Chaintech VNF4 Zenith VE - Page 5

..:: VNF4 Zenith VE Layout: Chipset & DIMM ::..

The chipset portion of the VNF4 Zenith VE is yet another extremely clean portion of the board. Given that the VNF4 Zenith VE isn’t sporting extra IC’s for RAID or perhaps IEEE1394 like some other nForce4 boards we’ve seen, it’s clear why Chaintech was able to provide such a seamless design. The IDE Super I/O chip is located near the bottom PCI slots, flanked on the North by three USB 2.0 headers. These headers could be utilized with an aftermarket USB 2.0 expansion bracket, or front panel USB connectors.

The BIOS, system battery, buzzer, and front panel header can all be found in the lower right corner of the PCB. These items are also well laid out and should pose no problems for routing cables. This can be said because the floppy header is also located in this area. Chain tech has wisely strayed away from throwing the floppy header at the complete bottom of the board, so even larger chassis’ should be able to accommodate the VNF4 Zenith VE.

The nForce4 chipset itself is covered by a fairly large Aluminum heatsink. The heatsink is emblazoned with the Zenith VE logo in bright green to add a little contrast to an otherwise dark motherboard. This heatsink is held down by two spring loaded pins, and moves around quite a bit. Chaintech uses the usual form of thermal material between the chipset and the heatsink, which is thermal paste.

Along the right hand portion of the nForce4 chipset, we find the vertical array of Serial ATA data connectors. These headers go in order from bottom to top, versus the op to bottom layouts we’ve seen lately. To the north of these data connectors, we again come across the IDE connectors and other components we’ve previously discussed.

The DIMM slots are positioned by themselves, horizontally along the top edge of the PCB. This is one of the few times that I have seen such a layout. This is more common on server boards than it is a normal desktop board. It poses an advantage and a disadvantage all at once. The key is, they’re one in the same. By lowering the processor in the chassis, it gets improved airflow. But, if the 24-pin ATX cable must be routed throughout the case to reach the other side of the board, some of the interior airflow can again be interrupted. With some zip ties and a little time, this problem can be overcome, but most budget buyers prefer a plug n play board.

As far as the general layout and design of the VNF4 Zenith VE goes, I’d say that Chaintech has put a simple, clean board onto the market. The different design did help lower our chassis and CPU temperatures by a degree or two, but not much more. With a higher end, and therefore hotter, processor the aid from improved airflow would be felt a lot more than with a 3200+. The main item I don’t like with this board is the 24-pin ATX connector location. The best part is that a heatsink of substantial size can be used for cooling the chipset without worrying about a large graphics adapter disrupting flow. I would’ve preferred that Chaintech used some form of thermal material on the chipset though. Clean design, simple layout, but nothing earth shattering.