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Review: Abit AN7
Written by Gizmo   
Friday, 27 August 2004 00:00
Article Index
Review: Abit AN7
Diag LED/BIOS/Software
OCGuru/Performance
Conclusion
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Gizmo takes a long look at the Abit AN7. Initial impressions are good, but there's one or two things that aren't all they seem to be! Find out just what's good about this board, and what's not quite so good.

Review: Abit AN7

Summary

 

A good motherboard, whose execution is marred by a lack of significant support in current overclocking tools, a poorly implemented utility set, and a lack of interest from ABIT to address these issues.

Overview

Many of you have no doubt been following my trials and tribulations in building my own direct-die waterblock for cooling my CPU. (If not, you can read about it in the forums.) During the course of my experiments I managed to kill my NF7-S motherboard. Having had good luck with my NF7-S, and after having read positive reviews of the AN7 at some other enthusiast sites, I thought getting an AN7 might be a good proposition. The built in μGuru circuit seemed like a real plus (more on that later), and the board was only $1 more from NewEgg than the NF7-S, so I took the plunge.

Features

The Board

AN7 Motherboard
AN7 Motherboard

The AN7 is very much like the NF7-S. It uses the same general layout, and is based on the same nForce2 chipset as the NF7-S, with the same Serial ATA controller. It has the same number of ports, with one exception, but the ports are arranged slightly differently. You will also note that the ATX power and ATX-12V headers have changed their orientation. This makes it a bit easier to plug and unplug power than with the NF7-S.


NF7-S Back Panel

The NF7-S has 2 USB, 2 Serial, 1 parallel, S/PDIF out, Ethernet, 5 audio jacks and the keyboard and mouse ports on the back panel, and then four more USB and two Firewire ports on board headers.


AN7 Back Panel

On the AN7, you only have one serial port, and no IRDA header (I believe the second serial port is used to communicate with μGuru, but I’m not certain; this also explains the absence of the IRDA header, as this function is usually implemented on the second serial port), but you get 4 USB, 1 firewire, and S/PDIF in, in addition to the ports available on the back panel of the NF7-S. You have a second firewire as well as two more USB ports on board headers.


AN7 IDE Connectors

 

The IDE headers have rotated 90 degrees and are now arranged down the edge of the board on 90-degree connectors. This means that your ribbon cable now comes off the board to the side, instead of the more tradition vertical orientation. In my Yeong Yang server case this works quite well, but this is a matter of taste. Also, notice the screw hole on the left side of the IDE headers. Most motherboards use this hole for a mounting screw to attach the motherboard to the case. Unfortunately, with the AN7, the hole is too close to the IDE1 connector, and you can't get the screw in.

The board has a plethora of fan headers, with no less than five. While this is only one more than the NF7-S, these are more flexible. Both the CPU and North Bridge fans can be speed controlled now. In addition, one of the auxiliary fan headers (fan 4) can also be controlled. This functionality is enabled through the μGuru.

There are three temp sensors, one for the motherboard itself (the location of which I have not been able to find), one for the CPU (which now uses the built-in thermal diode instead of a socket thermistor), and one for the Vcore regulator section (located near the keyboard/mouse connector). This last sensor is really nice, IMHO, because the Vcore regulator can get quite hot, especially when pushing your board for maximum OC.

AN7 Chipset Regulator
AN7 Chipset Regulator
NF7-S Chipset Regulator
NF7-S Chipset Regulator
AN7 VDIMM Regulator
AN7 VDIMM Regulator
NF7-S VDIMM Regulator
NF7-S VDIMM Regulator
The voltage regulators for the Chipset and DIMM voltages feature larger, beefier switching FETs than the NF7-S, and you have more options for voltage settings (for example, the VDIMM can now go to 3.3 volts). The design of the Chipset regulator has changed somewhat. Instead of using a standard forward mode switching regulator using inductors, they appear to have switched over to a simpler linear regulator arrangement, similar to the way the VDIMM circuit is done. This was probably done to reduce costs (torroid inductors are expensive), as well as improve performance (linear regulators produce less electrical noise). In addition, the VDIMM circuit now uses two FETs on the AN7, instead of the single FET used by the NF7-S. The VDIMM regulator is also fed from the +5v rail instead of the +3.3v rail as in the NF7-S.

 
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