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How often do you think about your motherboard? If you’re a gamer, we’re guessing that the answer is: all the time. Here’s a sweet choice to put your mind back in the game.

How often do you think about your motherboard? If you’re a gamer, the source of your PC’s electronic get-up-and-go should be crucial if you want to get the maximum performance out of your games, especially ones that rely heavily on graphics and animation.

AOpen’s AX4C Max II, based on the Intel 875P Canterwood chipset, runs like the wind and is full of features and extras: four extra external brackets are included, adding in support for a game port, two firewire ports, two extra USB ports, and a digital S/PDIF bracket.

Other nice features of the board will become apparent during use, especially if system noise is a pet peeve of yours. Thanks to the adjustable SilenTek2 utility, the AX4C Max II can barely be heard until you put your ear next to it. If you feel the fan isn’t keeping things cool enough, you can even use SilenTek2 to adjust it.

In gameplay, the AX4C Max II does quite well for its price (about $180 street). It might lag a bit behind more expensive motherboards in benchmark tests, but only in memory-hogging games played at the highest resolution. We put it through dozens of hours of Madden and Tony Hawk, and the AX4C Max II never fumbled or wiped out once.

The differences between the AX4C Max II and its predecessor, the AX4C Max, are minimal–an extra PCI slot is about the biggest difference. There are some other new features (ATA/133 support, an onboard IEEE 1394 controller), so it wouldn’t hurt to examine the online specs and see if there’s anything exlusive to the AX4C Max II that catches your eye. But if you already have the AX4C MAx that came out in 2002, there’s probably little need for an upgrade.

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