The first ABIT NF7-S motherboard was a fine board, but with a few problems. One obvious issue with enthusiasts was the omission of the four mounting holes around the CPU socket needed for large heatsinks, such as the Swiftech MCX462+. Some water coolers required these holes as well, so we can see this would raise a few concerns. Another problem for overclockers was the fairly limited options for vCore and memory voltage adjustments.
The NF7-S v1.2 addressed some of the shortcomings by adding the four mounting holes, as well as upping the vCore and DIMM voltage options to 2.3v and 2.9v respectively. A couple things that still occurred (though somewhat corrected with a new BIOS update) are issues with Corsair TWINX and BIOS corruption problems. The BIOS corruption issues are well documented with the nforce 2, and something we've been sure to mention in our reviews thus far. Recently, I managed to kill the BIOS on our NF7-M. Basically, after making some memory adjustments, the screen would freeze on "Saving to BIOS", only to never being able to boot up again. This happened with our MSI and Epox boards as well, so this is not an ABIT-only issue.
With the NF7-S v2.0 we'll be looking at today, ABIT has set out to perfect the board… correcting all past problems, as well as making a few changes that should make the board much more attractive to those hoping to take the plunge into the nForce 2. This won't be a long-winded review, since there isn't much of a physical difference between the 1.2 PCB and the 2.0 PCB, so we'll cover the areas that will be of most interest before heading to the overclocking and benchmarks. If you'd like to know more, feel free to read our ABIT NF7-M review and nForce 2 preview.
The ABIT NF7-S
Not a lot has changed on the surface for the NF7-S v2.0 when compared to the v1.2. The board still carries the same colour and basic layout. One change for the better is the chip that is next to one of the mounting holes has been moved slightly to accommodate larger heatsink lugs. We stated in our NF7-M review that some lugs may bump up against this chip (or not fit at all depending on the size). I cannot say for sure with other heatsinks, but our Swiftech MCX462+ has no installation issues with the v2.0 PCB.
The alignment of the AGP and memory slots still presents a problem for those of you using larger video cards. With a Ti4600, you'll almost certainly need to remove the card before removing/changing the ram since the memory clips won't have the necessary clearance needed. This is by no means a huge problem, but it is an inconvenience.
Like the v1.2 PCB, the power connection lie between the I/O back panel and the CPU socket. There is plenty of clearance to get your hands in there to install/remove the power connections, but the complain we have is these very power cables may interfere with the CPU heatsink and fan. Though I've never damaged a power cable with a heatsink fan, the possibility of this happening is present on this board.
One notable change from the v1.2 PCB is the move to a newer Crush18D A1 stepping. The v1.2 PCB used the A3 stepping, and while there are probably a few optimizations done, the notable change is support for 400FSB Athlons.
The MCP-T chipset gives us support for ethernet 10/100, USB 2.0, ATA133, and Soundstorm. It is capable of true 5.1 stereo surround sound, doing all the Dolby Digital encoding in hardware. Like the SSP, the MCP-T has also been upgraded, though I'm unsure of any changes other than probable tweaks here and there.
Next Page - Overclocking & Test Setup