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AMD - Leadtek K7NCR18D Pro II Deluxe Limited

Leadtek might not be a brand that you associate with motherboards, as it’s far more famous for its graphics cards. Leadtek has however been in the business of making motherboards for quite some time, although the motherboards were not proactively sold in Europe. But in the last year or so Leadtek has made a big push into the motherboard market and produced some interesting boards for the AMD Athlon platform. The K7NCR18D Pro II Deluxe Limited is the current top of the range board and comes with a wide range of features, including one unusual feature that seems to be almost unique to Leadtek.

The K7NCR18D range compromises of several other boards as well, but the Pro II Deluxe Limited version is the one to go for since it looks better and offers a wider range of features, both in hardware and in the BIOS. If you already own a Leadtek motherboard you’ll notice the first difference when you take this one out of the box, as it is black, rather than the normal PCB brown/yellow colour that Leadtek traditionally uses.

Being based on the nVidia nForce2 chipset Leadtek has taken full advantage of the features offered by nVidia and the included MCP-T southbridge. This gives you the advantage of hardware Dolby Digital 5.1-channel sound with the help of a Realtek ALC650 5.1-channel audio codec.

Leadtek has also taken full advantage of the integrated networking and you’ll find 10/100Mbit nVidia based Ethernet onboard. But what is even more interesting is the supplied ACR riser card. Riser cards of any type are not generally common, but you might get the odd modem riser. The Leadtek riser however is in a league of its own and offers one internal and two external Firewire ports. The internal connector features a normal six pin Firewire port as well as a nine pin connector for front mounted Firewire ports on a case. The next unusual thing Leadtek has fitted to the ACR riser is a 10/100Mbit Ethernet port connected to the nVidia southbridge that takes advantage of the second Ethernet controller built in to the MCP-T that comes from 3Com. Furthermore there is an optical S/PDIF connector and outputs for rear and centre/subwoofer channels for the 5.1-channel audio. The ACR riser card gives you pretty much three brackets in one and even though you end up loosing a PCI slot we feel that this is a great solution from Leadtek.

Back to the motherboard we find a Silicon Image S-ATA controller that adds two S-ATA ports to the board. A couple of noteworthy additions, especially for the overclockers, are the heatinks fitted to the southbridge and the mosfets, which allows for better cooling of the components in question. General board layout is reasonable, but a bit cluttered especially around the bottom of the memory slots.
The location of the power connector could also be improved as it is placed between the I/O panel and the CPU which means that it might hinder airflow, especially if you have a large CPU cooler installed. Our only other minor complaint is the lack of fan connectors; there are only two available and one of those is for the CPU cooler.

The rest of the box content includes the usual IDE and Floppy cables, although Leadtek has gone for a set of round cables, which is not rare in this group test, but still an added bonus. There is also a set of S-ATA cables with power adapters. Leadtek has also included a optical digital cable with an adapter so it can be used both with amplifiers and CD/MD players. There is only one bracket supplied in the box and it houses a single electrical S/PDIF connector. It’s a shame that Leadtek didn’t supply the extra two USB 2.0 ports as well, but the four ports on the board itself should be plenty for most users.

The manual is acceptable, but it’s definitely not targeted towards the first time user as it is very technical and doesn’t have a lot of pictures. However, it has very comprehensive information about the different BIOS settings as well as good information with regards to the supplied drivers and utilities. You also get a reasonable software bundle including Ulead Videostudio 6se and Cool3D se.


Verdict

Overall, the Leadtek K7NCR18D Pro II Deluxe Limited is an excellent motherboard with good performance. You’ll be hard pushed to find something much better, with the exception of the DFI board of course. The K7NCR18D does however walk away with a well deserved Recommended Award.

{table:leadtekamd}

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