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Chaintech VNF4 Ultra Zenith VE Review


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Introduction


We have been following the developments of the nVidia nForce chipset ever since our first nForce2 review back in 03. During that time we've seen quite a few improvements in chipset design and performance from nVidia, they even captured the enthusiast crown from VIA for a short time. The nForce3 was a rough time for nVidia their single chip solution had a rocky start but only from a specification standpoint, when you look at the benchmark numbers the performance was still easily on par with the VIA solution. Since most of the processor and memory performance has already been exploited the only thing left to improve is the included features, enter the nForce4, feature rich and hot as hell.
In this review we will be looking at the Chaintech VNF4 Ultra Zenith Value Edition. The board is based on the nVidia nForce4 Ultra chipset and as the name suggests is value oriented. Don't confuse Value with cheap, the board comes with a fair amount of onboard features but lacks many of the extra stuff we have come to expect. For a full list of features please consult the Chaintech website
The layout of the Chaintech VNF4 Ultra is pretty typical with a few welcome exceptions. Memory slots are located at the top with the processor directly below. This helps to ensure the processor is out of the hot region in your standard mid-tower case and more inline with the rear exhaust fan. The MCP chip has also moved and is now closer to the processor. Technical reasons aside the new location helps with cooling since much of the intake air passes by here. You may also notice that the 16x PCI Express slot has also moved below the MCP, this does two rather important things.

1) Allows the MCP to be above the video card giving room for water cooling solutions and active heatsinks.
2) Allows you to use the extra PCI Express slots even if your gpu cooler happens to be a double wide.
From a color standpoint the VNF4 Ultra is pretty plain; the PCB is blackish / brown with many of the onboard accessories using the standard black connectors. While I love a black PCB (though Red is much better) it would be nice to see a little splash of something to offset the expandability a little.
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