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| Chaintech 7NJS - Up Close and Personal |
| Under the Hood |
Part of the decision making process, when debating a new motherboard purchase, is the accompanying bundle. While the Chaintech 7NJS comes in significantly more expensive than most ( $178 in various search engines ), let me tell you that it's well worth it. This board packed just about everything but the kitchen sink into the box.
From the second the box arrives at the door you can tell it's packed. The box is about twice the thickness of a normal motherboard box and weighs about the same as a small piece of luggage packed solid. Upon opening it, you find the motherboard encased in hard plastic. Below that is the rest of the surprise.
Inside you'll find the SPDIF card, the IEEE-1349a card, yellow rounded IDE cables, and lots more. They even went as far as throwing in a Chaintech keychain. Also present, but not pictured, is a Chaintech case badge and two Serial ATA ( SATA ) cables. Maybe the most useful accessory is the Chaintech "CBox2". This is a front panel for your case which fits perfectly into a 5.25" bay. On the CBox2 is a display for the CPU temperature and a collection of ports including USB and Firewire. Also included on the CBox2 is a headphone and microphone jack. So, for those of you that don't have front ports in your case, the CBox2 will come in quite handy. I would also like to note that the Software package is quite nice, the most noteworthy being Norton Antivirus 2002.
Under The Scope: Layout and Features
Now let's take a closer look at the motherboard itself. Chaintech did not skimp on the motherboard features either. This board is packed pretty tight.
The I/O ports on the back are nothing to gawk at, although they are gold plated. It's pretty standard actually. Two USB 2.0 ports and a 10/100 Ethernet jack which is provided by the Southbridge MCP-T chip. The MCP-T Southbridge not only offers NVIDIA's own Ethernet MAC, but a second Ethernet MAC provided by 3Com. The Chaintech does not take advantage of this however, since only one Ethernet jack is present. With the help of the CBox2, we can get access to the remaining 4 USB 2.0 ports and the IEEE-1394a Firewire. On board sound is provided by the CMedia 8738 controller, which offers 6 channel sound, a game port, and SPDIF support.
Promise Technologies' PDC20376 SATA 150 RAID Controller was also installed on this board. The setup that Chaintech provides consists of two SATA channels and one EIDE channel with RAID 0/1 support. This makes it a little more cumbersome if you are setting up EIDE RAID, since Serial ATA drives are pretty much non-existent at this point in time, but has the option there for when we see SATA drives hit the market. Some other noteworthy items are the location of the ATX 12v connector. When I first plugged it in, the wires were running right over the top of the CPU fan causing it not to spin. One must be extremely careful that the wires are tucked in above or below the CPU heatsink to save the Athlon processor from certain thermal death. The can capacitors located around the CPU socket don't leave much room for a heftier heatsink. In today's world of overclocking, cooling is a must and depending on what type of cooling solution is used, this may be a slight downfall. The AGP slot and memory slots are too close together. If you're going to replace memory, you'll also have to pull the graphics card. Finally, I would like to mention that Chaintech equipped their board with jumpers that have extensions on them to make them easier to handle. I can't get over the detail offered with this board. Chaintech left no stone unturned here.
The Chaintech 7NJS uses a Phoenix Technology Award BIOS and it is setup with the overclocker in mind. Almost everything is tweakable in this BIOS. For starters, you get FSB selections up to 200MHz in 1MHz increments. The Vcore is adjustable up to 2.15V in 0.25v increments, which is very impressive. Adding to that list we have AGP volt adjustable to 2.0V in 0.1V increments and finally the DIMM voltage can be adjusted as high as 3.2V in 0.1V increments. Being able to adjust voltages this high allows for some pretty serious overclocking. The only thing missing was the PCI lock, although Chaintech claims that the PCI frequency is locked at the 66/33MHz setting. There is, however, a lock for the AGP timing. Overall, we have a variety of options to get the overclock we're looking for. Speaking of overclocking, I was only able to get the Chaintech up to a 182MHz FSB with the CPU voltage set at 1.85V. This is definitely because we only had the stock Athlon HSF available at the time. With some aftermarket cooling, I'd be willing to bet that the 200MHz FSB is reachable.
Let's move on to our other nForce2 competitor: The Leadtek K7NCR18D-Pro.
Next Up: Leadtek K7NCR18D-Pro