Soltek NV400-L64: Purple, Practical, AND Performance!by Wesley Fink on August 11, 2003 10:26 PM EST
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When NVIDIA announced they would be introducing a single-channel version of their newest nForce2 Ultra 400 chipset, it was clear that NVIDIA wanted a lower-priced offering to compete with VIA’s KT600 chipset. Since NVIDIA’s explosive growth in the Athlon chipset market, VIA has been fighting back with lower prices on their current and new chipsets. The nForce2 400, then, would be a lower-cost Northbridge, combined with the lower-end MCP Southbridge, to fight VIA without compromising NVIDIA’s top-line nForce2 Ultra 400/MCP-T offering.
This was all logical enough, and seemed like a good strategy for NVIDIA. The nForce2 400 would be a cheaper, entry-level chipset with lower single-channel performance - or so we thought! Imagine our surprise when early looks at the single-channel nForce2 400 chipset were reporting that the single-channel version was actually FASTER than the dual-channel nForce2 Ultra 400 in many situations. We had not planned for more than a news report of this "value" chipset, but with what we were hearing about the nForce2 400, we wanted to take a closer look ourselves at what all the fuss was about.
The name that was mentioned wherever we saw reports of the nForce2 400 chipset was Soltek, a name many of you may not know. While Soltek appears to be first to market with a single-channel nForce2 board, we have recently learned that Asus and Chaintech now have nForce2 400 offerings, and other companies may also be producing single-channel nForce2 boards in the near future.
Soltek is a name that is well-known to many in Asian markets. There, they have built a solid following and a reputation for building high-performance motherboards at reasonable prices. Soltek is less known in the US market, and this has been compounded by the ongoing reports of Soltek entering the US market and then withdrawing from the US market. Even with this confusion about US market presence, there have been several retailers who have consistently offered Soltek products in the US; so, they are available, but you have to search a bit to find them. Soltek was kind enough to provide AnandTech with their NV400-L64 motherboard, which was shipped to us from Taiwan.
While this is the first Soltek motherboard that we have evaluated at AnandTech, we are familiar with some of their products — particularly those produced for the Athlon CPU. Soltek was one of the first to market with an nForce2 Ultra 400 board called the SL-75FRN2. The Ultra 400 Soltek is bright yellow and called the "Golden Flame". This is typical of Soltek boards, which feature unusual colors and themes to stand out from the others in the market. More important than the appearance, however, the 75FRN2 series have developed a reputation as very good NF2 performers with excellent overclocking options and very good performance — even when overclocked.