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Gigabyte K8NXP-SLI Motherboard

February 24, 2005





It should be noted right away that SATA connectors are inconveniently placed right opposite to the PCI-E x16 slot, that's why you won't be able to use a long card with some SATA ports. And despite all the attempts to make a cooler on the system chipset lower, video cards still nearly touch it, which is not good.

The 4-phase switching voltage regulator of the processor incorporates two 1500 uF capacitors, four 1000 uF capacitors, and nine 560 uF capacitors. The PCB also contains voltage regulators for the PCI-E x16 bus (4x1000 uF) and for memory (6x1000 uF).

The PCB layout provides space for a COM port connector, which is left empty. Motherboard dimensions – 305x245 mm ("wide" ATX, nine-screw mount, all motherboard edges are firmly fixed). The ITE IT8712F-A chip is used to monitor: CPU and memory voltage, +3.3 and +12 V; rpm of two fans; CPU temperature (by the built-in CPU sensor) and motherboard temperature (by the on-board sensor).

K8NXP-SLI motherboard:

It's based on a chipset from NVIDIA – nForce4 SLI.

  • CPU
    • Socket939 for AMD Athlon64/ 64 FX

  • Chipset
    • NVIDIA nForce4 SLI MCPs (media and communication processors)
    • Super I/O: ITE IT8712 chip

  • Integrated peripheral devices
    • Silicon Image sil3114 controller
    • T.I. IEEE1394b controller
    • Marvell 8053 Gigabit Ethernet controller
    • CICADA8201 Gigabit LAN PHY network chip
    • Realtek ALC850 Audio AC'97 codec

  • Memory
    • Type: DDR400/ 333/ 266 -184pin
    • Total capacity of up to 4 GB DDR in four DIMM slots

  • I/O ports
    • 8 x Serial ATA (4 X Serial ATA 3.0Gb/s)
    • 2 x UDMA ATA 133/100/66 Bus Master IDE
    • 1 x FDD
    • 3 x USB 2.0/1.1 (supports up to 6 ports)
    • 2 x IEEE 1394b (up to 3 ports are supported)
    • 3 fan headers
    • CD/AUX in
    • 1 x Game/Midi port

  • Expansion slots
    • 2 x PCI-Express x16 slots supporting two PCI-Express video cards in SLI mode
    • 2 x PCI-Express x1
    • 2 x PCI slots (PCI 2.3 compatible)

  • PS/2 mouse / keyboard
  • 2 x RJ45 ports
  • 4 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
  • 1 x COM port
  • 1 x LPT port
  • Audio connectors (digital)
  • Audio (Line-In, -Line-Out, Mic-In)

BIOS (in two 4 MB flash memory chips) offers the following settings:

  • CPU, AGP and DIMM settings
  • clock, multiplier, and processor core voltage
  • frequency and voltage for PCI-Expess x16
  • DIMM frequency and voltage



I won't go into details about the chipset, just wait for the NForce4 article – it will provide all ins and outs.

NVIDIA chipset is allocated in one chip, which is covered by a cooler with fan:




I cannot show you the chipset: the cooler is attached to the chipset so well, that I couldn't detach it without risking the die damage.

Package Contents



  • Standard design package, two boxes with handles
  • Documentation (in English):
    • User's guide
    • SATA RAID setup guide
    • Poster with short instructions how to install and setup the motherboard

  • Cables:
    • ATA 66/100/133 (blue, with company logo)
    • FDD (blue, with company logo)
    • 8 x Serial ATA
    • 4 x SATA power converters

  • U-Plus DPS
  • WiFi 802.11b/g card with antenna
  • Rear panel bracket with 2 x USB and 2 x FireWire
  • Rear panel bracket with 2 x USB
  • Rear I/O shield
  • 3 CDs with software:
    • Motherboard drivers
    • drivers for the 802.11b/g expansion board
    • 3D1 drivers
    • Adobe Acrobat Reader
    • Norton Internet Security 2004
    • Gigabyte @BIOS
    • Gigabyte C.O.M
    • Gigabyte DMIView
    • Gigabyte EasyTune 5
    • Gigabyte FaceWizard
    • Gigabyte Windows Utility Manager
    • Gigabyte IA Panel
    • Gigabyte Management Tool
    • DirectX 9.0

We would like to note that the bundle includes a WiFi card (state-of-the-art card supporting 802.11g). In the software package we can note the latest version of Norton Internet Security (personal firewall). This program is not cheap at all, and licensed software is more comfortable and secure to use:







Integrated Controllers

  • Audio, based on HDA Realtek ALC880 codec (7.1 ch Audio) with front Audio I/O jacks
  • 2 x LAN controllers, one of them is based on the on-board controller from NVIDIA supporting 10 Base-T/100 Base-TX/1000 Base-T. The other is based on Marvell 88E8001- LKJ supporting 10 Base-T /100 Base-TX/1000 Base-T
  • FireWire based on Texas Instruments TSB82AA2 and TSB81BA3 chips supporting three FireWire-800 ports
  • USB 2.0, based on Cypress CY7C6564D-LFC chip supporting three USB 2.0 ports
  • SATA RAID based on the Silicon Image SiI3114CT176 chip supporting RAID 0, 1 and 0+1 with four SATA connectors

A metal plate is installed on the back side of the PCB opposite to Socket939 to reinforce cooler mounting:




SLI support is certainly the salt of this motherboard: as we have already said, there are two modes: PCI-E x16 – as a one-slot solution, the second slot is disabled; and 2x PCI-E x8. When the motherboard detects 3D1, it enables 2x8 IN ONE SLOT instead of PCI-E x16. These modes are managed by a special module:




There may be only one inconvenience: in order to get access to the selector-board, you will have to remove all expansion cards from the motherboard.

Software

We'll review only the main and the most interesting programs that come shipped with this motherboard.

  1. BIOS Maintenance

    This utility chiefly serves to update BIOS automatically right from Internet without rebooting into DOS. It also allows to save the current BIOS version to your hard disk.




    The bundle also includes a program that can write, change, or remove your logo in BIOS at startup:






  2. Motherboard maintenance and monitoring under Windows

    It's the well known EasyTune5:




    This utility easily allows software-level overclocking as well as




    on-board temperature and voltage monitoring.



  3. Athlon driver

    This software actually controls CPU. If you set your BIOS to minimum management level, this driver can reduce the CPU clock and voltage (when it's possible) depending on CPU load. If you set the so-called quiet mode, the CPU temperature is kept at maximum agreeable level. The fans are turned off when possible, or the program acts according to BIOS settings.

That's the end of our brief review of this product. I repeat that a more detailed article on nForce4 is round the corner. This article has been devoted to video cards' performance in SLI mode, first of all to 3D1, being the salt of this kit.

According to the test results, Gigabyte K8NXP-SLI gets the Original Design award (January).








Andrey Vorobiev (anvakams@ixbt.com)

February 24, 2005



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