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ABIT NV7-133R nForce motherboard review

Late last year NVIDIA entered the chipset market with nForce, offering a complete integrated solution with everything you could imagine – integrated NVIDIA Graphics, new NVIDIA Audio, integrated NIC… pretty much everything an OEM could want. Unfortunately though, it came at a cost and not everyone was willing to pay for it.

NVIDIA has now released an updated chipset which has removed the integrated GeForce 2 graphics, thus reducing considerably the cost of the chip and the motherboards carrying it, making it a lot more attractive to enthusiasts (who’ll more than likely already have something better than a GeForce 2 MX anyway).

The Abit NV7-133R is Abit’s latest nForce 415 MCP-D Motherboard. The MCP-D indicates that this features the Dolby Digital (AC-3) Encoder. So, now that the cost has been greatly reduced is it attractive enough to be worthy of you purchasing it? Read on…

 

First Impressions

I know I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again. Much like every other Abit motherboard I’ve used, the manuals are excellent and well written. The software “bundle” isn’t much to write home about, drivers’ disk and drivers CD. To be honest, you shouldn’t bother touching either as newer drivers are available online.

Installing the Motherboard itself wasn’t particularly interesting with the only thing of note being that I also had to connect the CA20 back plate to the Motherboard, this provides 2 further USB ports for use as well as additional Analog & Optical S/PDIF In/Outputs for the motherboards integrated audio. There’s also an additional back plate which provides a further 2 additional USB ports. That’s a total of 6 USB ports available, which is far more than most of you would require I’d say.

Of some note is the power supply, which must meet ATX 2.03 specification with an ATX12V1 power connector, according to the manual. While this is no doubt a good thing (You’d be surprised how many problems can be caused in systems because of a weak PSU), it’s ironic enough as, much like the Manual states, and this is a PSU designed for Pentium 4 systems.

On a related note the AGP slot supports only 1.5V, which shouldn’t be too much of an issue for most of you, unless you have a 3dfx AGP Graphics card (bar the Voodoo 4 4500 AGP seemingly) or something else requiring different voltage. Still, it’s just one more reason to move on.

The DIMM locations were a slight bit awkward however, and with a lengthy graphics card like the GeForce 4 Ti I found myself unable to remove/install RAM without also having to remove the Graphics card first. Similarly a capacitor was rather awkwardly placed for that Graphics cards & ended up just about touching each other.

 

New features found on nForce chipset

The nForce 415 Chipset contains a good few patent pending architectural features which NVIDIA have implemented, for the most part these relate to optimizing system performance (and much like the GeForce 3, 4 much of these come through optimizing bandwidth use). Here’s a quick run-down of some of the more important features:

  • DASP (Dynamic Adaptive Speculative Pre-processor). This is a latency reducing technique, which allows unused memory bandwidth to load the cache with data which the CPU is expected to request. Upon being requested this data can be sent to the CPU immediately rather than having to go through memory. This doesn’t require any specific application support to work either. Would you like to know more?

  • Twin-bank Memory Architecture. The motherboard features 2 Crossbar memory controllers (Similar to the GeForce 3, 4 & 4 MX in operation). This provides for a more efficient way of accessing memory as compared with traditional memory controllers, by allowing concurrent memory accesses between the CPU & Graphics card, & can deliver up to 4.2GB memory bandwidth a second. As before, no application support is required for this to work. Would you like to know more?

  • StreamThru. This is NVIDIA's patent-pending isochronous data transport system, providing uninterrupted data streaming for superior networking & broadband communications. Seemingly this can help optimize streaming data & will therefore improve performance of streaming reliant communications. Would you like to know more?

  • HyperTransport. nForce uses AMD’s HyperTransport I/O bus, which provides a great deal more bandwidth than is currently available in most non-HyperTransport supporting Motherboards between the North & Southbridge. Once more, this can help alleviate performance issues associated with bandwidth limitations, though to some extent this will depend also on the amount of devices struggling to get as much bandwidth as they can.

 



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