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Review: ABIT AN7

by Ryszard Sommefeldt on 3 January 2004, 00:00

Tags: abit

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qavj

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ABIT AN7

Side-by-side table comparison of AN7 and NF7-S should serve to shake out the differences.

ABIT AN7 ABIT NF7-S 2.0
CPU Support 1 x Socket A/462 - All processors 1 x Socket A/462 - All processors
Northbridge NVIDIA nForce2 Ultra 400 SPP NVIDIA nForce2 Ultra 400 SPP
Memory Support 3 slots, DDR400 max, 3GB max, DualDDR 3 slots, DDR400 max, 3GB max, DualDDR
AGP 8X 8X
Southbridge NVIDIA MCP2-T NVIDIA MCP2-T
Audio NVIDIA SoundStorm (MCP2-T feeding ALC658 w/ Dolby Digital 5.1 encoding) NVIDIA SoundStorm (MCP2-T feeding ALC650 w/ Dolby Digital 5.1 encoding)
Audio Connectivity 5 port backplane speaker, backplane mounted S/PDIF optical input and output 5 port backplane speaker, backplane mounted S/PDIF optical output
PCI 5 x 32-bit 33MHz PCI 2.1 slots 5 x 32-bit 33MHz PCI 2.1 slots
IDE 2 ATA133 compliant ports from MCP-T 2 ATA133 compliant ports from MCP-T
IDE RAID None None
SATA 2 ports from Silicon Image 3112ACT 2 ports from Silicon Image 3112ACT
SATA RAID Sil3112 able to RAID provided ports Sil3112 able to RAID provided ports
Ethernet MCP-T provided (NV MAC) with Realtek RTL8201BL PHY MCP-T provided (NV MAC) with Realtek RTL8201BL PHY
USB MCP-T provided, 4 backplane USB2.0 MCP-T provided, 2 backplane USB2.0, 2 on PCI I/O plate
FireWire 1 backplane port, 1 I/O port (unsupplied) from MCP-T with Ti TSB41AB2 PHY 1 backplane port, 1 I/O port (unsupplied) from MCP-T with Realtek RTL8801B PHY
Other I/O PS/2, Parallel, 1 x Serial PS/2, Parallel, 2 x Serial

The feature list shows us what ABIT's take on a high end Socket A motherboard is these days. Like the new DFI LanParty NFII Ultra B board I looked at recently, which sought to update the A revision with a feature set tweak and slightly different layout, the AN7 does exactly the same compared to NF7-S.

Scanning down the list tells us what we need to know. NF7-S used Realtek's ALC650 AC'97 CODEC for providing the input to and output from the MCP-T bridge, giving the board audio capability. ALC650 can do 48kHz sampling for all inputs and outputs with 18-bit resolution in the ADC (analogue to digital convertor) and 20-bit in the DAC. Combined with ~90dB quoted signal-to-noise ratio, it's in the upper end of onboard audio CODECs.

However it's recently seen an update, ALC658 is the fruit of Realtek's labour. Keeping the same sample rate and resolutions as 650 is decent, but it gains a better digital input, Sensaura technology for support of EAX and other 3D audio APIs and an uprated signal-to-noise ratio for cleaner sound. So ABIT now uses ALC658 as a drop-in replacement for ALC650 on the AN7, equipping the board with the digital input that the new CODEC implements. We lose a serial port for the privilege, good riddance too I say.

Apart from that, little has functionally changed. Firewire support is present and correct on both boards and AN7 uses a slightly different PHY, but it's nothing to scream from the rooftops. Silicon Image still do the SATA with their 3112 providing a pair of ports and there's a couple more USB ports on the ATX I/O backplane, compared to NF7-S, but no change in the overall port count. No PCI shield ports this time around, two were present with NF7-S.

So feature wise, only audio gets an update and the layout sees the bulk of the physical differences between the two boards. Not quite the semi overhaul that DFI afforded their B revision LanParty NFII Ultra, but then again, NF7-S wasn't really lacking in the features stakes to begin with.

I'd have preferred four SATA ports and supply of the extra USB and Firewire ports that the board could drive, to complete the package a bit more and bring it into line with recent boards from DFI and Leadtek. ABIT's focus continues to be the enthusiast however and the upgrade and revision budget get blown on µGuru.