AOpen n250a-FR Motherboard Review :: The Board

11-22-2004 · Category: Motherboards

By Benjamin Sun
AOpen n250a-FR Spec Sheet
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Motherboard Photo
Part Numbern250a-FR
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ChipsetNvidia nForce3 250
North BridgeNvidia nForce3 250 MCP
SocketSocket 754
Processor TypesAthlon 64
Number of CPUs1
Front Side Bus800MHz HyperTransport Bus Link
Memory TypeDDR
Memory ChannelsSingle
Maximum Memory3GB
External GraphicsAGP8X
IGP None
South BridgeNvidia nForce3 250 MCP
SATA1.5 GB/s
RAID0, 1, 0+1
FirewireIEEE 1394a
Expansion Slots
  • 1 x AGP
  • 5 x PCI
Form FactorATX
Motherboard Photo

AOpen n250a is based upon nVidia's nForce3 250 chipset. The nForce3 250 supports all of the Athlon 64 754 based CPUs up to and including the 3400+ A64 that was the last 754 A64 released. The chipset also supports all Sempron based CPUs that use the Socket 754 interface. As the Sempron is designed for the budget minded, this is a good fit. Instead of the normal North Bridge/South Bridge arrangement, the nForce3 has a MCP (Media Communications Processor) which handles the normal South Bridge duties. The need for the North Bridge is alleviated by the AMD on-CPU memory controller. One thing I have to take AOpen to task for is the position of the 12V power connector. It's located right under the CPU socket, which means that the cable has to cross over the CPU heat sink/fan in order to connect.

AOpen n250a-FR Motherboard Review 12V Power connector

12V Power connector

Memory support on the motherboard consists of 3 DIMMs (Dual In-line Memory Modules), giving a maximum memory configuration of 3 GB of unbuffered non-ECC DDR memory. As the AMD platform does not support DDR2 memory as of yet, this is sufficient for the target market. The Socket 754 platform does not support more than 3 DIMMs and operates in single channel mode only.

AOpen n250a-FR Motherboard Review Memory


Hard drive support is very robust on this motherboard. The nForce3 chipset supports up to 2 SATA drives, but AOpen includes a Silicon Image 3114 controller to support 4 more SATA devices making a grand total of 6 SATA hard drives supported. The n250a includes 2 IDE ports for a total of 4 IDE devices supported and the standard floppy port. RAID is supported by both the nForce3 chipset and the Sil3114 controller. The motherboard supports the following RAID modes 0, 1, 0+1 through both the integrated chipset and the Sil3114.

AOpen n250a-FR Motherboard Review IDE ports

IDE ports

AOpen n250a-FR Motherboard Review SATA ports

SATA ports

On-board audio is provided by a Realtek AC'97 CODEC. The chip on the board is an ALC-650, which is very popular and found on many motherboards available today. The CODEC supports up to 5.1 surround sound, sufficient for the normal user. If you want to install an Audigy 2 ZS, go right ahead, but for my uses, the ALC-650 is fine. SPDIF support is added through an included cable for those wishing a true clean digital connection.

Expansion on the board is pretty straightforward and standard for today's systems. The board has an AGP 8x slot and 5 PCI slots. AGP 8x has recently been replaced by PCI Express on both the AMD and Intel platforms. The vast majorities of video cards on the market today are still AGP and will likely remain so until next year. 5 PCI slots is not very many, but with the n250a having on-board audio, LAN, and Firewire, it isn't a big deal in reflection. One of the slots is colored blue. This is a Self Powered PCI Slot which AOpen calls strangely enough, Hercules (possibly infringing on Guillemot's trademark).

AOpen n250a-FR Motherboard Review AGP


AOpen n250a-FR Motherboard Review Self Powered PCI slot

Self Powered PCI slot

AOpen n250a-FR Motherboard Review PCI slots

PCI slots

The rear panel of the board is pretty standard fare. The available ports on the rear are: PS/2 Mouse/Keyboard, 4 USB 2.0 ports, 2 COM ports, a parallel port, an Ethernet port, and 3 connectors for the on-board sound. One thing I would have liked to see included would be 4 USB ports where the first two are located. That would alleviate the need for an extra cable to bring the USB ports up to 6. The layout of the board is fine with the exception of the aforementioned 12v power connector and the PCB is colored black which can add a visual aspect to those seeking to build a custom system.