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Chaintech 7NJS Ultra ZENITH (nForce2 Ultra 400)
By Vijay Anand
Category : Mainboard
Published by Jimmy Tang on Monday, 6th October, 2003
Rating : 5 out of 5 stars  

The Features

The 7NJS Ultra ZENITH motherboard very much resembled the older 7NJS ZENITH, since the primary changes were the updated Northbridge, the inclusion of the newer CBOX3 and a slightly updated accessory pack.

The Promise PDC20376 IDE/SATA Lite-RAID controller.

Still present on the motherboard from the first incarnation is the Promise PDC20376 Lite-RAID controller, which allows you to build RAID 0 or 1 array on two of your hard drives. Although it provides for two SATA ports and an IDE port, unlike most IDE ports that support two IDE hard drives, this controller only supports a single IDE hard drive. So you have to be careful about what you plan on installing. Once you have decided on your drive arrangements within your casing, you can hook up the drives using these color-matched cables provided by Chaintech. These cables complement the motherboard’s color scheme very nicely too.

Not only were the rounded floppy and IDE cables yellow, but also the SATA data and power cables.

With the nForce2 MCP-T Southbridge, one might think that the 7NJS Ultra has SoundStorm Audio, but Chaintech’s implementation does not utilize the built-in NVIDIA APU. Instead, a one-chip C-Media CMI8738-MX, 6-channel surround sound processor takes care of the motherboard’s audio subsystem.

If you truly know what the NVIDIA SoundStrom Audio is all about, the only advantage it has to offer in terms of features is the built-in Interactive Dolby Digital Encoder. When activated, it converts any sound stream to a Dolby Digital 5.1 compressed digital audio stream. The catch is that this must be decoded via DD-decoder to hear DD 5.1 audio. Since even the original sound source wasn’t made to be heard in such a format, it would not be a truthful representation. It is a nice feature that allows you to make full use of your 5.1 speaker systems, but that’s about it. NVIDIA SoundStorm Audio doesn’t necessarily give you better audio quality because it relies on third party AC’97 audio codecs and most motherboard vendors would normally implement whichever is most cost worthy to them.

Considering all that we mentioned, the lack of the 7NJS Ultra not supporting NVIDIA SoundStorm Audio is hardly a loss to most users. We think the C-Media CMI8738-MX does an equally capable job. What we do feel is the redundancy of the board featuring two sound subsystems (with the SoundStorm deactivated in hardware). Thus, Chaintech has added unnecessary cost to the motherboard by implementing an MCP-T Southbridge chip.

What’s good about the C-Media CMI8738-MX is that it offers both S/PDIF in and out interfaces via a separate bracket (along with that, Chaintech also supplied an optical S/PDIF cable). The motherboard’s rear ATX I/O panel does not cater for all the analog audio ports, hence there is yet another bracket for analog surround audio connectors. With dedicated analog surround ports, the motherboard’s mic-in and line-in ports are kept free for their rightful functions.

The S/PDIF bracket with cable and the surround sound bracket.

Nice gold trimmings adorn all he connectors on the rear ATX I/O panel. Note, that there is a Fast Ethernet port, thanks to an ICS network PHY on board.

In terms of expansion, the motherboard has 5 PCI slots and 1 ACR slot.

Chaintech made good use of the ACR slot with this Firewire card powered by a Realtek RTL8801 IEEE-1394 PHY whose MAC is embedded within the MCP-T. Dual Firewire ports are available on this ACR slot while one more is available on the CBOX3 via an adjoining cable.

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