Chaintech ZNF3-150 (NVIDIA nForce3 150)
Chaintech’s current marketing policy implies a clear separation between different mainboard series targeted at different market sectors. For the enthusiast, or the most demanding user, Chaintech has its Zenith series. The first Socket754 mainboard from this maker was released under this particular brand, too. You can tell the Chaintech ZNF3-150 is an advanced product by its extremely big package and stylish looks.
The black PCB, orange slots, gold external connectors all contribute to a good initial impression. The accessories coming with the mainboard include a heap of various cables and, the most important, an additional device called CBOX3. This CBOX3 is in fact a panel to be installed into the 5ј-bay of the PC chassis. It carries one IEEE 1394 and two USB 2.0 ports, a headphones jack and microphone input, a card-reader and the POST-codes indicator aka DigiDoc. By the way, if you use the company’s software, the DigiDoc indicator may serve to display the CPU temperature. So, the CBOX3 enhances the functionality of your old system case and makes it easier to use the Chaintech ZNF3-150 mainboard itself.
The characteristics of the mainboard carry on the banner of the Zenith series. It’s hard to think of anything the user of a Chaintech ZNF3-150 may find missing. First, let’s enumerate the capabilities provided by the chipset, NVIDIA nForce3 150. Thanks to the chipset, the mainboard supports six USB 2.0 ports and three (not two, as usual) ATA/133 channels. Two USB 2.0 ports can be found at the mainboard rear panel, two more are “output” through the CBOX3, and the remaining two are added to the system by means of a special riser card, included with the mainboard. It is Chaintech Multimedia Card (CMC) 7.1, we will discuss it a little later.
Frankly speaking, the nForce3 150 is a less advanced chipset compared to the VIA K8T800. Thus, the manufacturer had to integrate a number of extra controller chips into the ZNF3-150 to enrich its functionality. First of all, they didn’t use the network controller integrated into the chipset. Really, Fast Ethernet is no surprising feature anymore. So, the status of an advanced mainboard calls for more, something like the Gigabit Ethernet controller - Broadcom BCM5788KFB. The engineers from Chaintech gave up the AC’97 features of the nForce3 150, too. Instead, they used a PCI audio controller, VIA Envy24HT, with its eight-channel sound and audiophile 192kHz/24bit mode. NVIDIA’s chipset doesn’t support Serial ATA? Chaintech engineers saw to that, too. They integrated a SerialATA controller, Silicon Image Sil3114, that supports four SerialATA channels. The hard drives can be arranged into RAID 0, 1 or 0+1 arrays. Besides that, the Chaintech ZNF3-150 carries a VIA VT6306 chip to support three IEEE 1394 ports. This is all capped by the availability of one AGP 8x, five PCI, three DDR DIMM and one CMR (Chaintech Multimedia Riser) slot. The latter slot accommodates the above-mentioned CMC 7.1 card.
This card comes as an accessory and carries several external connectors for attaching peripherals. The back panel of the Chaintech ZNF3-150 could only allow two PS/2 ports for the mouse and keyboard, two serial and one parallel port, two USB 2.0 ports, RJ45 connector for Gigabit Ethernet and three audio jacks. The CMC 7.1 complements them with two IEEE 1394, three audio jacks and an optical SPDIF output. Considering the ports in the CBOX3, all available onboard connectors can be attached to external connectors with their appropriate cables.