The ABIT NF7-S is a fully-featured motherboard, with all the standard nForce2 SPP options such as dual-channel DDR400, AGP 8X and USB 2.0, but it adds a few extras as well. Due to the presence of the MCP-T Southbridge, the NF7-S is upgraded to Soundstorm and Dolby 5.1 audio, although it doesn't add in the same functionality as the high-end MCP2-T. ABIT rectifies this through onboard 10/100 LAN and IEEE 1394a Firewire, as well as a Silicon Image Serial ATA RAID chip on the NF7-S, which supports up to 2 drives in RAID 0 or 1 mode.
ABIT also features CPU "H.T.P" (Hardware Thermal Protection), which prevents processor overheating at the hardware level. Naturally, the NF7-S includes ABIT's famous SoftMenu overclocking settings, which include options for CPU frequency (1 MHz increments), CPU Vcore, CPU multiplier, chipset & DDR voltage and AGP voltage. As is common on their newer boards, the NF7-S uses the 5bit FID (Frequency ID) for a wide selection of available settings. ABIT hasn't disappointed in the area of system tweaks and overclocking, and the NF7-S is another high-end enthusiast product.
The ABIT NF7-S retail box contains the motherboard, a hardcopy user manual, a driver install CD, a SATA driver floppy, one Floppy cable, one ATA-66/100/133 EIDE cable, one Serial ATA cable, one USB 2.0 bracket, one Firewire bracket, one I/O Shield, and Serillel Parallel-to-Serial ATA adapter. This is a very functional bundle, and the Serial ATA adapter is a bit of a plus, especially for those eager to try out the new interface. That said, it would have been nice for a motherboard featuring Serial ATA RAID to include two Serial ATA cables.
The overall layout of the ABIT NF7-S ranks pretty high and ABIT has definitely added in a few twists here and there. The basic components are arranged quite nicely, and there is more than enough room around the CPU and DIMM sockets, making installation quite easy. The NF7-S does share the trait of most high-end motherboards, where removing DDR memory with an AGP card installed is a chore. The floppy drive connector is positioned perfectly, right at the very top of the board, and the dual IDE ports are directly below the DIMM, and well within range of our cables, even in a larger tower case. The dual Serial ATA ports are in their standard location, near the bottom of the PCB.
There are a number of differences between the ABIT NF7-S and many other nForce2 motherboards, such as the AGP/PCI slot layout. The NF7-S leaves a space between the AGP and first PCI slot, thereby making it a good fit for GeForce FX 5800 Ultra cards. There are still 5 full PCI slots, so it's more a question of aesthetics than functionality. The NF7-S also uses both the standard and secondary PSU connectors, similar to a Pentium 4, but these are situated a bit too close to the ATX backplate for our tastes. The ATX backplate also has a few surprises, such as S/PDIF-out, and three audio/speaker-out ports for true 6-channel functionality.
NVIDIA has really improved on the nForce2 install routines, and these boards now rank up with the Intel chipsets for pure ease of use. ABIT motherboards can sometimes be a bit more work than others, but the NF7-S is a snap to install and setup, and may be the most user-friendly ABIT board we've reviewed. The board layout and features are excellent, Windows XP SP1 loaded up without a problem, and the driver install completed seamlessly.
The ABIT NF7-S revision 2.0 is one of five motherboards that AMD has certified for use with their new 400 MHz Athlon XP processors. The older revisions are still only certified up to a 333 MHz FSB, but with bus locking and greater-than 200 MHz FSB options on the BIOS, your mileage may vary in terms of potential upgrades. New system buyers should definitely scope out the 2.0 revision, even if a 400 MHz Athlon XP may only be a potential upgrade option.
The ABIT NF7-S System BIOS is a standard AWARD setup for the most part, with all of the basic integrated peripherals, power management and PC health status features. The NF7-S also offers a wealth of tweak settings, including full control of memory timings and AGP settings. The overclocking options are also quite detailed, with CPU, DDR, AGP and even chipset voltages available for tweaking, along with bus/lock dividers available. The FSB speeds were limited to 237 MHz initially, but a new 1.9 BIOS version upgrades the maximum FSB to 300 MHz, for those willing to hit the outer limits.