WinFast NF4SK8AA-8EKRS Motherboard ReviewWed, Apr 19, 2006 - 12:00 AM
The first thing you notice when you open the box and see the motherboard is the color. The orangish color surprises you. You expect unique colors from higher priced boards, or boards that are specifically for gaming and the such. I expected a plain brown PCB when I opened up this box.
Overall the layout of this board was very good. There are no issues with the placement of the IDE or power connectors. I prefer the 12v power connector to be near the 24 pin connector, but the placement at the top of the board is still very well out of the way. The floppy connector is also next to the 24 pin power connector at the top right of the board, which is about as good a place to put it if you are going to have one. There was really only one real issue with the board layout, it is minor, but still an area to note. The chipset HSF is placed on the board so that the second x16 PCIe slots release lever hits it. It is able to lower far enough to release the card, but it is slightly awkward. Of course, this will not affect you if you are not running a card in that slot. You can see this problem in the following picture.
On this part of the board, you can also see the we have our bios chip with the clear CMOS jumper right next to it. The bottom right pins on the board are the pins for the front panel connectors. We have been kind of spoiled with having them color coded for ease of use. It was no big problem though, as the quick start chart that comes with the board very clearly spells out which pins are which to make for easy installation of the front panel items.
This board does have active cooling on the chipset. The fan was not terribly annoying, but it stood out after working on the ABIT AN8 32X with its passive heatpipe cooling. It should be noted that adding an after-market cooler to the chipset, and you are running SLI, it may be difficult because of the PCIe release lever.
Just to the right of the chipset you can see 4 SATA connectors. These connectors are powered by the are controlled by the NV SATAII controller, which provides up to 3GB/Sec, multiple raid configurations, as well as native command queuing and native hot plug connections.
At the bottom of the board you have your USB and Firewire headers.
The WinFast board comes equipped with two x16 PCIe, one x1 PCIe slot and three PCI slots. Right next to the pci slots we have two more SATA connectors. These connectors are powered by the Sil3132 SATAII controller which supports 3Gbps, SATA RAID 0/1 and NCQ. It seems to be a popular choice for add on SATA controllers.
You cannot see it very well, but the onboard audio that this board uses is powered by the 8-channel Realtek ALC850 codec. This is a very popular chip to use for onboard solutions, and it provides good quality for the average user.
Taking a closer look at the pcie area, we can see that the WinFast board uses a paddle design for implementing their SLI technology. Obviously, it is more preferable to have a paddleless/jumperless design, where the control is in the bios instead. One more odd thing to notice in this part of the board is the 12v power connector here just above the top PCIe slot. The location here is odd, and leaves a cable from your power supply draped over and maybe even on your video card. There are better locations for this connector.
The top left part of the board is rather simple and clean. There is plenty of room around the CPU socket, with nothing really posing a problem for installing one of the larger cooling solutions of the day. Once again, the 4 pin 12v power connector is in a good place at the edge of the board.
The top right of the board exposes our ram slots, as well as our IDE, 24-pin power and floppy connectors. The WinFast board supports dual channel configuration of your DDR ram, with a maximum of 4GB.
The back I/O panal reveals the typical ps/2 connection for mouse and keyboard, four USB2 connections, two gigabit ethernet connectors, a serial and parrallel connection (who ises those anymore?), RCA digital S/PDIF and optical S/PDIF connections, and your audio connections that provide for 7.1 sound.