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NVIDIA nForce2 Ultra 400Gb Preview - Page 2 of 2

REFERENCE MOTHERBOARD LAYOUT

The reference board had a clean layout overall. One exception is with the DIMM retaining clips, which don't fully release when a longer than normal graphics card is installed in the AGP slot. However, this is a minor inconvenience that I've had to deal with on other motherboards. The Northbridge heat sink was inadvertently left off the reference board so I installed an active HSF that provides a generous amount of cooling.

NVIDIA nForce2 Ultra 400Gb

The reference board has three fan headers - one above the CPU socket, a second one below the IDE connectors, and a third one close the 4th and 5th PCI slots. I have yet to figure out a reason for the odd placement of the third fan header and would have liked it closer to the Northbridge in the event one should use active cooling. Since the heatsink was missing on the Northbridge, I had to install an in-line molex adapter to a power supply line and use the 3-pin male plug that comes with the in-line adapter to connect the fan on the HSF.

NVIDIA nForce2 Ultra 400Gb

One problem that appears to be common on many current motherboards is the position and orientation of the CPU, which is located near the uppermost section of the motherboard. The orientation places the heatsink retaining clip very close to the power supply, which makes it difficult to remove the heatsink in mid-tower and some full-tower cases. If the socket was rotated 90, then it would be possible to remove the heatsink without having to remove the power supply or in some cases removing the motherboard from the case. This is time consuming just for removing and installing a heatsink.

NVIDIA nForce2 Ultra 400Gb

Pictured below is the system I assembled using the reference board. Clearance for an 80mm fan and heatsink was adequate. The placement of the main power supply, FDD, and IDE connectors are out of the way and make for easy access. I believe in providing plenty of case cooling with 120mm Panaflo L1A fans providing intake and exhaust while keeping it quiet as possible. The motherboard fits snugly in a mid-tower Chenbro Jr. case.

NVIDIA nForce2 Ultra 400Gb

TESTING

NVIDIA provides comprehensive documentation on testing the new features of the nForce2 Ultra 400Gb, which I may revist in a follow-up to this preview. I was able to run a few standard basic benchmarks although the system wasn't optimized for game performance.

  • NVIDIA Reference Motherboard w/ nForce2 Ultra 400Gb Chipset
  • AMD Athlon XP 3000+, Barton Core, 400MHz FSB, 512MB Cache
  • Mushkin PC3200 DDR @ CAS 2-2-2, (2) 256MB Modules - 512MB Total
  • IBM Deskstar 20.5GB HDD, ATA-133, 7200 RPM
  • Inno3D GeForce FX 5700 Ultra Graphics Card
  • NVIDIA ForceWare 52.16 Drivers
  • Windows XP Professional w/Service Pack 1, DirectX 9.0b

All benchmarks were run using default settings.

Benchmark Results

THOUGHTS

NVIDIA provided an updated BIOS, which allows access to chipset features and the System Utility software, which is a full featured monitoring and tweaking program for a limited number of nForce2 and nForce3 based motherboards.

With the nForce2 market remaining strong and profitable, NVIDIA made a strategic move in extending the features of the nForce3 250Gb chipset to the Athlon XP family of processors. NVIDA's Firewall is a unique solution to an ever growing security problem that customers will certainly appreciate having.

Back to nV News

Last Updated on May 10, 2004


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