iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






Gigabyte K8NSNXP - a Mainboard Based on the NVIDIA nForce3 250 Chipset

One of the most functional Socket 754 models (I remind you that it's silly to speak of the performance in this case) with an excellent bundle at that. Though mainboards with this socket have no future as top products, at present Gigabyte K8NSNXP can still be the basis for a high-speed computer.

The only chip in the NVIDIA chipset must have improved the PCB layout, but in practice it is far from ideal - too many integrated devices. The row of connectors located along the left side of the PCB is inconvenient to plug the cables; audio-in jacks in front of the PCI slots, IDE RAID connectors behind them and the SATA connectors next to the AGP slot hamper the installation of expansion cards and the convenient cabling in the case. Access to the only jumper is easy even when the mainboard is installed into the case, a short description of its functions is provided right on the PCB. When you try to install a +3.3 V video card, a LED will light up indicating that this video card cannot be used, the second LED indicates power in the memory slots. The 3-phase switching voltage regulator of the processor uses four 3300 F capacitors and four 1500 F capacitors, and with a proprietary K8 DPS module the VRM scheme is updated to 6-phase. The PCB also contains voltage regulators of the AGP bus (consisting of four 1000 F capacitors and several lower capacity ones) and the memory (six 1000 F capacitors).

Gigabyte K8NSNXP is the top model in the nForce3 250 series of the company, so it's not surprising that the PCB lacks functional elements which are laid out but not installed (though some insignificant elements common to the other models of this series are lacking - jumpers to block BIOS flashing and reset the password, additional audio-in). Two other mainboards in this series are K8NS and K8NS Pro. The former is the base model, it is equipped only with a network controller and an audio codec, and the latter is a close match to K8NSNXP by its functionality (it just has a single (gigabit) network adapter and a FireWire controller instead of GigaWire), but is lacks all "bells and whistles" like the DPS module and a bracket for external SATA devices. PCB dimensions - 305x245 mm (full-size ATX, the mainboard is attached to the case with nine screws, all the PCB edges are firmly fixed). The ITE IT8712F-A chip is used to monitor:

  • CPU and memory voltage, +3.3 and +12 V
  • RPM of the two fans
  • CPU and board temperatures (using corresponding embedded sensors)

Onboard ports, sockets, and connectors

  • Processor socket (Socket 754)
  • 3 x DDR SDRAM DIMM (up to 3 GB DDR266/333/400)
  • 1 x AGP (with a latch)
  • 5 x PCI slots
  • Power connectors: standard ATX connector and a 4-pin 12 V connector
  • 1 x K8 DPS slot
  • 1 x FDD
  • 4 x IDE (Parallel ATA) - two of them are in the chipset, the other two operate due to an additional IDE RAID controller, so that disks connected to the latter can form RAID 0, 1 and 0+1
  • 4 x SATA (Serial ATA) RAID connectors - two of them are in the chipset, the other two operate due to an additional SATA RAID controller; disks connected to each pair can form RAID 0 and 1
  • 2 connectors for brackets each with 2 additional USB (2.0) ports
  • 2 connectors for brackets with 3 additional GigaWire ports
  • Game connector
  • 1 x CD/DVD audio connector
  • 1 x IrDA connector
  • Connector for SMBus devices
  • Connector for a case open sensor
  • Headers for additional S/PDIF-In/Out
  • 4 x cooling fan pin headers (3 of them with rpm control, the forth is used by the fan on the chipset heatsink)

Back panel (left to right, blockwise)

  • PS/2 Keyboard / Mouse
  • 2 x USB and 1 x RJ-45 (Fast Ethernet)
  • 1 x LPT and 2 x COM
  • 2 x USB and 1 x RJ-45 (Gigabit Ethernet)
  • 3 x audio (Mic-In, Line-In, Front)

Package Contents

  • Box: standard design box for the K8 Triton series
  • Documentation: user's guide, IDE RAID configuration guide, SATA RAID configuration guide and a poster with short instructions how to install and setup the mainboard - all in English
  • Cables: 2 x Serial ATA, 3 x ATA66/100/133, and 1 x FDD
  • The Serial-ATA bracket to attach external serial-ATA drives using its power and port connections
  • USB bracket (2 ports)
  • USB/GigaWire bracket (2 USB and 2 GigaWire ports)
  • The audio bracket with Center/Sub, Rear, Side, S/PDIF-Out (Toslink and Coaxial) jacks
  • Gigabyte K8 DPS
  • Ports back panel
  • CD with software:
    • mainboard drivers
    • Adobe Acrobat Reader
    • DirectX 9.0
    • Norton Internet Security
    • Gigabyte @BIOS
    • Gigabyte DMIView
    • Gigabyte EasyTune4
    • Gigabyte FaceWizard
    • Gigabyte Windows Utility Manager
    • Gigabyte IA Panel
    • Gigabyte Management Tools
    • Gigabyte System Information Viewer

Integrated Controllers

  • Avance Logic ALC850 Audio AC'97 Codec supporting 7.1 surround sound audio, with front line-in/out and S/PDIF jacks
  • Two network controllers, one of them is based on the chipset and ICS 1883 PHY controller supporting 10/100 Mbit/sec Base-T (Fast Ethernet), the other one is based on the Marvell 88E8001-LKJ chip supporting 10/100/1000 Mbit/sec Base-T (Gigabit Ethernet)
  • GigaWire (FireWire-800, IEEE 1394b) based on Texas Instruments TSB82AA2 and TSB81BA3 supporting three ports
  • IDE RAID based on ITE IT8212F supporting four PATA devices and RAID 0, 1, 0+1 and JBOD
  • SATA RAID based on Silicon Image SiI3512CT128 supporting 2 SATA connectors and RAID 0, 1.

The integrated audio quality was tested in 16bit, 44 kHz, using the RightMark Audio Analyzer 5.2 test application and the Terratec DMX 6fire sound card:

FR passband ripple (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB:
+0.08, -0.91
Noise level , dB (A):
Dynamic range, dB (A):
THD, %:
Intermodulation distortions, %:
Channel crosstalk , dB:
Very good

General performance: Good (details). Good quality of the integrated audio and 8-channel support may satisfy some customers. But I want to remind you that this is still AC'97 audio, not HDA - the latter can be achieved in Gigabyte K8NSNXP only using an external sound card.

Proprietary Technologies

  • Gigabyte DualBIOS (PCB contains a backup Flash EEPROM chip with a copy of BIOS)
  • Gigabyte K8 DPS (the mainboard is shipped with an additional VRM module, which can be installed into a special connector)
  • Q-Flash and @BIOS (utilities to flash new BIOS versions without booting up to DOS)
  • EasyTune 4 (proprietary Windows utility to overclock the mainboard and control its parameters in real time)
  • Xpress Recovery (utility to backup/restore the hidden HDD data)
  • Xpress Install (automatic detection and installation of necessary drivers and applications from CD)


Jumpers and switches Clear CMOS jumper  
In Award BIOS v6.00PG Memory timings + CAS Latency, RAS to CAS Delay, Min. RAS Active Time, Row Precharge Delay, Refresh Period
Memory frequency selection + Auto, 100, 133, 150, 166, 200 MHz
HT bus setup -  
AGP bus setup -  
PCI bus setup -  
PCI frequency divider setup + AGP(PCIx2) = 66-100 MHz at 1 MHz steps
PCI IRQ manual assignment +  
FSB frequency setup + 200-300 MHz at 1 MHz steps
CPU multiplier -  
CPU core voltage control + Normal, 0.8-1.7 V at 0.025 V increments up to 1.55 V and at 0.05 V increments higher
Memory voltage control + Normal, +0.1, +0.2 V
Chipset voltage control + Normal, +0.1, +0.2, +0.3 V
HT voltage control + Normal, +0.1, +0.2, +0.3 V
AGP voltage control -  

We used BIOS vF2, the latest available BIOS version at the time of our tests. The mentioned BIOS parameters are available in the version, but the viability of non-standard settings hasn't been tested.


Test results:

This model at the manufacturer's web site

Dmitry Majorov (destrax@ixbt.com)
29 July, 2004

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