Soltek SL-FRN2-L Motherboard Review
The original nForce motherboard was regarded to some as weak and not successful against the KT333 chipset at the time. I in the other hand picked up an Abit NV7-133R and believed it faired well. The nForce was stable, quick and NVIDIA’s first dive into the competitive market.
Fast forward into the future of NVIDIA’s newest offering.
The nForce 2 has received much acclaim and attention of the PC enthusiast. The revised motherboard offers a ton of improvements such as the revised memory controller performance with the addition of Dual DDR 400 memory. Features such as overclocking options have too been revamped.
Lastly, the strongest point of the nForce in my opinion was the sound capabilities. It could support up to 256 voices and was as good as the big boys. Today, NVIDIA has improved the sound part of things with the addition of SoundStorm.
For more information on the technical part of the nForce 2 design, because it would take to long to explain, take a look at NVIDIA's site. I might in the future make an article explaining the nForce 2 design.
Soltek is a relatively new company by looking at date of start. However, there have been good boards from them that I remember from a couple of years ago. Soltek has spent their earnings on bringing their line of products to North America. Their USA site has been totally revamped with a new feel.
Today we are proud to introduce our first motherboard review and are proud to give you the Soltek SL-FRN2-L review!
The Soltek SL-FRN2-L is a budget board towards to people who want to save money but want to have performance.
The Soltek SL-FRN2-L arrives packaged in exquisite style. It comes in a Soltek bag! You would usually find this if you shopped in Asian markets, but that’s a different story.
The feel of the quality of paper is amazing. It's not just regular paper. It feels smooth and silky. Call me crazy but I wanted to say that.
The Soltek box is bright, colorful, and stands out really well. There are other marketing pieces such as a Soltek banner sort to speak where you can hang on your room, etc. There are other brochures displaying their line of products as well.
What the Soltek SL-FRN2-L comes bundled with are the following:
Soltek case badge too!
The bundled software surprised me the most because Soltek was kind enough to give you $325U.S worth of full version software. That’s bang for your buck. It includes PC-cillin 2002 (Anti-Virus program), VirtualDrive 7 (emulates CD-Rom drive and run them off your HDD), RestoreIT 3 Lite (recover files + OS), PartitionMagic 6.0SE (make HDD partitions), and DriveImage 4.0 (HDD cloning/backup program).
nForce2 SPP (SYSTEM PLATFORM PROCESSORS) + MCP2 (MEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS
AMD Socket-462 Athlon / Athlon XP / Duron / Athlon XP Barton processor to 3000+
x 184-pin DDR DIMM
to AMD Athlon™ XP, Athlon™ and Duron™ Processor Module
x PCI Bus Master UATA 133/100/66 IDE ports (up to 4 ATAPI Devices)
Integrated Super I/O
x Floppy Port (supports 360K, 720K, 1.2M, 1.44M and 2.88Mbytes)
x AGP 8X/4X Slot
ATX Form Factor (305mm x 245mm)
First off, I have to say the color scheme is kickass! That’s just my opinion though.
The layout of the motherboard is good for the most part. The IDE connectors are placed on the top right, beside the memory slots.
The AGP slot does not have a lock like most boards do to prevent the card from sliding out when you shift your case from time to time.
The Northbridge is cooled via active cooling system, as it tends to get hot during load and high FSB speeds.
Removing the cooler reveals a more than adequate supply of thermal grease. I noticed that the grease was thick too. I will be using Arctic Silver 3 to replace the grease.
The chipset revision is C1.
The CPU socket is positioned to the upper left of the board. If you look closely, there is something missing. There are no 4-hole mountings for bigger heatsinks and water-cooling setups. There are a couple of resistors around the area, but every cooler we tested to date fit. The board has two thermal resistors. One placed in the CPU socket reading CPU temperatures and the other right above the AGP slot to read system temperatures.
The Soltek SL-FRN2-L is powered via ATX connector and a 4-pin P4 connector. It is recommended if your power supply is ATX 2.03 compliant. I don’t really like Soltek’s decision on placing the ATX connector on the left of the motherboard. As my Abit NV7-133R has it in the same area, it hinders the CPU cooler and is difficult to clear it away as possible. This also depends on how big your case is too. If your case is big, you may be able to route it away, but in small cases you will be stuck.
To save money, Soltek has implemented a Realtek sound solution. It supports up to 6-channel sound and is onboard. Therefore, there is no nForce sound panel such as my Abit NV7-133R has. The sound quality was very good. There is also no bass or treble options. So make sure you have a sound system that can change the bass and treble for you, or buy a sound card.
To save on extra money, not all the features such as Firewire, SATA, and the full six USB 2.0 ports are present. There are two USB 2.0 ports present and the others you will need to purchase a bracket to plug in the USB 2.0 connectors on board. However, there are different models of this board to choose from
The Dual Channel Memory Game
To activate Dual-DDR, it is recommended that you have the same ram modules for the best possible compatibility.
The Soltek SL-FRN2-L supports up to 3GB of unbuffered DDR 400 memory.
You have to place your two sticks of memory into Slot 1 and 3 shown above to activate Dual Channel. It is really easy to tell which slots enable Dual-DDR because there are only 2 yellow colored memory slots. The other is a black one. Filling all 3 slots provides you with single channel memory mode.
I will be using my 2 sticks of Crucial PC 2100 ram in testing.
Soltek Hardware Monitor on the Soltek CD. The Spire FalconRock II is running at 35-37 degrees idle. Lower than on the Abit mobo.
Bios on the left, Winbond chip for reading temps on the right.
Back of the motherboard. Sexy color.
FalconRock II installed.
Soltek box opened for the first time
Awesome marketing style
Where everything connects. You have your PS/2 ports, 2 COM ports, Printer port, sound, game port, LAN, and two USB 2.0 ports
The Southbridge is not cooled with a heatsink. I feel it should have been because during high FSB and during IDE access, the Southbridge gets hot. The Southbridge (MCP or Multimedia Communications port) handles things such as the sound, IDE access, Hard Drive and so on.
The Soltek SL-FRN2-L implements a Phoenix Award Bios. There are 13 options when you enter the Bios. There are 6 sections that open further that include:
- Standard CMOS Features
- Advanced Chipset Features
Here present is the CPU-Thermal-Throttling feature designed when and if your CPU goes over a desired temperature (you choose) the motherboard will cut the CPU by what ever percentage selected in order for the CPU to cool and prevent damage. For example, I have a 1.6GHz CPU. If it reaches 85 degrees, the system will cut the 1.6GHz clock speed into half (50%).
Here you can change your AGP Frequency from 50MHz-100MHz. You also can change your CPU FSB from 100MHz-250MHz in 1MHz increases. Memory timings are all here as well.
- Integrated Peripherals
Here is all your computer voltage stats, etc. The Soltek board features Soltek ABS II (Anti-Burn Shield) CPU Protection. This is a very unique idea. When and if your CPU temperatures read by the ABS II Temp reaches up to a certain desired value (you choose) the system will shutdown.
Here you can change your CPU ratio (multiplier). It goes up to 18x.
Many people will tinker around in the Advanced Chipset Features panel. Soltek dubs their overclocking options, Red Storm Overclocking.
Here are what programs we use for benchmarking motherboards:
I was surprised with the big improvement in the HDD performance over the 21465KB/S we got with our Abit NV7-133R shown in the CoolMax round cable review. This shows that the Soltek SL-FRN2-L has an effective IDE controller. That is why programs run faster than before. Hmm...
During overclocking tests, everything went well with phase one of synchronous overclocking. However, when I wanted to try asynchronous overclocking, the Bios had died on me. Across all nForce 2 lines, there has been one problem that has hit every motherboard according to Oliver at Soltek and that has been that the Bios may crash easily. I recommend that you overclock over time, not all at once. Change and save options slow and it should be okay.
Thanks to Al at Soltek, he sent me over a Bios chip and everything was fine. I want to thank Duke and Al for their fast response and help.
On a locked AGOIA 1900+
Here is overclocking with my locked AMD XP 1900+ in synch with the PC2100 ram. I hit 145FSB with no problems but the ram was the limiting factor.
3Dmark 2001 SE @ 145FSB – 11795
nForce 2 brings the game of high performance to a new level. NVIDIA’s
changes have been a big improvement over their nForce 1 design. Across
all programs and benchmarks, I have noticed faster frame rates and faster
loading of programs.
were a few problems with the layout particularly the ATX connector position
that I disliked. I would have liked it in the far right of the motherboard.
A heatsink on the Southbridge would be nice to have extra stability.
I rate the Soltek SL-FRN2-L a…
Pros & Cons
Out of the box performance
If you are going to buy an AMD motherboard and don’t want to spend lots of $$ but want a fast motherboard, I seriously recommend checking out the Soltek SL-FRN2-L.
Great job Soltek!
Let me thank Al from Soltek for helping me with the Bios situation and Duke from iocombo.com for supplying us the board for review.
$ 91 U.S. @ Iocombo.com – Lowest price found
Be sure to check out Iocombo.com for more products and great deals. They really have some good deals and the service is great.