iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






Gigabyte K8N51PVMT-9 — HTPC Base?

  • NVIDIA GeForce 6150 chipset (GeForce 6150 Northbridge and nForce 430 Southbridge)

With the advance of traditional graphics companies (ATI and NVIDIA) onto the chipset market, we could expect the appearance of integrated chipsets, which can work not only with 2D graphics, but which can also replace a video card at least for the most unpretentious gamers. In case of the Californian company, it was true in times of nForce1/2. But then there was a long break. Integrated video supporting Pixel Shaders 3.0 (like in high-end video cards) appeared only in the modern series of NVIDIA chipsets, which demonstrate tolerable performance, especially in games of the last generation. But requirements of modern games have been growing faster now than capacities of mid-expensive discrete video cards. So we cannot speak of using integrated video in serious tasks. But what's the point in buying motherboards on "top" integrated chipsets like GeForce 6150 + nForce 430, if even the weakest integrated video can cope with the other functions (except for 3D acceleration)?

Don't forget that many users buy motherboards with integrated video even for home computers, for they are absolutely indifferent to 3D games. There may be also different requirements to office computers. In many cases, it may be expedient to choose an integrated motherboard with maximum possible functionality (peripheral devices in the first place). The most feature-rich motherboards are certainly based on top chipsets. What concerns a video core itself, higher performance may be required not only for 3D graphics, but also for decoding video. HDTV decoding, supported by modern chipsets from NVIDIA on the hardware level, is a serious computational task. That's why image quality growth (smooth playback or fewer dropped frames) can be quite noticeable with the increase of the core frequency. And finally, considering that motherboards with integrated video are cheaper than top discrete models and that they are no slower in case of external video cards, it may be good to get an integrated graphics core just in case. And finally, fashionable HTPCs must have a platform with this very set of features.

The PCB layout is generally good, especially considering the microATX form factor. As usual, we can grumble about an external video card (if you install it at all) blocking memory slot latches. Periphery and power connectors are located along motherboard edges, Serial ATA connectors are fenced. The only Clear CMOS jumper (to be more exact, two contacts to be connected with a jumper) on the motherboard is placed near a battery and is easily accessible after you install the motherboard into a PC case; there is a brief description of its functions on the PCB next to it (quite redundant in this case). There are no empty seats on the board, except for petty wiring and some minor elements (system speaker, BIOS write protection jumpers, additional audio-in, fan header…). It's the only motherboard [so far] in the series of Gigabyte models that is based on this chipset, so its PCB layout is unique.

The 3-phase switching voltage regulator of the processor incorporates two field-effect transistors per channel (the layout actually provides for 3 transistors per channel), four 3300 uF capacitors from Nichicon, three 1500 uF capacitors from Rubycon, and one 1500 uF capacitor from OST. Motherboard components remained just warm with our quite power-consuming processor, which cannot be said about the memory voltage regulator in the nearby corner — it was much hotter. Passive cooling of the chipset copes with its task at standard frequencies. This motherboard cannot boast of special overclocking capacities, so this noiseless solution is quite expedient in this case. Motherboard dimensions — 245x245 mm (standard micro-ATX), eight-screw mount, one corner (with SATA connectors) may slightly sag under pressure.

System monitoring (Winbond W83627EHF, according to BIOS Setup)

  • Voltages on CPU, memory, +3.3V and +12V (only indication of correct values)
  • RPM of 2 fans
  • CPU and board temperatures (by the corresponding embedded sensors)
  • Data provided by the chassis intrusion sensor
  • SmartFan Control — automatic CPU fan speed control depending on CPU temperature. You can only enable it, configuration is available via Windows EasyTune 5 (you can specify 4 intermediate rpms, including fan halt in idle mode). The motherboard correctly changes the CPU multiplier and voltages (AMD Cool’n’Quiet), even though its BIOS does not have a special option to enable/disable this mode, like in the majority of Gigabyte motherboards.

Onboard ports, sockets, and connectors

  • Processor socket (Socket 939, official support for all existing Athlon 64/X2/FX and Opteron 144/146/152/X2-170 processors)
  • 4 x DDR SDRAM DIMM (up to 4 GB DDR200/266/333/400, dual-channel mode is available, if slots are filled symmetrically)
  • 1 x PCIEx16 for a discrete video accelerator
  • 1 x PCIEx1
  • 2 x PCI
  • Power connectors: standard ATX 2.2 (24 pins) and 4-pin ATX12V to power a processor
  • 1 x FDD
  • 2 x IDE (Parallel ATA) for 4 ATA133 devices — chipset-based
  • 4 x SATA-II (Serial ATA II) for 4 SATA300 devices — chipset-based, they support RAID 0, 1, 0+1, 5
  • 2 connectors for brackets with 4 additional USB ports
  • Connector for the bracket with an additional FireWire port
  • 1 x CD/DVD audio connector
  • Connectors for analog audio ins and outs on the front panel
  • Connector for a bracket with S/PDIF-In/Out
  • Connector for a chassis intrusion sensor
  • Connector for a bracket with a COM port
  • 2 fan headers (with rpm control)

Back panel (left to right, blockwise)

Click the image to open the rear view of this motherboard
  • PS/2 mouse and keyboard
  • 1 x TV-Out (a special connector that combines S-Video output signals and component HDTV, it requires the bundled adapter), 1 x LPT, 1 x VGA
  • 2 x USB, 1 x FireWire
  • 2 x USB and 1 x RJ-45 (Gigabit Ethernet)
  • 3 x Analog Audio (Line-in, Line-out (Front), Mic-in)
  • 3 x Analog Audio (Surround, Center/Sub, Rear)

Package Contents

  • Package: a small box in the i-DNA (Intelligent Dual Nano Architecture) style. This series includes Gigabyte motherboards supporting dual-core processors, based on modern chipsets with high security functions (in this case security means firmware firewall in the chipset, Xpress Recovery in BIOS, and four RAID types)
  • Documentation: User's Guide in English
  • Cables: 1 x SATA, 1 x ATA66 and an FDD cable

  • External unit (extension cord for the special connector on the rear panel) with video outs: 1 x S-Video and 3 x Composite (Y, Pr, Pb/AV) with a HDTV/TV switch
  • Rear I/O shield
  • CD with drivers and proprietary Gigabyte utilities as well as Norton Internet Security 2005 (antivirus and firewall).

The bundle of proprietary utilities includes standard tools for flashing BIOS under Windows that allow to search and download the latest versions from the official web site (@BIOS) and EasyTune5 for monitoring system parameters, "overclocking" (you can only modify frequencies and multiplier of the CPU as well as PCI-Express frequencies within the BIOS range) and SmartFan settings.

On one hand, the bundle is praiseworthy for its video support, but brackets with additional USB and FireWire would have also come in handy (assuming part of these ports can be installed on the front panel) as well as S/PDIF-In/Out, which is even more difficult to find as an accessory. These items do not come shipped with the model.

Integrated Controllers

  • Audio, based on the chipset support for High Definition Audio and Realtek ALC880 codec, 7.1 channel audio, front line-ins/outs and S/PDIF-In/Out jacks
  • Network, based on the chipset and PHY controller Vitesse VSC8201RX, supporting 10/100/1000 Mbit/s and ActiveArmor (see the details in the chipset description)
  • FireWire, based on the VIA VT6307 chip supporting 2 ports.

The integrated audio quality was tested in 16bit, 44 kHz using the RightMark Audio Analyzer 5.5 test application and the Terratec DMX 6fire sound card:

Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB:
+0,25, -0,32
Noise level, dB (A):
Dynamic range, dB (A):
THD, %:
Very good
Intermodulation distortion + Noise, %:
Very good
Channel crosstalk, dB:
IMD at 10 kHz, %:

General performance: Very good (details). The motherboard demonstrates excellent (even for HDA) noise characteristics and dynamic range, while intermodulation distortion in tests with floating sinusoids is unexpectedly high.

Proprietary technologies and peculiarities

The motherboard cannot boast of a lot of features, typical of top Gigabyte models. The motherboard offers Q-Flash - emergency BIOS flashing by pressing F8 at startup (you must have a BIOS version on a floppy, in this case you don't need to boot up under your operating system, which may be problematic in case your boot sector is damaged). There is also a traditional function of restoring a previously backed up HDD partition using a BIOS utility - Xpress Recovery. The difference from the traditional utilities (like Acronis True Image) is that you don't have to boot up from a CD to restore data. But its functions and interface are certainly more unassuming: in particular, you can keep only one backup image.


Jumpers and switches Clear CMOS jumper To be more exact, the board has two contacts, which should be short-circuited with a metal object — e.g. a screwdriver or a jumper (if available)
In Award BIOS v6.00 Allows to disable specific CPU functions -  
Memory timings + 1T/2T Memory Timing, CAS Latency, RAS to CAS Delay, Min RAS Active Time, Row Precharge Time, Row to Row Delay
Memory frequency selection + Auto, DDR200, DDR266, DDR333, DDR400, DDR433, DDR466, DDR500 (you actually specify a multiplier to the HTT frequency; the last three options are available only for processors, based on 90-nm cores - San Diego, Venice, and Palermo)
HT bus setup -  
Peripheral bus frequency control + PCI-E = 100—145 MHz at 1 MHz steps
PCI IRQ manual assignment +  
FSB frequency setup + 200—300 MHz at 0.5 MHz steps
CPU multiplier + from x5, at integer steps
CPU core voltage control -  
Memory voltage control -  

We used BIOS dated 14.12.2005, the latest available BIOS version at the time of our tests. The mentioned BIOS parameters are available in this version, but the viability of non-standard settings hasn't been tested.

BIOS does not allow to increase voltage at system components, so this model will not do for overclockers. In return, you will hardly get lost in its settings (especially if you don't switch to the advanced mode by pressing Ctrl+F1). As motherboards with integrated video are intended for (the largest) class of consumers (unlike motherboards with discrete video), who are not interested in overclocking options, this minimalism is justified. But there is one but: as the motherboard offers no timings control (in default mode), it may automatically set them to convalescent values. But in this case our fears did not come true, the main timings were set according to the SPD data, 1T/2T parameter was automatically set to minimum in a configuration with two memory modules.


Testbed configurations:

  • CPU: AMD Athlon 64 4000+
  • Memory: 2 x 512 MB Corsair XMS3200 TwinX (DDR400, 2-2-2-5)
  • Discrete video: ATI Radeon X800 XT, 256 MB DDR
  • HDD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 (SATA, 7200 rpm)
  • Power supply unit: Chieftec GPS-400AA
  • OS: Windows XP SP2

We've taken a previously reviewed motherboard on the same chipset for comparison — Foxconn 6150K8MA-8EKRS. We allocated a maximum video buffer for integrated video (128 MB).

Test Foxconn 6150K8MA-8EKRS Gigabyte K8N51PVMT-9
integrated video discrete video integrated video discrete video
Archiving with 7-Zip, min:sec 7:42 7:32 7:44 7:42
MPEG4 (DivX) encoding, min:seC 3:51 3:48 3:53 3:51
Unreal Tournament 2004 (Low@640x480), fps 50.8 85.1 35.1 84.0
Unreal Tournament 2004 (Highest@1600x1200), fps 10.9 77.1 15.0 76.7
Doom 3 (Low@640x480), fps 21.7 111.8 13.5 112.6
Doom 3 (High@1024x768), fps 9.7 101.0 5.8 101.7
FarCry (Medium@800x600), fps 34 126 23 133
FarCry (High@1024x768), fps 11 98 15 97

In case of discrete video, Gigabyte K8N51PVMT-9 offered identical performance as absolutely all other AMD64 motherboards, but it was formally outperformed by the Foxconn motherboard by some hundredth of a percent. Integrated video was just minimally slower in 2D tasks, which allows to use integrated video without a backward glance to possible performance drops.

What concerns gaming results of the GeForce 6150 integrated video from Foxconn and Gigabyte, we are completely at a loss here. Unfortunately, we don't have the Foxconn motherboard already, so we cannot compare BIOS versions and settings to find out what model is the adequate representative of the chipset. The differences are too serious to neglect. (Existing utilities do not allow to detect the true frequency of the video core on GeForce 6100/6150-based motherboards, so our version about reduced frequencies in the Gigabyte chip is just contemplative.) As for now, we can only accept the victory of Foxconn 6150K8MA-8EKRS in total score in low resolutions. But its competitor makes up the lost ground when video settings become more complex, sometimes it may even shoot forward. Of course, we'll get back to the NVIDIA integrated video issue in games, as soon as we get another model. By the way, performance of both motherboards is still not enough for modern shooters — they are doomed to older engines.

Bottom line

On the whole, Gigabyte K8N51PVMT-9 qualifies for its mission and is worthy of being a base for inexpensive home as well as functional office PC as well as HTPC. In particular, BIOS Setup contains an option to choose a TV-set (connected to the integrated TV-Out) as a default monitor. You can use a model with HDTV support, video decoding in this format is supported on the hardware level. Thought-out set of integrated controllers provides everything necessary for the above mentioned tasks, but the motherboard is not overpriced (its bundle is not swollen, as it is usually the case with top solutions). However, K8N51PVMT-9 can offer nothing to overclockers, so this group of customers is excluded from the target audience of the new Gigabyte product.

This model on the manufacturer's web site (Russian mirror)

The motherboard is kindly provided by the manufacturer

Dmitry Vladimirovich (lpt@ixbt.com)
February 3, 2006


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