Chaintech ZNF3-150 nForce3 Motherboard Review
Motherboard Layout and Features
The Chaintech ZNF3-150 layout is fairly standard with a few modifications that stand out.
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The CPU socket has the standard Athlon 64 heatsink retention mechanism on it, allowing easy installs for your retail processors. This can of course be removed should have a non-standard heatsink and wish to use it instead. One of the benefits of having such a mechanism is that is removes some of the uncertainty around a processor socket on a motherboard and whether the majority of heatsinks will fit on it. As long as the heatsink fits in this clip and the motherboard manufacturer correctly implemented it, you should be well off.
There are three memory slots on the ZNF3-150 board, supporting the single channel DDR400 memory that the 754-pin Athlon 64 processor uses. They are far enough towards the top of the motherboard to avoid coming in contact with the AGP video cards in the AGP slot, which is a welcome change from a lot of the Athlon XP boards we saw in the past.
You'll notice to the left of the CPU socket is a "Radex" cooling system, designed to cool the MOSFETs and help in overall system cooling as well as any overclocking you may do with your system. A quick note, the first Chaintech board I received with this system was unbearably loud. That little fan on the back of board put out more noise than the graphics card and processor fan combined. After commenting on this several times, Chaintech USA has assured me that these fans were replaced and that anyone purchasing the board before hand can get a replacement if they wish (and you would!).
There are 5 additional PCI slots below the 8x AGP slot. To the right of these is where the nForce3 150 chipset is located. The heatsink is nothing very special, don't be fooled by the gold colored cover over it, it is for asthetic purposes only. Below this is a multitude of chips that help power the rest of the features on the Zenith motherboard.
To the far right, you'll see that Chaintech has included 3 IDE channels, one of them included as a benefit of the High Point controller that also powers the 4 Serial ATA channels.
On external connections tab, you'll see the annoying little fan I mentioned earlier. This one was replaced with a much quieter version, so Chaintech is on right track again with that idea. You'll also notice there are two serial ports here as well, something that is becoming less and less common for motherboards released towards the upper end of the hardware community. There are two USB 2.0 ports here as well as a Gigabit LAN port. The sound outputs are fairly interesting, and we'll touch on those in a bit.
If there is one thing Chaintech has continually gotten right with their motherboards, it is the long list of features that they include in their Zenith line of products. The ZNF3-150 is no different. Counting down the list:
- Gigabit LAN - Powered by a Broadcom chipset, the Gigabit networking makes sure you are going to be on top of the advancing network trends.
- 7.1 Channel audio - Powered by non other than VIA and their Envy 24 chipset. This is a GREAT feature for a motherboard as the VIA chipset is able to rival even the sound from rival Creative.
- IEEE 1394 - Powered again by VIA and their VT6306 chipset.
- SATA RAID - Powered by the Silicon Image 1305 chipset, Chaintech gives you 4 channels of SATA and an additional IDE channel as well.
That is as good a list of features as you are going to find on current generation Athlon 64 boards. Chaintech includes even more inside the box, and that is covered on the next page.