Articles: Mainboards

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PCB Design

The cost-minimization trend is perfectly visible with the Chaintech NVF4 Ultra VE. The first thing that catches your eye is the very size of Chaintech NVF4 Ultra VE, which is a little smaller than the standard! Well, there is nothing wrong in getting a little less of the textolite, so I suggest that we pass over to a few more essential flaws we discovered.

As result of the smaller PCB size, the DIMM slots had to leave their traditional position at the front of the mainboard. They are on the right of the CPU socket on the Chaintech NVF4 Ultra VE. This is a rare design solution among modern mainboards, but we wouldn’t call it bad. The memory modules installed this way can only cause problems in one case – if the PSU fan is directed downwards (like in system cases of the tower type). In this case the modules appear in the way of the air stream. Still, this is not a common situation, you should agree.

Another consequence of the smaller PCB size is the fact that engineers had to remove the FDD connector and the ATX power connector from the area in front of the DIMM slots. The FDD connector is now in front of the PCI slots and can cause problems with full-size expansion cards. As for the ATX power supply connector, it is located behind the CPU, and the power cable hinders the natural airflow above the CPU.

The IDE and Serial ATA connectors on the mainboard are in front of the chipset and the processor where they are unlikely to become a trouble at all. The Clear CMOS jumper, a very helpful thing sometimes, is easily accessible, but the pin-connectors of the additional USB ports are placed almost between the PCI slots, which makes them hard to reach if you have already installed the PCI cards. By the way, although Chaintech NVF4 Ultra VE has three PCI slots, you will most probably have only two of them since the slot closest to the PCI Express x16 will probably be blocked by the cooling system of the graphics card.

There is nothing extraordinary about the exterior of the mainboard. Although the solution is designed on a black-lacquered PCB, it doesn’t practically use colored slots or LED highlighting and is unlikely to present a bright sight for the owner of a transparent system case.

The mainboard back panel carries the following ports and connectors: two PS/2 ports for the mouse and keyboard, two serial and one parallel port, four High-Speed USB ports, a network RJ-45 connector without diagnostic indicators, and six audio jacks. The two COM (serial) ports of the Chaintech NVF4 Ultra VE are a real rarity today, by the way.

The chipset on this mainboard is covered with a passive heatsink of a medium size. Unfortunately, that’s insufficient as we will see later during our tests. The temperature of the chipset got as high as 60-70°C throughout the benchmarking process, which is hardly a normal operational mode for it.

The CPU voltage regulator on the Chaintech NVF4 Ultra VE is built according to the three-channel design. The MOSFETs of the regulator are not equipped with any cooling at all, but they don’t get too hot at work anyway as the air from the CPU cooler prevents them from warming up too much. The capacitors of the CPU voltage regulator come from Sanyo and G-Luxon. The former company is known well for supplying high-quality components, but the latter is a middle-range manufacturer. So, we wouldn’t put a “high quality” brand on the CPU voltage regulation module of the Chaintech NVF4 Ultra VE.

We also have to mention the location of the CPU VRM capacitors. They are too close to the mounting frame of the CPU cooler, thus hindering installation of some massive cooler models. On the other hand, we had no problems putting a Zalman CNPS7700Cu cooler onto the Chaintech VNF4 Ultra VE.

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