Abit has a longstanding reputation for supplying motherboards for the enthusiast market, offering a wide range of tweaking and overclocking features. This still stands true, but now many other companies have caught up and offer similar features.
Abitâ€™s NF7-S 2.0 is the latest incarnation of its nForce2 based motherboard. The initial version missed out on a couple of features that the enthusiast market asked for, so Abit created a second revision in and added the extra features that were missing in the original. These might be trivial to most users, as they where minor things, such as the four mounting holes around the CPU socket that allow you to use over-size coolers or special water coolers. Nonetheless, it is impressive to see a motherboard company that takes onboard user input to this degree.
The NF7-S 2.0 is based on the latest nVidia nForce2 Ultra 400 chipset that offers supports for the latest AMD Athlon XP processors with 400MHz bus speed and PC3200 (DDR400) memory. However compared to similar boards on test, the NF7-S 2.0 is a bit lacking when it comes to features and ranks only slightly above average. This is especially true when you compare it to the likes of DFI and Leadtek, but for those who donâ€™t want everything built in as standard; the NF7-S 2.0 is still a sound choice.
What you will find is onboard 5.1-channel sound and support for the nVidia MCP-T that adds hardware Dolby Digital decoding in the DSP chip built into the southbridge. A standard Realtek ALC650 AC97 codec has also been fitted, which is an AD/DA converter that allows for 5.1-channel sound. Discrete 5.1 outputs are provided on the motherboard itself, as well as an optical S/PDIF output.
Abit has also fitted a Silicon Image Serial-ATA (S-ATA) controller to add support for two S-ATA hard drives. Abit is the only company in this group test that supplies an S-ATA to parallel ATA converter in the box. The â€œSerillelâ€ adapter allows you attach a standard EIDE hard drive to one of the two S-ATA connectors. The only thing missing is an S-ATA power adapter.
Two Firewire ports can also be found on a separate bracket together with two USB 2.0 ports on top of the two USB 2.0 ports fitted to the motherboard itself. A further two USB 2.0 ports can be fitted but are not provided in the box.
Setting the board up was fairly straight forward and Abitâ€™s SoftMenu III is straight forward to use and makes it easy to set up all the right parameters for your CPU and memory. Our only complaint here is that the manual isnâ€™t as clear as it could be and if youâ€™re an inexperienced user all the setting might seem a bit daunting.
The NF7-S 2.0 fared reasonably well in our benchmarks, but it seemed to have some kind of a problem in the Office Productivity part of Sysmark 2002 and thus the overall score was also lower than it could have been. In the rest of the benchmarks it did much better, but it never really outshone the competition.
That said, this is not a slouch in any way and if youâ€™re after a reasonably well featured board that doesnâ€™t cost a fortune the NF7-S 2.0 is a sensible choice as long as you have some prior knowledge on how to set up a motherboard to get the most out of it.
Abit has missed out with the NF7-S 2.0. The performance isnâ€™t as good as we would have expected and the layout could also have been better. The price is also a bit on the high side.