Memory: Only CL2!
During our tests, we used two different types of memory.
The Twinmos memory ran fine with all three nForce2 motherboards. Unfortunately, it is not available for CL2 mode, so far. That is why we used the Corsair memory for benchmarking.
Corsair sent us two DIMMs that are labeled as PC3500 - which would be DDR433. As a matter of fact, we were able to run DDR400 at very aggressive timings with all three motherboards.
As you can see, some 3D applications gained performance considerably when running DDR400. That’s why power users should definitely go for DDR400 memory - even though the advantage is not realized with standard games and applications. People that run high-end 3D applications like Design Review or 3D Studio Max will clearly experience more performance with the faster memory.
All others can safely run DDR333 - but no matter which type of memory you want to use, do not accept anything other than CL2 mode DIMMs ! The performance gap to CL2.5 is as big as if you exchanged your Athlon XP 2200+ for the 2100+ model !
Conclusion : No Losers This Time
Our benchmarks underlined the fact that nForce2 is currently the best chipset to take. Sure, you will need to get two DIMMs, but the performance gap to KT400 is quite significant. More importantly, it helps the Athlon XP make its level of performance affordable in contrast to the Pentium 4.
Equally important is the fact that all three nForce2 motherboards ran stably - a fact to which we cannot always attest for new chipset generations. Just set the memory timings to "aggressive," and the board will perform very close to the maximum, without any efforts.
In addition, the three candidates offer overclocking options. Chaintech offers Vcore at up to 2.150 V (great for cryo-cooling), while it is missing an option to alter the multiplier. The same applies to the Leadtek board, which only comes with rudimentary options. Asus goes the straight way, and includes all the options you may want.
It’s hard to tell how often we already wrote this, but once again, Asus squeezes slightly more performance out of the chipset than the two competitors. If you’re out for power, go for it.
However, the Chaintech board comes with many more features than you would expect. The huge box includes many things, starting with round cables, a front panel with USB and Firewire connectors for installation into a drive bay, Serial ATA RAID, digital audio connectors, IDE round cables and even a key fob.
If you prefer a motherboard that is as plain as possible, Leadtek’s board could be your primary choice. It is likely to be priced lower than the Asus or the Chaintech.
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