable of supporting Intelís fiery Prescott processors. We tested our board with a Prescott processor at 3.4 GHz and the thirstiest board-powered graphics card we could find, and werenít able to observe any instability due to power constraints. When we loaded the board into a rather cramped case along with a couple 7200rpm serial ATA drives, the highest surface temperature we recorded on the power transistors was a safe 53 degrees Celsius. Four cooling fan headers are available to keep case temperatures down.

Abit WI-1P Socket 478

The 478-pin socket for Intel's Pentium 4 processors, including Prescott.

On the I/O side, in addition to two standard parallel ATA channels, the WI-1P boasts no fewer than six serial ATA channels. Two are provided by the 6300ESB, while Abit has incorporated a Silicon Image controller to provide four additional channels. Unfortunately, because the channels are spread across two controllers, you wonít be able to use a single six disk RAID array (at least not in hardware) Ė users will instead have to settle for one two disk and one four disk array.

Six Serial ATA Channels

No less than six serial ata connectors offering a wealth in connectivity.

The WI-1P offers a host of other on-board features, including 6-channel ACí97 compatible audio. Optical S/PDIF output and input are provided for pure digital audio. The board also offers on-board gigabit networking, an absolute must for any serious workstation board, as well as headers for LAN Active/Link LEDs on the front panel. You also get four USB 2.0 ports (two front and two rear), as well as two IEEE1394 FireWire ports (one front and one rear). Gigabit networking support is provided via an add-on Intel controller, while FireWire support comes via a Texas Instruments controller.

WI-1P ATX Breakout Panel

Six channel AC'97 compatible and optical and coaxial SPDIF output.

The performance of our board was exactly on par with other 875 chipset boards weíve tested, so weíll spare the barrage of graphs. In all cases, the WI-1P performed within a couple percentage points of other boards in its bracket, including Intel's own reference design, and we didnít encounter any unusual instability. Our only complaint relates not to the performance of the board, but rather its usability, as there are some headers and connectors on the board that are positioned rather poorly. Among the more frustrating are a floppy drive connector positioned under the last PCI slot, and front-panel audio and FireWire headers that force you to drape cables across the graphics card and MCH cooler.

And so with few exceptions, our overall experience with the WI-1P has been a positive one. Abit has made a genuine effort to offer a combination of features that you canít find anywhere else, and indeed, theyíve done just that. If youíre in the market for a more upscale socket-478 Pentium 4 board, and particularly if you have a need for more than a few serial ATA drives, and 64-bit PCI or AGP Pro slots, the WI-1P may be just what the doctor ordered. We doubt itís the next SoftMenu, though.

Dan Mepham

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