When the nForce2 chipset launched in July of last year, AMD was still selling processors running on a 266MHz bus. During the chipset launch however, NVIDIA let it slip that its core logic would support an upcoming Athlon XP, reportedly set to utilize a 333MHz front side bus.
Fast forward to Comdex in Las Vegas. Once again, NVIDIA was proud to proclaim support for a bus speed that AMD hadnít officially announced: 400MHz. According to officials at NVIDIA, nForce2 was then re-spun in January of 2003 with optimized power consumption and tuned timings. The result was an extra 40 to 50MHz of headroom, and consequently, excellent yields at the 400MHz bus speed.
Of course, NVIDIA couldnít officially announce its accomplishment because at the time, the 400MHz setting was an enthusiastís overclocking feat, not yet a setting offered for retail products. We all know how the story goes, though. AMD eventually let loose with an Athlon XP 3200+ and NVIDIA followed suit with its nForce2 Ultra 400, making the 400MHz front side bus official.
But what about all of the nForce2 chipsets that had shipped between January of 2003 and the launch of AMDís Athlon XP 3200+ in the middle of May? They are actually nForce2 Ultra 400 silicon, according to NVIDIA; they just arenít marked as such. There are a couple of ways to tell if your nForce2 board has ability to run a 400MHz front side bus.
Physically, the nForce2 400 Ultra SPP is completely black, whereas the earlier nForce2 SPP has a silver heat slug for enhanced dissipation. The easiest way to identify your chipset, though, is to install the latest drivers from NVIDIA that properly identify the nForce2 Ultra 400 memory controller. But be careful; according to NVIDIA, not all motherboard manufacturers have followed the supplied design guidelines, so pre-Athlon XP 3200+ motherboards might not work properly at 400MHz, even if it sports an nForce2 400 Ultra SPP.
True ABIT Style
Even though ABITís NF7-S has been shipping for months now, revision 2.0 of the product is equipped with NVIDIAís nForce2 Ultra 400 chipset. However, be sure to read the fine print if you plan on purchasing an NF7-S, as the revision 1.0 and 1.2 boards utilize an earlier version of the nForce2 chipset, not the nForce2 Ultra 400.
ABIT NF7-S 2.0 Board
No cooling on the North Bridge,
just like NVIDIA's reference board
Itís clear that when ABIT was designing the NF7-S, it did so with the enthusiast in mind, as ABIT has employed the top-end configuration (SPP and MCP-T). ABIT exposes the Firewire and 10/100 Ethernet features of the chipset and tacks on Serial ATA support as well. Moreover, the NF7-S can be found for under $100 online, making it an attractive prospect, indeed.