Soltek – SL-75FRN2-RL review

Socket A upgrade motherboard
Photo of Soltek – SL-75FRN2-RL
£62

We all know that the Socket A AMD Athlon processor is due to be forcibly killed off in just a few months time, but until that happens there is a lively upgrade market for all you Duron and Athlon owners who don’t want to spend too much cash but who do still want a decent list of features in your PC. A motherboard upgrade can be just the ticket and Soltek hopes that you’ll opt for its SL-75FRN2-RL which uses the Nvidia Nforce2 Ultra 400 chipset.

Perhaps the most outstanding feature of this model is its bright yellow colour, or as Soltek describes it, ‘Golden Flame’. The board is a pleasant gold colour, however most of the slots are a rather unpleasant shade of yellow.

Nforce2 Ultra 400 is a relatively minor update to the Nforce2 chipset, which adds support for the 400MHz FSB Athlon. There’s only one model of Athlon at that speed, which is the XP3200+, so this particular feature isn’t exactly essential. The chipset doesn’t support Serial ATA so Soltek has added a Promise PDC20376 controller to provide Serial ATA Raid.

There are no brackets carrying extra ports in the package, so the only ports that you get are those on the backplate and there’s not a great deal to write home about here. Besides the usual PS/2, Serial and Parallel legacy ports, Soltek has included a gameport and three mini jacks which are connected to a Realtek ALC650 chip, as well as 10/100Mbps LAN and a mere two USB 2.0 ports.

We feel no need for either Serial or Parallel ports, however we regard four USB ports to be an absolute minimum, and in that respect the SL-75FRN2-RL has definitely missed a trick. We were quite happy with the layout of the board which provides plenty of space for all the components, including the ATX and 12V power connectors which were in the middle of the board but were still very easy to connect up.

Partly this feeling of space was thanks to the passive heatsink on the Northbridge, which is far smaller than the active type that has a fan whirring away, and partly it’s because Soltek cheated in a minor way. One of the points you need to watch for with any motherboard is whether or not the memory retention clips overlap the AGP graphics card retention device. If they do overlap then it makes it rather more complicated to remove components and to upgrade parts. Soltek got round this point by fitting a regular AGP 8x slot but without using any form of retention device, which is annoying as a loose graphics card will prevent your PC from starting up.

Company: Soltek


Verdict
Socket A processors won't be around for much longer so there is little incentive for chipset manufacturers to invest in new designs for this processor and the Soltek SL-75FRN2-RL suffers as a result. It has just enough features to be of interest but it needs more USB 2.0 ports, and one or two Firewire ones would be a bonus too. We can't complain too much as it is a fairly cheap model but there's not really enough here to tempt you to spend a weekend upgrading your PC.