Features: Most of the features included on the NF7-S are pretty self-explanatory, there are a few however that are specific to the Abit line that I'd like to go into just a bit more detail on to insure you know the full capabilities of the NF7-S.
5 Bit Frequency ID
This is a feature aimed directly at the overclocker. Here's a quote from an ABIT release..
"By ABIT 5-bit FID Override technology, users can get variety of CPU over-clocking sets. For example, if user gets a AMD Athlon XP 2400+ CPU by 133MHz (FSB)x15(Multiplier)= 2000MHz(CPU/DDR=133/166), that means user only can adjust the FSB to get an over-clocking performance without 5-bits FID override technology.
Otherwise he can adjust the frequency through 5-bits FID override by 166MHz x12=2000MHz (CPU/DDR=166/166) or 100MHz x20=2000MHz (CPU/DDR=100/100)to gain a best performance platform. "
Broken down this basically means that they've not only given the ability to have the CPU for all intent and purpose "unlocked", but that they've given us a boat load of multiplier settings to play with. We've messed with this quite a bit and sure enough, the AthlonXP 2100+ that we've been testing with will run at any multiplier x FSB setting we can throw at it. This feature absolutely rocks and gives me a flat out warm and fuzzy about ABIT and their dominance of the performance motherboard market.
3 Phase Power Solution
This is another option taking aim at the performance user. To again use ABIT's own example...
* Why do we need 3-Phase power? You can see the table. When we get a AMD Athlon XP 2700+ on our M/B, we need 68.3W Thermal Power (Vcc voltage=1.65V, Processor Current=41.4A).
* Itís original status, if you are a power user and you want enjoy overclocking function, you must need more Vcc voltage (maybe 1.75V), that means you must arise the system thermal power up to 72.5W (1.75V x 41.4A=72.45W). It seems over 2-phase power (under 50W)
* So ABITís 3-Phase power will apply more stable power for CPU and overclocking function
The bottom line here being cleaner, more stable, more efficient power to your CPU when you need it most, and that's when you're overclocking your system and pushing the envelope. Is this a mandatory feature? Not really. I can say though that there are other manufacturers already following ABIT in their footsteps and releasing similar technology, so you be the judge.
What Makes the Ver 1.2 Different from the 1.0 and 1.1?
The differences are relatively minor on paper, but HUGE in real world applications. On the NF7-S ver 1.0 there were not four mounting holes for the heat sink, as we've become accustomed to, around the CPU socket, and the VCore voltage was limited to 1.85v. AMD had removed the four holes from their reference design and ABIT, along with a good deal of manufacturers followed suit. After complaints from the industry consumers ABIT released Version 1.1 which again added the four holes to the PCB.
This was a big hit as it allowed water cooler lovers and monster heat sink users (such as the units from Swiftech) to again be used on their performance board. It was almost instantly noted by Abit however that one more step was needed. The VCore was still limited to 1.85v, and with the added cooling potential of the four holes, SURELY peeps would want the extra juice to their CPU to really crank it up! Hence, the current version 1.2 which not only had the 4 mounting holes, but also took the VCore limitation to a whopping (and damn near insane!) 2.3VOLTS!
Initial Impressions of the Board:
The first thing I noticed about the board was the inclusion again (they do this in their KD7 and AT7 series boards as well) of the 4 pin, traditionally P4, power connector. Straight from ABIT on why this is included.
The connector is actually called the "ATX2" connector, and it clearly states in the manual that connecting to it is "not required", meaning that if you don't have a newer style ATX power supply that you don't need to run out and buy one. So why is it there you ask? According to ABIT:
"It is because that the current Power Supply Units apply to P4 specification requirement. ABIT constantly utilized this option on AT7-MAX2 and KD7 boards that could provide stable 12V voltage. It has no effects if the power supply you used on board did not match the requirements. It would be worked normally on AT7-MAX2 and KD7 boards."
So basically their logic is that it can't hurt to have an additional source for a clean 12v path to the power supply. In talking to several KD7 series users I have run across some that claim it actually assisted them in stability to utilize it, during the testing for this review we honestly didn't notice a difference one way or the other. The location of the connector was just as inconvenient as it is on all the P4 motherboards we've seen, but props to ABIT for utilizing every resource available.
While looks aren't ultra important in a motherboard, layout is. The first thing I look for on a motherboard is where the ATX connector(s) are. The ATX power cable is fairly big and bulky so I prefer to have the connector located at the top of the board so that it's easy to route out of the way. The NF7 both irritated and pleased me on their locations choice.
I hate the location because it is on the left side of the board below the level of the Socket A. This means that you must route the ATX cables around (or over) your CPU cooler. At worst it hinders your cooling performance, at best it simply looks bad and prevents a clean case without work. What I LIKE about what ABIT has done is they placed both the ATX and the ATX-2 connectors side by side. This allows you to run both cables together and actually aides in a clean appearance if done correctly.
One thing that stands out in my mind as a good thing ABIT has changed for the NF7-S is that the CMOS battery is again laid down on the board, not standing up.
Below is an image of the CMOS battery on the ABIT KD7-RAID which was placed vertically, or "stood up" on the board.
While standing the battery up may have saved a little real estate on the PCB, it begged for troubles. It is easy to knock off in every day use, but it's WAY TOO EASY for it to be broken off during shipment, which has been the case on more than a few deliveries. Props to ABIT for going back to the more conventional, safer design.
The Orb that we were introduced to on ABIT's KD7 Series makes a return on the NF7 series. Is this cheesy, of couse, but damn is it sweet looking..
Let's go to page three and check out the BIOS and what this nForce2 offering has from ABIT..
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