The ASUS A7N266-E Motherboard Review
An All-In-One Powerhouse!

By, Jeff Bouton
March 6, 2002



Not satisfied with being a dominant player in the commercial graphics market, nVidia recently made the leap into the chipset market.  In some ways it seems like the perfect move for the graphics giant to take.  What better way to secure their dominance as a chip maker than to take on a part of the market that has needed a serious shot in the arm for quite some time?  Prior to their efforts, it was accepted by most of us that on-board graphics were just meant for simple 2D capability.  Not many of us ever really questioned that fact.  It was what it was, and if you wanted better, you could pick up a new graphics card to improve your systems graphics capabilities.  Well, nVidia is the first to address that issue with the release of the new nForce chipset.

If a manufacturer intends to provide truly innovative products and solutions, they must be able to take on the status quo and change the current mind set in the market place.  Clearly nVidia has done this. The question is, are they capable enough to get things right on their first effort into a new arena?  Today we'll take a look at the Asus A7N266-E motherboard and see just how good the new nForce chipset is.  With the added ability to provide high-quality graphics, audio and integrated LAN, would the new chipset still be able to perform adequately with all the extra overhead? First let's take a look at the features of the A7N266-E and then we'll put it to the test to see if this motherboard has the capacity to provide an excellent all around experience with only on-board components.

Specifications of the ASUS A7N266-E Motherboard
A Complete System in One Package....

CPU
Socket A for AMD Athlon XP / Athlon / Duron CPU
On-die 128KB L1 and 256KB / 64KB L2 Cache

Chipset
NVIDIA nFORCE 420-D
South Bridge: NVIDIA IGP-128
North Bridge: NVIDIA MCP-D (built-in Dolby Digital Encoder)

FSB
266/200 MHz

Memory
Support 64-bit or 128-bit memory bus
Supports max. 64Mbyets to 1.5GBytes PC2100/PC1600 non-ECC DDR Memory
TwinBank memory architecture to achieve Max. 4.2GB/s bandwidth

Expansion Slots
1 x AGP Pro/4X
5 x PCI
1 x ACR (shared with adjacent PCI) (Note 1)

VGA
1.5V AGP Pro / 4X
Embedded GeForce 2 MX-class GPU (Graphics Processor Unit)

IDE
2 x UltraDMA 100 / 66 / 33

Audio
Integrated APU (Audio Processor Unit) in MCP-D
built-in Dolby Digital (AC-3) Encoder
Bundled ACR 6-channel daughter card with S/PDIF Digital Output Port

Special Features
Power Loss Restart
ASUS Live Update
CPU Throttle
Vcore & Vio adjustable
ASUS C.O.P (CPU Overheating Protection)
LAN (Optional)
Realtek RTL 8100 10/100Mbps LAN controller

Back Panel I/O Ports
1 x Parallel, 2 x Serial
PS/2 Keyboard / Mouse
1 x Game / MIDI (optional)
1 x RJ45 (optional), 2 x USB

Internal I/O Connectors
1 x USB connector support additional 2 USB ports
SIR/CIR
CPU / Chassis / Power fan connectors
IDE LED connector
Headphone (optional)
MIC2 (optional)
CD / AUX / Modem audio in (optional)
20 pin ATX Power connector

BIOS
2Mb Flash ROM, Award BIOS, PnP, DMI2.0, SM BIOS 2.3

Industrial Standard
PCI 2.2
USB 1.1

Manageability
WfM2.0, DMI 2.0, Chassis Intrusion, SMBus

Accessories
User's Manual
Support CD
UltraDMA 100 / 66 Cable
IDE Cable
FDD Cable
2-port USB bracket
3D Games (Retail Version)

Board Size
ATX Form Factor: 12.0" x 9.6" (30.5cm x 24.5cm)

Note 1 : The ASUS proprietary ACR slots differs from the Standard ACR Slot, by sharing the space with the adjacent PCI slot.


Below is a list of the items that accompany the Asus A7N266-E Motherboard

2 - 40-pin 80 Conductor UDMA 100 Ribbon Cable
1 - Floppy Ribbon Cable
1 - ASUS Support CD with drivers and Utilities
1 - Bag of spare jumper caps
1 - Asus 2-port USB Connector Set
1 - ACR-A6CH Audio Card
1 - Quick Setup Guide
1 - User's Manual

 

The drivers CD includes a number of great utilities such as ASUS PC Probe, ASUS Update, PC-Cillin 2000, Cyberlink PowerPlayer SE and Cyberlink Video Email.  ASUS PC Probe is the perfect tool for the user who wishes to over clock a new motherboard.  The program monitors critical voltages, temperatures and fan speeds, allowing the user to set specific alarms if either monitor reaches a specified setting.  This is a handy utility that allows the user to get a complete picture of the effect an over clock is having on all critical components.  The utility also displays these setting in a real-time graph which comes in handy when testing a system under load.  Below are a few screen shots of the program's more useful sections.

     

Next, we'll take a look at the physical qualities of this motherboard and then look at the features included in the BIOS.

Quality, Setup and the BIOS