It is almost an evident fact that Athlon XP processors will soon move to 400MHz bus. That is why it is not at all surprising that the chipset and mainboard manufacturers are willing to get ready for this event in advance. When AMD announces its new Athlon XP with 400MHz bus, there should be enough chipsets and mainboards in the market capable of working with these processors. All three leading Socket A core logic developers prepared very well for the launch of the new processors and have new chipsets at hand now. They are: VIA KT600, SiS748 and NVIDIA nForce2 Ultra 400. The mainboard manufacturers run neck and neck with the chipset guys and do their best to release new mainboards with 400MHz bus support as early as possible.
In fact the first mainboard manufacturer, who announced the availability of products compliant with 400MHz bus of the upcoming Athlon XP processors, appeared ABIT Company. The first mainboard from ABIT working stably and faultlessly with the CPUs supporting this bus turned out NF7 (NF7-S) Rev. 2.0 based on the enhanced NVIDIA nForce2 chipset. So, we decided to return to ABIT NF7 mainboard (as you remember, we have already reviewed it, check our article ABIT NF7-S Mainboard: Overclocker’s Dream? for more details). In this article we will take a closer look at the new mainboard revision and will try to model the way this mainboard will work with the upcoming processors.
ABIT NF7 2.0: What’s New?
We have already taken a close look at one of the earlier ABIT NF7 revisions (see the review here). The new Rev. 2.0 of the legendary ABIT NF7 is certainly similar to the earlier revisions, however, it still boasts a number of remarkable peculiarities. Here I am going to dwell on these peculiarities.
You can easily tell the new ABIT NF7 revision
from the old one: see the sticker
The major difference between ABIT NF7 2.0 and the older revisions is the new NVIDIA nForce2 chipset stepping officially supporting 200MHz FSB (400MHz bus). The mainboard package says it very clearly:
New nForce2 with 400MHz bus support is codenamed CR18D.
Many of you who have older ABIT NF7 revisions may object to this saying that their mainboards also work perfectly well with 400MHz bus frequency, even though they are based on the older NVIDIA nForce2 chipset version. It would be true. Starting from the very first Rev. 1.0, all NF7 mainboards did allow increasing the FSB frequency up to 200MHz and higher and remained very stable working in this mode. But despite this fact, the actual state of things is not quite correct. In reality only those Athlon XP processors were working properly with 400MHz bus, which were based on Thoroughbred core. As we saw during our tests, Athlon XP processors on Barton core didn’t work stably on earlier revisions of ABIT NF7. The problem was inside the chipset.
Now NVIDIA is shipping new nForce2 chipset stepping, which will be officially known as nForce2 Ultra 400 and will support any Socket A processors with 400MHz bus.
Ultra stands for dual-channel, 400 – for 400MHz bus support.
There will also be a single-channel nForce2 400 chipset.