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Faster and Faster, nForce2: The Latest Boards Put to the Test

Summary - More Power, Thanks To nForce2 Ultra 400

In our test laboratory, the first boards featuring the new nForce2 Ultra 400 chipset exhibited a slight increase in performance compared with the nForce2 SPP - naturally based on the well-known FSB clock rate of 333 MHz. A further article, which is to appear shortly, will compare all the new boards with the Ultra 400.

The differences in measured speed vary depending on the particular benchmark and, occasionally, can assume quite considerable proportions. In view of this observation we can only identify one particular group of users to whom we would recommend the nForce2 Ultra 400: those users seeking maximum performance have our blessing to go for it. The new version not only offers enhanced performance features, but also supports system clock rates of 400 MHz. For those of you who cannot wait for our test, you can't go too wrong with the boards from MSI (K7N2 Delta) and Soltek (SL-75FRN2). MSI offers both good performance and good features. Although Epox also put in a good performance in the OpenGL benchmark, SPECviewperf produced an inconsistent set of results, so we cannot make any recommendations.

It's difficult to say how long the Athlon XP with the current Barton core will have to hang in until the Athlon 64 appears. Nevertheless, to speculate on its usefulness in the future is only of limited value for the moment because further increases in clock speed are not to be expected for the Athlon XP. Viewed from this angle, an Athlon XP below 3000+ is, without a doubt, a sufficient choice and, from a financial viewpoint, is even easier on the budget. As such, our previous recommendations still stand. Asus offers one of the most convincing packages, combining high performance and a comprehensive range of features, while Abit stands out with the best overclocking capabilities, and Shuttle and Biostar share the MicroATX market.

It could also be worthwhile to do a bit of bargain hunting over the next few weeks. Due to the changeover to the new generation (from SPP to Ultra 400), you may find the odd board or two considerably cheaper to buy than before.