After careful consideration I have decided to transfer all hardware review activities to a new domain. I purchased Hardwareasylum.com in 2012 and have been working hard to build a new and improved Ninjalane on that domain. If you are reading this you have reached one of the archived articles, news, projects and/or reviews that were left behind during the site migration.
Many of us have heard positive things about the new processor line from AMD, it promises 64bit processor extensions, higher scalability, and a much faster interface. Now, after countless delays the Athlon64 line has been released and much like other new technologies it is currently very rare and quite expensive. In time the price will drop though I wouldn't expect to see the prices anywhere close to the current Athlon XP, but time will tell.
The Chaintech ZNF3-150 is built around the nVidia nForce3 chipset that provides support for the latest 754 Athlon64 processors. The nForce3 is a single chip solution that acts much like a MCP (Southbridge) in the previous "traditional" chipsets. The single chip approach is quite revolutionary; it simplifies board design and helps to provide a more efficient interface between add-on components and the processor.
Part of the reason behind the single chip solution is the absence of the onboard memory controller. Instead of the memory controller residing in the Northbridge AMD has decided to integrate it with the processor. The idea is that this will provide faster memory access with increased memory throughput since the data no longer needs to make a round trip between the Northbridge and the memory banks.
Of course there are drawbacks including potential memory incompatibility issues, specific memory requirements (speed, timings), or a more obvious one, having to re-develop the entire chipset if something changes. This might be a blessing in disguise or just another way to get more money from the consumer (you). Regardless the Athlon64 platform is quite impressive with a shiny yet rocky future ahead.
The Chaintech ZNF3-150 features a jet black PCB with orange expansion slots. Most of the metal items are gold plated which is a unique feature on all high-end Chaintech boards. Board layout is quite simple and laid out in a very logical manner. The new single chip nForce3 MCP is located where the Southbridge would normally be. ATA and floppy connectors are located along the right with PCI slots situated surprisingly high on the motherboard. Some potential trouble areas do exist on this board with most of them being fairly minor. For instance, people with long PCI cards may have issues with the MCP heatsink especially if you decide to replace it with a waterblock or heatsink fan combo. Longer PCI cards may also conflict with the 3rd ATA connector.
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