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First thing upon opening its box you will notice that the 865PE MAX2 spots a bright RED PCB in addition of colored slots; PCI slots are blue, AGP is purple, the memory banks are green, and the CPU fan mechanism is brown, quite an interesting way to difference their different use. I would definitely want to see this on more boards on todayís market. While not an important but definitely cool feature is the FAN used on the Northbridge, there are 3 implanted LEDís inside (blue, green, red) providing a pretty neat effect in the case at dark.

Just like FIC always opted on their past boards, the expansion of the 865MAX can be considered maximal for an 865 solution. It features an AGP 8X slot and five PCI slots. Four DDR400 memory banks are available for memory expansion of up to 4GB in total providing a data transfer of up to 6.4GB/s. Note that Registered DIMMs are not supported.

The onboard Realtek ALC650 chip featuring a 5.1 Channel Codec provides quite a nice audio experience that should satisfy most of todayís high demanding gaming needs. To take advantage of the 5.1 channel option, FIC provided an external audio bracket that includes the CENTER/BASS and REAR audio channels in addition to a coaxial and optical audio output.

Other board features include an integrated 10/100Base-T NIC controlled by the Realtek RTL-8100 chip along with a with an Agere FW-323 chip supporting the two included FireWire headers.

The IDE connectors for the hard drives and the FDD connector for the floppy are comfortably located at the left side of the DIMM slots along with the ATX power supply plug resulting in cleaner PCB design.

Another positive point I would like to add on the PCB layout is that there is no interference problems with the DIMM slots when a bigger AGP card is inserted in the AGP slot; a common problem that has been noticed on allot of todayís boards on the market, even on the FICís previous 845 solutions that we reviewed.

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