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Leadtek K7N420-DA nForce Motherboard Review - Features

When the original nForce based motherboards were in production, they were supposed to be the greatest thing since bread and butter. Unfortunately, their performance was nothing to be proud of. But nVidia hasn't given up on the idea of a chipset for AMD processors with decent built-in graphics. Come join Cameron "Sov" Johnson as he takes a look at the Leadtek K7N420-DA Motherboard. It is based on the newest 420D nForce chipset and again has onboard graphics. But can they pull themselves out of the hole that they dug last time around? Let's find out!

| NVIDIA Chipset in Motherboards | Posted: Jun 3, 2002 4:00 am
TweakTown Rating: 6.5%Manufacturer: Leadtek

Features

 

Layout

 

 

The layout of the Winfast K7N420DA is rather disappointing. You only get a 1/4/1 (AGP/PCI/Riser) layout. Even with the onboard peripherals that come with the board, 4 PCI slots just aren't going to cut it. Just think, adding in a RAID, second NIC, USB 2.0 Controller card or Firewire card and you're down 2-3 slots. The ACR slot is useless since the board has onboard 6ch audio so this space is wasted where another PCI slot could have gone.

 

Chipset

 

 

 

 

Powering the K7N420DA is the nForce 420D Northbridge Controller. This chipset before its release was the most talked about chipset since the KX133. This chipset, according to sources and hardware fanatics, was supposed to revolutionize AMD Athlon systems. This was because of the 128-bit memory controller built into the 128IGP-D Northbridge. When released, we soon found out that even though the memory controller in 128-bit mode delivering upwards of 4.2GB/s bandwidth, the AMD Athlon processor would only use 2.1GB/s max for it's interface. This made the extra memory performance totally useless. The IGP128-D also integrated nVidia's Geforce2 MX video controller. This also was supposed to revolutionize Integrated PC's with a fast onboard video solution, however, due to its SMA with the system memory for the video card, it turned out quite less than stellar.

 

Coupled with the MCP-D Southbridge you get a standard ATA-100 IDE controller which proved to be one of the fastest in its time. Also with the MCP-D you get 6ch Dolby Certified Surround sound via AC'97 audio. This chip was the best AC'97 audio ever release and still carries quite a bit of respect. This Southbridge would have been a great hybrid Southbridge, but SiS, VIA and AMD didn't use HyperTransport for the interconnect so this Southbridge only got used by a chipset with a bad reputation.

 

Dolby Audio

 

 

 

As mentioned above, the MCP-D allows for Dolby Digital Surround decoding. This means that the MCP-D does the audio signal processing from the Dolby source (being DVD in this case) and converts the signal to either 6 channel Analogue outputs as provided by the external brackets for the 2 front, 2 rear speaker and the Center and Sub channels, or it can be sent directly to the Coaxial port for connection to other Dolby devices such as stereo players.

 

nForce LAN: This is actually the best part of the nForce

 

 

Another interesting feature of the MCP-D is the ACR link to the LAN controller. The chip above is nVidia's own LAN controller chip so Windows does detect it as nVidia LAN rather than either Realtek or SiS LAN. This controller was actually one of the best I have ever used. When running my DSL modem this card created less lag packets than any other I have used so far. One good step for nVidia.

 

Overclocking

 

Leadtek has added some, but very few overclocking features to their motherboard. Using an Award BIOS, Leadtek has added its own sub-menu called X-BIOS-II. This is where you will find the overclocking controls for the board. The options are pretty plain and simple with no hardcore overclocking in mind.

 

First off you get the FSB adjustments. Unlike many boards out there, this board does not allow 1MHz increments. You are given a set amount of FSB speeds and that's it. These speeds are 100MHz, 112MHz, 120MHz, 127MHz, 133MHz, 140MHz, 147MHz, 150MHz. That's is. Pretty lackluster here.

 

Next you get your voltage control for the CPU. Again you get limited control. Voltage is settable from CPU default to 0.125v of normal making your maximum setting when using Athlon XP's at 1.85v Next you get AGP voltage. This is settable from 1.5v to 1.7v in 0.1v steps. DDR Voltage is also adjustable. You get the same options like the AGP voltage, 2.5v to 2.7v in 0.1v increments. This does help when running 128-bit mode.

 

Overclocking our board, we found that running 150MHz was impossible. The onboard systems became too unstable and data corruption across the IDE channels was huge. 140MHz was the absolute maximum we could get to run with any stability.

 

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