Chaintech VNF4 Zenith VE - Page 4

..:: VNF4 Zenith VE Layout: Expansion ::..

The expansion slot portion of the VNF4 Zenith VE features a single x16 PCI-Express slot, along with two x1 PCI-Express slots. Chaintech has also provided support for three regular PCI slots. As we have seen before, Chaintech wisely chose to place the x1 PCI-E slots above the x16 slot. This was an excellent choice as this allows enough headroom over the x16 slot so that even if the end user has a longer graphics card, they still have the ability to work with the RAM without having to remove the graphics card. The heatsink on the chipset is also above the graphics card so even longer PCBs can be accommodated.

The majority of the components for this portion of the board are, as always, located along the rear portion of the PCB, as well as under the bottom PCI slots. Along the rear portion of the PCB, we first find that Chaintech has opted to go with the Vitesse Gigabit Ethernet PHY. This is the second time weve seen this PHY put to use with an nForce4 motherboard, so well see if Vitesse can break into some of the higher end boards, or if those are still reserved for Broadcom, VIA, and Realtek.

In the lower left-hand corner of the VNF4 Zenith VEs PCB, we find all of the onboard audio components, ranging from the audio CODEC itself to the plethora of headers it supports. For the VNF4 Zenith VE, Chaintech has gone with Realtek ALC850 7.1 Channel AC 97 audio CODEC. This CODEC provides excellent sound for the budget ended consumer.

Likely one of the nicest things weve seen so far about the Chaintech VNF4 Zenith VEs layout is the orientation of all the audio headers. The three CD and Aux four-pin audio connectors, along with the front panel header and two WOL type headers are arranged in a nice linear fashion along the bottom edge of the PCB. This positioning is excellent for all of these components, especially the front panel header. Chaintech wisely places a third three-pin power fan header under the bottom PCI slot as well for a front intake. Id prefer to see this closer to the front edge of the board, but this position should do just fine.

Other than these few items, the expansion portion of the VNF4 Zenith VE is extremely clean. I was quite surprised and the cleanliness of this portion of the board given the condensed PCB size overall. With no large capacitors, and an excellent location for the chipset & PCI-E x16 connector, Id say you shouldnt have any problems getting any expansion cards installed with the VNF4 Zenith VE.