Written by John Yan on 4/29/2003 for PC  
More On: ABIT NF7-S
Last time I reviewed ABIT’s KT400 board, the KT7-G A solid board, it had a lot of features that made it a good buy for enthusiasts. Well today I’m going to be looking at one of their nForce2 boards. The ABIT NF7-S v1.2 is an update to their original NF7-S design and from my month’s usage of the board it’s become a favorite of mine.

The NF7-S v1.2 board uses the nVidia nForce2 SPP with MCP2-T chipset. Front side bus supports are 100/133/166. One AGP port with support for up to 8X and five PCI slots allow for ample room for expansion. There is no onboard video solution in this variation. For memory, there are three 194-pin DIMM sockets that support three DDR 200/266/333 sticks for up to 3GB of memory. Moving to a DDR 400 stick allows for a max of two inserted and 2GB.

Two Ultra DMA 133 connectors are on board to connect storage items but this board like the KT7-G also has two Serial ATA connections. And also like the KT7-G package, ABIT was kind enough to include one IDE->Serial ATA adapter. Rather than go into the Serial ATA aspect, I’ll point you to the page of my KT7-G review where it explains most of the advantages and use of the adapter. Serial ATA is the future and I hope it catches on quick.

Onboard features include audio, USB 2.0, firewire, and Ethernet connector. Two brackets are included for the extra USB and firewire ports. The onboard LAN is a 10/100 variety and while it’s more than enough for today’s needs I would’ve loved to see the gigabit LAN on this board also. Maybe I was just spoiled by the KD7-G but there’s nothing wrong with having a 10/100 as opposed to the gigabit one.

Besides just having a traditional ATX connector, ABIT has also included the 4 pin power connector predominant in the new Pentiums. Some power supplies now come with both the ATX and 4-pin connector so you can use either one you see fit.

The onboard audio consists of a 6-channel AC 97 codec. Also, real time AC-3 encoding is supported by the Soundstorm Technology. To my knowledge, only the nForce boards offer real time Dolby Digital encoding onboard. With the S/PDIF connector on the back you can use an optical cable, plug it into a Dolby Digital capable receiver, and get Dolby Digital signals from the board to experience 5.1 surround sound in movies and future games. You can, of course, get surround sound with games that have the EAX or some sort of 3D sound technology through regular analog connections to a speaker system such as the Logitech Z-680. I was surprised at how well the onboard sound worked and was rather impressed. I tried gaming with Game Voice and my friends heard me fine while we were engrossed in Madden and Medal of Honor. Of course the Z-680’s can make a lot of sounds cards sound good but overall I was rather pleased with the onboard sound solution on the NF7-S

If you have any dealings with ABIT at all, you’d know they were made famous for their overclocking features in the BIOS. ABIT has offered a lot of possibilities to tweak your system to however you like with plenty of options for overclockers. From voltages for various components to CPU speed you get to overclock your computer any way you like.

The layout of the board isn’t too bad. The only minor problem I had was the placement of the ATX connector. It’s sandwiched between the nForce2 chipset and the external connectors making the snaking of the ATX wires across several areas on the board. A placement of near the upper edge would’ve been much better as it would be less in the way. Four holes surround the CPU socket for larger heat sink fan combinations. Two LEDs, one red and one green, are located in the lower left giving you a visual status of the board. The red one will be lit when power is running through while the green one lights up when the system is powered up.
When I was reviewing the ABIT KT7-S, I had trouble with my Ati All-in-Wonder 9700 Pro and the VIA AGP drivers. Lock ups and crashes were frequent and the only solution was to use the old VIA drivers that XP came with or a Geforce card. I’m happy to say the ABIT NF7-S had no problems whatsoever with my video card and I ran games and benchmarks for hours without any problems. Stability is excellent and to be able to use my AIW 9700 Pro at AGP 8X was a reality.

Here’s my test system:
AMD Athlon XP 2200+
512MB Crucial PC2700 ram
Maxtor 120Gig 7200 RPM HD
Ati All-in-Wonder 9700 Pro

3DMark 2001 SE and 3DMark03

Futuremark’s two applications are up first. While there’s been some big controversy over 3DMark 03, I thought I’d show the scores nevertheless. All tests were run in batch mode with default settings. Here are the scores for 3DMark 2001 SE.

Comparing to the KD7-G, the scores are pretty close together with the KD7-G pulling ahead ever very so slighty.

Here’s the scores for 3DMark03:

Unreal Tournament 2003

For a real world game benchmark, here’s Unreal Tournament 2003 using [H]ardOCP’s utility. They released a 2.0 version of their nice utility a few days ago so be sure to pick it up if you would want to run batch benchmarks with UT2K3 easily. It now gives a nice html format of your scores and you have better control as to what tests you want to run. A definite must use for those wanting to bench UT2K3.

When comparing to my old All-in-Wonder 9700 Pro review, the scores are better but not by much. That’s to be expected as my AiW 9700 Pro review was done on a KT333 motherboard with slower ram. Performance for the board in UT2K3 is very good.
Comanche 4 Demo

Comanche 4 had roughly the same scores as the game is more CPU intensive. Running the demo on three different resolutions, here are the results.

Serious Sam: Second Encounter

For OpenGL, I used Serious Sam: Second Encounter and the Elephant Atrium demo. Tests were run under three resolutions and the average score was taken from each test.

I ran through a large collection of my games and I had no problems whatsoever with anything that I played with. From Command and Conquer: Generals to Madden 2003 to Unreal Tournament 2003 the board was stable and I didn’t experience any weird anomalies. Watching movies, I easily experienced Dolby Digital through the onboard optical connector with my Logitech Z-680 speakers. The surround sound was very impressive and if you plan on using this board for multimedia ventures than you’ll like the onboard sound.

Overclocking, of course, is one of the main selling points on this board. While I would’ve loved to test the features I didn’t have a spare CPU in case I burned my current one out. Once I get a good stock of CPUs I’ll start performing more overclocking tests but from other tests I’ve read out there the board does a very good job at being stable and overclocker friendly.

ABIT’s NF7-S performs well and is very stable. I haven’t had any problems with my month and a half of using it and I highly recommend this board if you’re looking for an nForce2 solution. For a very reasonable price, you get a lot of features and it’s one of the few boards that’s officially stamped with the Soundstorm branding. The only thing I can think of that I wished ABIT included on this board is a gigabit LAN connector. And they are Barton compatible for those wanting the latest from AMD. The NF7-S
The board is stable and offers a lot of features that will are useful. I really liked the onboard sound and the inclusion of Serial ATA Raid. ABIT's got another good board here continuing their tradition of good quality motherboards.

Rating: 9.3 Excellent

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

About Author

I've been reviewing products since 1997 and started out at Gaming Nexus. After writing for a few different sites that went under, it's nice to bring back a site that's not dependent on revenue and just wants to deliver news and reviews of products.

I'm  married, and enjoy first person shooters, sports games, and real time strategy games.

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