Taking A Closer Look
The first thing I noticed about the NS70-EL's layout was the awkward position of the ATX power connectors. These are positioned in such a way that when the board is installed into a case, the ATX12V power cable runs over the top of your heatsink/fan unit. Now this may not be a problem to some of you, but this small factor can greatly restrict airflow and hinder overclocking results.
The NS70-EL features a slot layout of 5 PCI, 1 AGP and 1 CNR. I would have liked to see an extra PCI slot added, considering that the chipset supports a total of 6 PCI slots, however, I'm sure for many of you 5 PCI slots is more than sufficient. One thing to note is that like most newer motherboards, the NS70-EL's AGP slot features a retention mechanism similar to that found on the DIMM slots. This will stop your AGP card from falling out of place while in transport, etc. The inclusion of a CNR slot makes it clear that DFI is also targeting the OEM market with this board.
Apart from the bad ATX power connector placement, the layout of the NS70-EL was great, with the IDE and Floppy connectors logically placed so that you can easily install/remove devices without any issues.
Another thing that proves DFI is targeting the OEM market with this board is the amount of integrated features it has. Firstly, the board features a ADMtek AN983B 10/100 LAN controller that, despite what you may have heard about onboard controllers, was actually quite decent and a great alternative for those of you that do not have a network card.
The board also features an AC'97 audio controller. As with most integrated sound solutions, this controller did not provide sound quality anywhere near what you would get from a proper soundcard, however, it is good as a temporary solution or for those that cannot afford to buy a soundcard or are not going to be using their PC for gaming/listening to music.
There are three DIMM slots onboard, each supporting 1GB of DDR333/266 memory, giving a maximum of 3GB. This is more than sufficient for anyone looking at purchasing the board for regular desktop use because, arguably, the most memory you need for today's applications is 256MB, with some people upgrading to 512MB just to be safe.
ATA133 support is also provided through the SiS961 Southbridge. Most newer motherboards will feature ATA133 support, and hopefully we will see more and more manufacturers release their ATA133 devices in the near future. The only feature I feel is missing from the board is USB 2.0. A lot of newer boards include this feature and it would be nice to have seen it on the NS70-EL. However, with USB 2.0 cards selling at such low prices, it shouldn't really deter many of you.
The Northbridge is cooled by a small, passive heatsink. The SiS645 Northbridge produces a very small amount of heat and the fact that it doesn't require an active cooler reduces the noise level for those of you that require a silent system.