2 Boards With Nvidia nForce 420D - Disappointing
In spite of its technical functionality - such as dual-channel DDR SDRAM - Nvidia's nForce has had to cede the top ranks to the VIA KT266A. This fact is as plain as day in our benchmark results. Here are the two boards furnished with an nForce 420D chipset that we used in this comparison:
Asus A7N266-E - Room For Improvement
The Asus A7N266-E with an nForce 420D chipset.
Board revision: 1.01
BIOS version: 1000 BETA 179T
The pro-forma packaging for the Asus board. The retail packaging will get an optical face lift.
The Asus A7N266-E is by far the fastest board with an nForce chipset (dual-channel), currently available on the market. Our benchmark results show that this board scores in the upper mid-range in practically all of the disciplines. But it still can't hold a candle to the fastest boards with a VIA KT266A chipset. Asus has integrated a Realtek network chip (RTL8100), and includes an additional ACR card with 2 hardware codec chips for Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. It remains to be seen, though, whether this set-up will also be found in the retail market. Quite often we have received emails from our readers stating that some goodies such as sound and network were only "optional" on some ASUS models.
Extreme overclockers are in for a disappointment - CPU core voltage can only be set to a maximum of 1.85 volts, while the FSB clock speed is limited to 158 MHz. With this kind of numbers, the manufacturer should offer more for the end user by, for example, modifying BIOS. More and more, Asus appears to be lining up with the mass of generic manufacturers, rather than including clever, attention-grabbing overclocking features. And while the "quantity, not quality" ploy will definitely score points in the high-volume OEM market, it's likely a flop in the image-conscious retail segment. Although the OEM market might be considerably larger than the retail market, the head honchos in Taiwan ought to think over their strategy before they thoughtlessly risk their good reputation.
The ACR card included for 6-channel Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.
Important update information added on Nov. 28, 2001:
- 2 modells will be available: The A7N266 and the A7N266-E
- on the first picture you can read in the left upper corner "A7N266". The board you see is actually the A7N266-E . Asus missed to label our test sample properly.
- The mainstream A7N266 uses the C-media 8738 audio chip for 6-channel audio, and includes S/PDIF-in/out card. The high-end A7N266-E will have full Dolby Digital support.
- Asus has planned to include full versions of Interplay's "Star Trek New Worlds" and "Messiah". Further utilities such as Micro PC-cillin 2000 anti-virus program, ASUS ASUS PC Probe for system monitoring, Cyberlink PowerPlayer SE, and Video Live Mail will also be bundled.
- The final word isn't spoken yet. A7N266 series will participate in the next big nForce roundup at Tom's Hardware Guide.