The Chaintech VNF4 Ultra : nForce 4 Ultra on a budget

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Introduction

Chaintech VNF 4 Ultra

Over the last two weeks I’ve brought you reviews on a few mainstream video cards based on PCI-Express (ABIT RX600 Pro GURU and XFX 6600 GT), and today I’ll finish up on the budget gear by bringing you a mainboard to toss one of those cards in, the Chaintech VNF4 Ultra. Chaintech is one of the smaller motherboard manufacturers, but that doesn’t mean they don’t make quality products. I have personally used a few of their boards and been very happy, the Chaintech 9CJS immediately comes to mind as a pretty good overclocking board with excellent stability. While companies like DFI, ABIT, and ASUS rule the motherboard roost, companies like Chaintech have found a nice niche in producing quality motherboards with no frills for those of us on a budget.

I’m going out on a limb here in saying that I’m not totally sold on SLI. I know many have extolled its benefits (eye popping graphics using two 6800 Ultras, or good graphics using a pair of 6600GTs), but SLI has some issues that need to be sorted out. First, nVidia’s exhorbant fees for utilizing the technology. Companies are paying a hefty, per board fee to use SLI, and I think we all know board makers aren’t eating that cost…it is passed directly to us, the customers. Second, I hear alot of people say “Grab an SLI board, throw a pair of 6600GTs in it and you’ll get 90% of the performance of a single 6800 Ultra”. While that may technically be true, not every game supports SLI yet (It’s a new technology) and when you stop to consider that an SLI board costs anywhere from $240-270, then factor in a pair of 6600GTs at $200 a pop…..how are you saving money? You can get a good nForce 4 Ultra board for around $140, throw a 6800 Ultra or X850XT in it and be done with it. I’m really torn here, but i have to say I’m going to wait and let the market mature a little more before I recommend people take the SLI route. Add to this mix ATI’s SLI rebuttal coming sometime in the next four to six weeks, and suddenly the market muddies a bit more. There is a market for SLI though, it’s the high end enthusiast/gamer crowd that settles for nothing but the best, however I think they represent less than 20% of the overall market.

So, without further adu, I bring you a board for those saving their allowance for other components, Chaintech’s VNF4 Ultra for the socket 939.

 CPU
  •  Supports AMD Socket-939 Athlon 64 FX / Athlon 64 processor
  • Processor interface via 2000MT/s HyperTransport bus
 Chipset
  • nForce4 Ultra (VNF4 Ultra)
Memory
  • Four 184-pin DDR DIMMs up to 4GB
  • Supports Dual Channel DDR266/333/400 memory

Expansion Slots < ?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

  • PCI Express x16 port for PCI Express graphics card
  • Two PCI Express x1 ports
  • Three 32bit PCI slots (v2.3 compliant)

Audio Subsystem

  • Supports enhanced NVIDIA 7.1-channel audio
  • Complies with AC’97 Rev 2.3 specifications
  • Six audio jacks with automatic jack sensing
  • Supports 48KHz coaxial S/PDIF output
  • EAX/Direct Sound 3D/I3DL2/A3D compatible
SATA
  • Supports four native SATA 1.5Gb/s devices (VNF4)
  • Supports four native SATA2 3.0Gb/s devices (VNF4 Ultra)
  • Hot-swap capability, allowing disks to be changed without powering down the system.
  • Optimized for the high-performance NVIDIA RAID technology
  • Supports SATA ATAPI devices

UltraDMA IDE Ports

  • Supports 2 UltraDMA-66/100/133 IDE ports

Embedded system monitoring

  • Temperature sensing for CPU and system
  • Fan speed monitoring and control for CPU and system

NVIDIA Gigabit Ethernet

  • Supports 10/100/1000Base-T Gigabit Ethernet with external PHY
NVIDIA ActiveArmor
  • A dedicated secure networking engine enhances networking security while reducing CPU overhead
  • Specialized features defend against spyware intrusions and hacker attacks
  • An intelligent application manager alerts you when unknown applications attempt to access the network
  • Supports the new Microsoft networking architecture for fast and secure networking
  • Boot-Block Flash ROM
  • Award system BIOS supports PnP, APM, DMI, ACPI, & Multi-device booting features
 Other Feature  Rear panel I/O ports

  • PS/2 Mouse and Keyboard port
  • 25-pin D-Sub female Parallel port
  • Two 9-pin D-Sub male Serial ports
  • Four USB ports and one RJ45 connector
  • 6-port Audio Jack for 7.1-Channel and S/PDIF output

Internal I/O connectors

  • Four 3×1 pin fan connectors
  • Three 5×2 pin USB connectors for additional 6 USB ports
  • 3×1 pin wake on LAN connector with housing
  • 3×1 pin wake on Modem connector with housing
  • Two 4×1 pin CD-in connectors with 2.54mm pitch housing
  • 5×2 pin Front Audio connector
  • 9×2 pin Front Panel connector
  • 24 pin ATX Power connector
  • 4 pin ATX 12V Power connector

 

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