Features and Layout
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The Abit NF7-S motherboard is packed full with features and fun things for users to play with, but one of the first things that caught my eye was concerning the processor socket. If you’ll notice, there are no mounting holes surrounding the socket for large heatsink installation. This is not something that I would have expected from Abit, as they are usually the first to help the end-user with their high-end performance needs. Abit did include “clip guards” on both sides of the processor socket to protect the motherboard from those of us with unsteady hands and sharp, sharp screwdrivers.
The room around the processor socket for heatsinks is about average and should be more than adequate for any heatsink that does not require the mounting holes, which are not included anyway. So, maybe it all makes sense that way…? Any standard heatsink and even the AX-7 that I use, was able to fit without much trouble on the NF7. The north bridge has a good active cooling setup that isn’t too flashy but gets the job done. Immediately to the left of the SPP chip are the power connectors. Abit has opted to include the standard ATX power connector as well as the additional 4-pin connector for added power and stability to the system. As front-side buses and voltages increase on both the processor and memory, this feature will become more and more popular, so in this case, Abit is back on track to helping the enthusiast.
The DIMM slots on the NF7 are in the standard nForce2 configuration – 2 x 1. This is the case that is needed based on NVIDIA’s dual DDR platform. And, as has also shown to be common on the nForce2 motherboard market, the DIMM slots are too close to the AGP slot and can be a pain when using a long video card, like a Ti 4600. The Radeon 9700 Pro we used, however, did not interfere with the white clips on the DIMM slots. So, depending on your current and future video card choices this may be a small issue for you when considering your motherboard.
Abit has included 5 PCI slots on the NF7 and one 8x AGP slot with a retention clip. Notice the big blank spot between the AGP slot and the first PCI slot? If Abit could have somehow moved those components to elsewhere on the board and moved the AGP slot down one unit, then the DIMM slot issue mentioned about would not have been an issue at all. However, the NF7 layout is rather full, and the capacitors and IEEE connectors located between that PCI slot and the AGP are necessary.
For I/O there are two standard ATA133 IDE channels provided by the MCP (south bridge) on the motherboard and one floppy channel. I am not sure why they felt the need to move the floppy connector to the far right corner of the board, but it’s a not a big problem. Abit also include the Silicon Image SATA chipset and two Serial ATA channels on the NF7-S for added storage capacity. Keep in mind that Abit is the one behind the Serial-Parallel IDE adaptors called Serillel which allows you to use your regular IDE drives on the Serial ATA ports, so you could easily take advantage of these SATA ports and their RAID options.
The on-board audio on the NF7-S board uses a 6-channel AC 97 codec but also sports options like SPDIF output and AC-3 Dolby Digital Encoding via the NVIDIA Sound Storm technology. So, you might consider this to be a hybrid solution between using the top of the line components from NVIDIA and the lower end components from other vendors.
Also included in the upper model of the NF7 is a 10/100 network interface as well as USB 2.0, IEEE 1394 (Firewire).