Chaintech ZNF3-150: Athlon64 with Every Option

The Chaintech ZNF3-150 is one of the more interesting packages that we have seen in quite a while, since it creates a new definition for high-end motherboards. We have seen this from Chaintech before, with the remarkably complete 7NJS-ZENITH and 7NJS-ZENITH Ultra. The ZNF3-150 certainly continues that tradition of providing every option that the enthusiast could want and then some. DFI and Soyo have produced similar packages with their LANParty and Platinum series boards, but Chaintech has a slightly different slant. It is clear that their aim with this Athlon64 board is the Performance enthusiast.

This time around, Chaintech has concentrated on board options that can affect performance, which include using 4-phase power instead of the 2- and 3-phase designs that we see on other Athlon64 boards. They have also added a copper heat-pipe cooling solution to the power transistors, which they call Radex. The performance options are new, but the rest of the package mirrors the more recent Chaintech packages and includes round cables, audio riser card, a front bay with ports and flash-card reader, and every option that you can think of including a Chaintech screwdriver.

While we have to give Chaintech the award for the most intriguing motherboard package that we have seen in quite a while, our main interest is whether all this attention to performance enhancement will really make a difference. This is, after all, the Athlon64 single-channel version of the new processor, and AMD is also introducing the “Enthusiast” version of this CPU, called Athlon64FX, that will run at a little faster clock speed and support dual-channel memory. Why, then, have an enthusiast Athlon64 board?

The answer is really very simple, and we think Chaintech is right on track with this solution. Athlon64FX is very expensive as it is launched, and the costs are not just the higher priced CPU. FX is basically an Opteron in a different costume, and as a result, it requires the use of at least Registered DDR memory or Registered ECC DDR memory. You cannot use your common unbuffered DDR400 or DDR500 with an Athlon64FX. New Registered Dual-Channel DDR400 memory is very hard to find at present. You also will have, initially at least, a much smaller selection of motherboards from which to choose. We currently have an Asus SK8N that we will be benchmarking with an Athlon64FX, but there are very few FX boards available.

This will all change early next year, when Socket 939 will be introduced. This will be Athlon64FX designed for regular unbuffered Dual-Channel memory. However, until that happens, the decision to go for Athlon64FX will be a very expensive one, also tempered by the limited availability of Athlon64FX chips for the next few months. For those reasons, Chaintech made a very wise decision in producing the ZNF3-150. Performance truly comparable to 3.2GHz processors and the promise of even faster Athlon64 CPUs will be a breath of fresh air for most, and many will be looking for a full-featured top-performing motherboard to go with their new Athlon64.

VIA K8T800 Chipset Chaintech ZNF3-150: Packaging & Board Layout
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  • Anonymous User - Friday, September 26, 2003 - link

    I old too, but still keep buing from AMD, Intel is way too expensive for as in Latin America, and give no clear advantage for a programmer/gamer like me.
    If you been having problems with AMD, surely your are building AMD chips with PCCHIPs mainboards, and Pentiums with Intel boards, you are a smart guy!
    So, if you gonna build a modern PC, you'll experience problems becouse WinXP didn't include drivers for new chipsets, so, for it all going like a charm, you need an Intel Pentium III and a Intel 2001's mainboard, anything newer, you gonna have to look for drivers, whatever the platform you choose.
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, September 24, 2003 - link

    #10 -
    You are absolutely correct in theory. However, when we moved from the Ti4600 to the ATI 9800 PRO, our encoding scores on the P4 went up about 35-45%. Don't ask me why. They did not change on the Athlon, which had led in this area before. That is one of several reasons we will be changing to another encoding benchmark.

    If you doubt what I say, check Evan's 20-board 865/875 roundup done with the Ti 4600, then check the retest of some of the top boards we include in our more recent P4 reviews. Evan did the original and the update tests, and I have confirmed his results.
  • Anonymous User - Wednesday, September 24, 2003 - link

    Since when does the video card have ANYTHING to do with DivX encoding? That is a purely CPU and RAM issue, even playback is not influenced too much by the video card anymore (speed not quality...that is an entirely different issue).
  • Zoomer - Wednesday, September 24, 2003 - link

    Hey, could you please touch on what DAC chip is powering these setups? A picture would be nice too.

    Envy 24bit audio would be an utter waste if some crap Realtek codec was used. It would be good if this was highlighted so that motherboard manufacturers catering to the higher end of the market will take notice.

    Chaintech apparantly took note of the fact that you guys bashed every single board that had the ATX connector near the board i/o ports. Despite it being a non issue. That thick bundle can be routed so that the interference with airflow is minimised.
  • Anonymous User - Wednesday, September 24, 2003 - link

    Please, please, please stop using Flash for graphs.
  • dvinnen - Tuesday, September 23, 2003 - link

    #5: Youe funny. Constant screw ups? It's Intell who has had to have 3 or so recalls over the last 4-5 years. And theres that bug with the Itantic which the only way to fix is to lower the clock to 800 mhz. AMD is the one who keeps screwing up?
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, September 23, 2003 - link

    #3 and #4 - Thank you. Now corrected.

    Just before posting we decided to combine the 3 reviews into one larger launch review. Unfortunately I had used the same name for two different pictures and the first one was picked up. There is a socket closeup of the FIC that never made it to the server.
  • Anonymous User - Tuesday, September 23, 2003 - link

    yeah, about the only good thing coming out of this is the price drops soon. Otherwise still the same stupid +-5FPS differences = waste of time/effert to get excited about.

    i used to love amd, but just got tired of their constant screw ups, so anymore i personally don't care what stupid thing they come out with, i won't waste my time with it.

    Perhaps that's cuz i'm older now and have a good job/salary and don't need/care about overclocking and or paying a few bucks more for intel quality/stability. yeah, must be just getting to be an old fogey, cuz this whole amd/intel wanna-be-war doesn't give me a hardon like it used to ;)
  • Thoreau - Tuesday, September 23, 2003 - link

    Correction, Page 11 in the index list. First pic.
  • Thoreau - Tuesday, September 23, 2003 - link

    The 2nd page of the FIC section shows a pic from the Chaintech board. Think you got that a little mixed up there.

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