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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [02.05.07]
Manufactured by: Abit


Board Layout

Board layout is even more crucial when dealing with mATX boards. Quite often on these lower-end board, we see terrible layout designs. Whether the main ATX header is placed in some whacky location like in the middle of the board, or a crowd of capacitors and other components around the CPU socket, there is a lot not to like about mATX motherboards.

But as I expect, the NF-M2 nView is not like other mATX boards. Let's see if my expectations come true.

First and foremost, you can see that the NF-M2 is gorgeous. It's silk-screened in a nice shade of blue - deeper than Gigabyte boards, but not as dark as Foxconn boards. Ports and headers are all in black, with the exception of the PCI-E x16 slot.

Speaking of which, here it is. To accommodate whacky small form-factor cases, the graphics slot is at the very top position. This is very useful when a header is required, like for the Thermaltake Mozart Sx case. In addition to the PCI-E x1 slot, you get a pair of PCI slots as well. We usually look for at least 3 of these in a full size motherboard, but 2 is perfectly acceptable on a mATX board. The x1 slot may very well get some use, especially if you decide to use one of the TV Tuners that come in that form factor.

The layout here is beautiful. A fully colour-coded Front Panel Header (and clearly labeled at that) is always good to see. The USB and FireWire headers are along the edge of the board, tucked out of the way. The Floppy adapter is likewise out of the way (likely never to be used). The SATA ports are all oriented the same way, and also clearly labeled. The CMOS chip is replaceable as well. Folks, it just doesn't get any better than this, especially on a mATX board.

The perfect layout continues to the top part of the board, where the IDE and 24 pin ATX headers are lined up along the edge of the board. The DIMM slots are out of the way of graphics cards, and even the 4 pin ATX header is at the top edge of the board! This is something we complain about time and time again with most boards, and here we have a mATX board that gets it right!

My favourite part of the NF-M2 nView - the rear panel headers. For video output, you get both RGB and DVI (which can also be RGB with an adapter - not included). Both of these can be used at the same time, for dual monitor support right out of the box. As I've mentioned before, the NF-M2 has both DIGITAL input and out - this is the one I've been looking for on a mATX board for a long, long time. Finally, we have 4 USB ports, FireWire, and the Gigabit Ethernet port.

So many times on mATX boards, you get nothing more than a noisy fan to cool the chipset, which will only get noisier as it dies. On the NF-M2, you get a heapipe based cooler that moves the heat from the Northbridge (where there is very little room) to the rear panel headers (where there is plenty of room for a larger heatsink). The MOSFETs are also cooled in this manner. The Southbridge is cooled by its own low profile heatsink.

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