Layout and Features

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The Chaintech 7NJS motherboard has a similar layout to what we have seen on other nForce2 motherboards. The CPU socket is somewhat crowded by the capacitors that lie beneath it, but either side is wide open. If you are careful, you can still take advantage of the four mounting holes around the socket that Chaintech has included for the larger, heavier heatsinks to be mounted on. Another note for Chaintech here is that they did not opt to move the ATX power connector to the right side of the motherboard with the memory (as Asus did on their A7N8X) but instead kept it directly behind the connector panel on the top left of the motherboard. While this does make the amount of room you have for the installing the power connector and puts the power cable closer the CPU fan in some cases, I was not a big fan of having the cable drapped over the DIMMs as we saw in other motherboards.

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The heatsink on the nForce2 north bridge is actually both of good quality and good looks. Matching the entire motherboard color layout can be a big plus for case modders with windows to show off their systems. The memory slots are in the standard 2-1 placement on nForce2 motherboards to separate the different memory channels from each other. The first two DIMM slots are for DDR channel 1 and the third slot is the lone DIMM slot for channel 2. The optimal memory configuration for the best performance is to have identical amounts of memory in the 1st and 3rd memory slots. The down side to the memory slots, however, is that they are rather low on the motherboard. When using a video card longer than a Radeon 9700 Pro, the memory retention clips cannot be opened without hitting the video card meaning it would be unwise to install or remove memory with a video card installed – and that can be somewhat of a nuisance.

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Chaintech has included, of course, an 8x AGP slot with a retention clip as well as five PCI slots and an ACR slot for a riser card. The Chaintech board in the retail packaging that I received actually came with a riser card (for the first time I can remember) for Firewire ports.

Moving on in the layout, we come to the section of much interest – the IDE connectors. As you can see, there are three IDE connectors available and two serial ATA connectors powered by the Promise chipset. Two of the IDE ports are for your standard ATA133 IDE bus and the third can be used for RAID configurations or as just another IDE connection. The two serial ATA connectors can be used for individual drives to set up a RAID configuration, or you can couple one of the Serial ATA connectors with the additional IDE connector to set up a RAID configuration that way. I’ll be the first to admit that it is all rather confusing, and the lack of a 4th IDE slot makes it all that much worse.

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The Chaintech 7NJS uses the MCP-T nForce2 south bridge of MCP, and because of that the 7NJS can offer a lot of great features for the end-user. It offers a total of 6 USB 2.0 ports with USB headers that are included in the box. It offers up a standard smart card reader interface as well. It has support for IEEE 1394 (Firewire) in both motherboard header format and as an ACR riser.

The only point that I feel Chaintech fell short on was in the audio they chose to use. Instead of going with NVIDIA’s SoundStorm audio with the Dolby Digital built-in, they went with a CMedia branded 6-channel audio system. While it does sound good compared to AC’97 audio from other motherboard manufacturers, there is always room to improve. They did include SPDIF connectors on this audio format, however, to increase its quality and usage. Chaintech did also include a 10/100 Network interface on the motherboard for a bit of additional value, powered by the NVIDIA controller on the MCP-T.

On the next page, we’ll see what Chaintech has included in the retail box of the motherboard and the kind of BIOS the Chaintech board uses and what we can tweak on it.

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