Result and general impression
+++ The ASRock AM2NF3-VSTA motherboard has a price of approx. 49 Euro (02/2007) and is thus in the lower price segment of the Socket AM2 motherboards.
No, there’s no failure in the product description or headline, because the AM2NF3-VSTA from ASRock is really a Socket AM2 motherboard with AGP 8x Slot! Surely, some will be surprised about this combination and the nForce3 250 chipset, but it is nevertheless an interesting and an enormously inexpensive combination. Because this motherboard is useful for those, who bought a fast AGP video card for the previous system and would like to update the PC to a current AMD Socket AM2 processor. For this scenario the AM2NF3-VSTA motherboard was tested on ocinside.de
Let us now start with the equipment and features of the AGP AM2 mainboard.
Equipment and features …
The ASRock AM2NF3-VSTA can be equipped with a total of 4 memory modules and is thus upgradeable up to 8 GB memory (the total amount depends on the operating system used). The allocation for the DUAL Channel memory assembly is mentioned in the user manual and should be followed exactly.
Moreover, it offers 2x IDE connectors for up to 4x ATA 133 hard drives, 2x SATA ports (RAID 0/1) which supports a maximum transfer rate of 1.5 Gb/s. Included with delivery is a bootable CDROM and a short guidance for the correct installation of the Serial ATA ports. The manual also includes all of the information you need to manage a new Microsoft Windows XP or Windows Vista installation with a primary S-ATA HDD.
In addition there are 4x USB 2.0 ports at the ATX panel and two internal USB 2.0 plugs for 4 optional USB ports, where two of them are shared to the ATX panel ports. But of course, all USB ports support several USB devices, so it’s no problem to share them. The ATX panel provides also an onboard 10/100 LAN connector with WoL (Wake on Lan).
ASRock use the Microsoft Windows Vista Premium level compatible C-Media CM6501 onBoard sound chip on this AM2NF3-VSTA, which offers 7.1 surround sound over 6x 3.5mm connectors.
BIOS and overclocking …
Let us go on with the BIOS options and overclocking with the BIOS. By pressing the “F2” key, you get access to the AMI BIOS. In the BIOS menu are e.g. options to change the memory frequency from 200 MHz over 266 MHz and 333 MHz up to 400 MHz (DDR2 400/533/667/800). The host clock is adjustable from 140 MHz up to 300 MHz and the HT (hypertransport) frequency from 1x to 4x (200-800 MHz). There is an optional synchronous or asynchronous setting of the CPU/PCI Bus, but it wasn’t very helpful on the used testboard to get better overclocking results.
The highest reference clock result with asynchronous setting was 260 MHz. Thus, the usedAMD Athlon64 3000+ Socket AM2 CPU with locked 9x multiplier reached a result of 2340 MHz. I did not expect a higher stable value of this passive cooled nForce 3 250 chipset and it should be enough to overclock most processors.
BTW., the BIOS offers three settings for the memory voltage and a variable setting for the CPU voltage (Vcore). If necessary, it can be increased with the new Socket AM2 pin mod. Of course, the AM2NF3-VSTA is also useable for a low-noise PC system and here’s the integrated fan-control of the health menu very helpful.
The ASRock AM2NF3-VSTA Socket AM2 AGP motherboard is a real bargain for all AGP video card owners, because it makes possible the use of usual AGP (8x) video cards on the latest AMD Socket AM2 platform and is in addition available for less than 50 Euro!
It is hard to believe, that ASRock is able to offer additional features for this price, but they do! The nForce3 250 board offers Windows Vista compatible 7.1 surround sound over six 3.5mm connectors, has five PCI Slots, four DDR2 Slots and some overclocking options.
All in all ASRock deserves once again the the Overclocking Pricetipp award (02/2007) of the Redaktion ocinside.de, because the company ASRock makes it possible with the AM2NF3-VSTA to upgrade enormously inexpensive to the current Socket AM2 technology.
Special thanks to ASRock for their support.
**** All Socket AM2 PCIe mainboard reviews since 01.11.2006 are based on an AMD Athlon 64 3000+ Orleans CPU, 1x (or SLI systems with 2x) Gigabyte GV-NX66T128VP Nvidia 6600 GT PCI Express video cards (except AGP tests), 2x512MB Crucial Ballistix DDR2-800/PC2-6400 memory modules and the following software configuration: Microsoft Windows XP SP2, DirectX 9.0c, Forceware 81.85 video card driver and 3DMark 2003. All benchmark results should only offer a comparison among themselves for a comparison.