Gigabyte K8NXP-SLI (nVidia nForce4 SLI) MoBo Review
||nVidia nForce4 SLI
||AMD Athlon 64 Socket939 (fsb 200MHz)
4x SerialATA II (RAID)
4x SerialATA (RAID)
Audio AC'92 v2.3
10 USB 2.0
2x Gigabit Ethernet LAN
No sooner had the first nForce4 SLI-based motherboards appeared on sale than they turned a rarity in no time. No wonder that many buyers of these boards are not hasty at using the SLI but restrict to a single video card.
Anyway, this situation is easy to explain: prices for motherboards like these are not over the top and are somewhere on par with Intel's high-end boards which at expansion options are inferior to nForce4 Ultra\SLI.
The second also a formidable argument is the longevity of the platform. While Intel systems are still waiting for a new generation of boards with the south bridge ICH7 to come (where support for SerialATA II is to be added), then the combination Socket939 + nForce4 SLI meets all the user needs for quite a long time.
The third argument - to use the SLI technology originally, one has got to have a lot of money. Just see for yourselves - a good-quality and powerful PSU plus two video cards. But since no one has so far abolished the upgrade, users do that (or are planning for it :) gradually.
In view of the above, the shortage for nF4 SLI motherboards is quite understandable. At the same time, motherboard manufacturers are also experiencing a certain shortage. Coupled with the strongest desire to save, companies are trying to implement SLI on the nForce4 Ultra chipset. From the technical viewpoint, they are doing the right job and many firms have already presented first products like that. Of course, the volume of purchase of the chipset with the "genuine" SLI integrated is not significant (mind you, it is much more expensive). Besides, nVidia asks for a certain recompense from the assembly operators building SLI systems (which also adds to the end price).
This results in a conflict of interests among the manufacturers of nVidia motherboards. The company is definitely unwilling to allow NF4 Ultra SLI motherboards appear on sale, so is doing its best to press upon the manufacturers. So, until the situation is finally cleared up, only leading manufacturers are able to release motherboards on the nForce4 SLI chipset. For now, second-rank manufacturers are still temporizing (although there are exceptions - e.g. a DFI motherboard based on the nF4 SLI chipset).
Today, we are testing Gigabyte K8NXP-SLI based on the nVidia nForce4 SLI chipset. Note that its design is three quarters equivalent to that of Gigabyte K8NXP-9 (nForce4 Ultra. As the inquisitive reader may remember, it's just this board we started introduction to the nForce4 chipset family, and therefore, the detailed description of specifications for the chipset is presented in that review.
Gigabyte K8NXP-SLI Specifications
||- AMD Athlon 64/Sempron with 200 MHz bus speed;
- Socket 939
||- nVidia nForce4 SLI chipset;
- Communication with the processor via HyperTransport bus (16/16bit)
||- Four 184-pin slots for DDR SDRAM DIMM
- Maximum memory capacity 4GB
- Dual-channel memory access
- Supported memory types
||- Two PCI Express x16 slots (in the SLI modem the slots use 8 PCI Express channels each)
||- Two 32-bit PCI Bus Master slots;
- Two PCI Express x1 slots;
- Ten USB 2.0 ports (4 integrated +6 additional);
- Three IEEE1394b ports (Firewire-800; 3 additional) ports
- Integrated audio AC'92 v2.3;
- Two Gigabit Ethernet LAN controllers
||- FSB adjustable within 200 to 400 MHz in 1 MHz increments; multiplier adjustable;
- Adjustable voltages on the processor, memory, HT, and chipset.
- Gigabyte Robust Graphics Booster technology.
- Easy Tune 5 utility
||- 2 channels for UltraDMA133/100/66/33 Bus Master IDE (with support for up to 4 ATAPI-devices & RAID 0, 1, 0+1);
- Support for SerialATA II (4 channels - nForce4 SLI, with support for RAID);
- Additional SerialATA\Raid controller (Silicon Image Sil3114 chip, 4 channels);
- LS-120 / ZIP / ATAPI CD-ROM
||- 2õ4 MBit Flash ROM
- Award Phoenix BIOS with support for Enhanced ACPI, DMI, Green, PnP Features, and Trend Chip Away Virus
- DualBIOS, @BIOS, EasyTune5, Xpress™ Recovery
||- One FDD port, one serial and one parallel port, ports for PS/2 mouse and keyboard
- STR (Suspend to RAM)
- SPDIF In\Out
- Gigabyte Q-Fan
||- Wake-up on modem, mouse, keyboard, LAN, timer, and USB
- 24-pin power connector ATX (ATX-PW)
- Additional 4-pin power connector
||- Monitoring the processor temperature, rotational speed of the three fans.
||- ATX form factor, 244mm x 305mm (9.63" x 12")
The board is packaged into a box with handles to carry it around:
The boxes are joined with one another and open up like a book:
- 1x software & drivers CD
- User's Guide + Quick Setup Manual in English
- 1x RAID array setup & administration manual
- 2x ATA-133 cables, 1x ATA-33 cable, 1x FDD cable
- Eight SerialATA cables + four power adapters (eight connectors)
- Two brackets having 2 additional USB 2.0 ports each
- A bracket for 2 Firewire ports and two USB 2.0 ports
- A Gigabyte corporate logo sticker
- 1x cap for the rear panel
- SLI connector
- 1x DPS module + 1x fastening clip
- WiFi module + drivers CD + brief guide
The board's package bundle is worth the high price because for eight SerialATA channels there are eight respective cables and four power adapters (8 connectors altogether). For six additional USB2.0 ports, there are three brackets, two ports on each. On one of these brackets, there is another pair of Firewire ports. Altogether, the board offers support for three IEEE1394 ports, so to make the most of the board's capabilities, you would have to buy a bracket with one Firewire port.
The HDD cable and the ParallelATA cable are all proprietary: of blue color with a Gigabyte logo.
Note, that a very convenient bracket for plugging in external SerialATA devices has been removed. On the other hand, the user gets a WiFi wireless communications module, a manual, and a drivers CD.
In the same box, there is also a DPS module with which the user can "amplify" the board's power supply module.
As regards the documentation, it has nothing to complain about on the whole. Anyway, the manual lacks a description of the section dealing with those BIOS settings to do with memory performance.
Of special mention is an SLI connector aimed at joining two video cards:
As regards the drivers CD, apart from the necessary drivers and Gigabyte's proprietary utilities (@BIOS, FaceWizard, and others) there is also Norton Internet Security 2005 (v8.0).
The board costs around 190$, and in view of that the package bundle is worth a firm "5/5".
||CPU & Memory: