The way the nForce chipset works is very interesting. Despite the fact that the board has three RAM slots, the board can only accept five banks of RAM. Banks of RAM are defined by the strips of chips on a stick of RAM, for simplicities sake. If you have a stick of RAM with chips on both sides, it will use two banks on the motherboard. Generally the larger memory modules have chips on both sides Ė 256MB, 512MB, and 1024MB. What this boils down to is that you must pay attention to how much RAM you buy when you assemble your system. Itís a shame that this fact is not better known. This pretty much makes the third slot useless, as it can only be filled with a stick RAM that isnít very large. You can only have two double-sided sticks in the system, so make them count. The first slot is one array, and the other two slots count as the second set.
Another tidbit particular to the nForce is that it runs best if you have two sticks of RAM. The way the memory subsystem is designed you are better off putting a stick in each of the separate slot groupings.
If youíve read anything about the onboard video on the nForce boards, itís nothing to write home about. The performance rivals that of a GeForce2 MX. We originally checked out the performance of the graphics in our nForce preview, itís pretty safe to say not much has changed since then. Weíre pretty sure that the majority of you out there arenít going to be buying this board for its graphics capabilities Ė youíre all going to be taking advantage of the AGP port, right? On a slight tangent, for those of you still deciding on what board to get, you might want to wait a little longer. NVIDIA announced that it would be releasing a chipset called the 415-D - all the Dolby Digital goodness sans the onboard video. This reduces the number of onboard items, while at the same time cutting the cost of the board by an unknown amount. Weíre going to guess that the board will arrive at a price slightly above a $100, seeing as boards based on the 420-D go for approximately $150.
The clean design that this board has pleases us to no end. Clearance around the CPU is ample, and will allow just for about any sort of cooler. Weíre exceedingly happy to note that there are no capacitors in the way of the heatsink clips. There are quite a few boards out on the market that place the socket within a hair of a capacitor. For those whose fingers arenít dainty little lotus petals, putting on a heatink can become a nightmare.
The rest of the board followed up in good fashion. Most of the connectors are in good positions. The only one we would like to move, and this totally depends on your preference, is the second fan connector. Itís way up at the top of the board, in close proximity to the RAM slots and the CPU fan connector. Many people have fans at the front of their case, generally right next to the power connectors.