Articles: Mainboards
 

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Although the Chaintech ZNF3-150 has a lot of extra stuff onboard, the PCB design is good enough. There are only a few common problems like the installed AGP graphics card blocking the DIMM slot clips, and the IDE3 and FDD connectors located in front of the PCI slots. The rest of the connectors are placed on the left part of the PCB and never become a problem when you assemble or upgrade the system.

The design of the CPU voltage regulator circuit deserves our attention for sure. First, it is a four-phase circuit. Second, it features a RadEX cooling system of an original design. It seems like the Chaintech engineers took their inspiration from ABIT that installed the OTES system on their MAX3 series mainboards. Although the CPU voltage regulator doesn’t require active cooling in modern mainboards, Chaintech placed an aluminum heatsink on all MOSFETs capping it with a miniature fan, only 20mm in diameter. For better heat dissipation, the sole of this cooler contains a copper heat pipe that helps transfer the heat from hot spots of the heatsink to cooler ones. Again, it’s not necessary to use a special cooling for the CPU voltage regulator. On the other hand, the RadEX does help to reduce the temperature inside the case.

As for the functional characteristics of the CPU voltage regulator, I can only say that it provides a slightly-too-high voltage. The mainboard doesn’t support Cool’n’Quiet technology, but uses the thermal diode integrated into the processor to read the CPU temperature.

The BIOS of Chaintech ZNF3-150 is based on the Award microcode and is not free from certain odd things. For example, you cannot disable the integrated controllers (network, audio and SerialATA RAID). You cannot do it with the onboard jumpers, either. ECC enabling is not allowed. These are probably the only comments about the BIOS. The mainboard gives you flexible control over the memory subsystem with all its timings and frequencies.

The overclocking options are typical for an nForce3 150-based mainboard. The BIOS Setup doesn’t allow adjusting the CPU multiplier, but does allow clocking the AGP/PCI busses independently from the FSB. The FSB frequency can vary from 200MHz to 400MHz with 1MHz increment, while the AGP bus can work at any frequency within the 66MHz-100MHz range with the same increment. It means that nForce3 150-based mainboards suit more for overclocking than products on the VIA K8T800. The independent clocks for the bus frequencies give you the opportunity of raising the FSB frequency without bothering about AGP and PCI devices.

Chaintech ZNF3-150 can change the basic voltages, too. The Vcore is adjusted from 1.45V to 1.55V with 0.025V increment and from 1.55V to 1.7V with 0.05V increment. Although the maximum Vcore may be insufficient for extreme overclocking (it is only 0.2V above the nominal), it is still better than what most other Socket754 mainboards can offer. You can also raise the Vmem above the nominal setting it to 2.7V, 2.8V  or 2.9V. The AGP voltage can be set at any value between 1.5V-2.2V with 0.1V increment. You can also tweak the chipset voltage pretty much, setting it to Default, 1.7V, 1.8V or 1.9V. Thus, Chaintech ZNF3-150 provides enough controls for an overclocker. What’s important, the mainboard can reset the CPU parameters automatically once it gets over-overclocked.

My resume about this product is all-laudatory. Its advantages – wide functionality and excellent accessories – speak for themselves. Overall, the Chaintech ZNF3-150 is a good option for any demanding user.

 
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