Intel has been getting all the headlines for their dual-channel DDR400 platforms, like the i875P and i865P, but this is no news to AMD buyers. The NVIDIA nForce2 has provided AMD enthusiasts with a high-end platform long before dual-channel DDR was even a twinkle in Intel's eye. Add to this support for AGP 8X and a HyperTransport I/O subsystem, along with a wide range of integrated and 3rd-party hardware options, and the nForce2 is looking like one of the premiere gaming platforms on the market.
ABIT is a well-known name for enthusiast motherboards, and the SoftMenu setup probably heralded the start of mainstream overclocking. In this review, we'll be checking out the ABIT NF7-S, a fully-featured nForce2 SPP motherboard that also doesn't give anything up in the hardcore tweaking end. This board includes all the high-end features ABIT is known for, along with a wide array of onboard hardware for the true power user. This is a great combination of performance, overclocking and features, and makes the NF7-S a serious contender for the AMD performance market.
This nForce2 chipset comes in a few different flavors, but in terms of basic features, it offers dual-DDR400 support (6.4 GB/sec. bandwidth) and AGP 8X, and depending on the Southbridge counterpart, has integrated features to spare. The standard nForce2 SPP (System Platform Processor) offers a similar performance and features package to the IGP (Integrated Graphics Processor) with exception of the IGP's integrated GeForce4 MX video. Here is a diagram of the nForce2 SPP, which outlines the major features:
NVIDIA has since updated their product line to new revisions of the nForce2 chipset to support the 400 MHz front-side bus, including the nForce2 Ultra 400 (same as nForce2 SPP + 400 MHz FSB) and the nForce2 400 (single-channel memory). In the case of the latest revision (2.0) of the ABIT NF7-S, the board includes a 400 MHz-compliant nForce2 Ultra 400 and the MCP-T Southbridge.
The MCP, or Media Communications Processor, part is a bit more detailed, and NVIDIA offers several different Southbridge versions. The ABIT NF7-S uses the higher-end MCP-T chip, which includes basic ATA133, LAN and 6-channel audio features, as well as Soundstorm Dolby 5.1 support, but does not come with the DualNet, Dolby 5.1, or integrated Firewire options found on the even-higher-end MCP2-T version.