Officially, the nVIDIA nForce4 SLI
chipset enables two PCI Express videocards to operate together under a
technology called SLI - or Scalable Link Interface. Two videocards are
better than one in a lot of gaming situations, but what's one to do if even
more 3D video game rendering power is desired? Up until very recently there weren't many alternatives; you could either use SLI, or get by with a single PCI Express graphics card. The winds of change must blow quickly, because less than a year after SLI was formally introduced there are already a few select motherboards which offer the possibility of using more than two PCI Express videocards at any given time....
Now before we get too far ahead of ourselves, it's worth
taking a quick look back at all things quad. The first manufacturer to step up to
the plate was ASUS, and the companies limited edition dual GPU Geforce 7800GT videocards which could be paired in SLI. Then came CES, where Dell announced its new gamer oriented XPS 600 Renegade System that conveniently came equipped with two custom dual-GPU GeForce 7800GTX 512MB videocards! In both cases, four Geforce GPUs ran together in expensive, but quick harmony!
At the moment the Asus dual-GPU Geforce 7800GT videocard is nearly impossible to find, and the Dell system is priced incredibly high. While it may seem like you're out of luck, if you crave the power of quad videocards there's still one more option... it's called the Gigabyte GA-8N-SLI Quad Royal motherboard. The GA-8N-SLI Quad Royal is the first motherboard ever to feature four physical PCI Express x16 slots, and it will set you back about $252 CDN ($227 USD/£120 GBP).
This very special motherboard is based on the nVidia nForce SLI Intel Edition chipset, and as such supports Socket 775 Intel Pentium processors. The board actually has two nForce4 SLI chipsets PCB, the Intel (Northbridge) and AMD (Southbridge) edition work in tandem to support all four PCI Express x16 slots, and this is what makes the GA-8N-SLI Quad Royal feasible.
||Gigabyte GA-8N-SLI Quad Royal
Users Manual, Driver CD, Hardware
Installation Guide, Four Serial ATA cables, One Molex Y Serial
ATA Power Cables, Ultra/133 IDE Cables, Floppy Drive Cable,
Serial ATA RAID manual, I/O Bracket, Two SLI
Connector, Bluetooth USB Dongle
Quad PCI Express videocards are obviously the main focus of this
motherboard, but it still comes with a rocking good list of onboard features.
Embedded into the GA-8N-SLI Quad Royal motherboard are four Serial ATA II
channels, dual Gigabit network cards, IEEE 1394a firewire, a 7.1 channel audio
controller (optical SP/DIF and Coaxial), and my personal favorite - a Port 80
diagnostics card. Port 80 cards make overclocking much more of a science than an
art because the error messages indicate what problems are cropping up with the
motherboard when they happen.
The Gigabyte GA-8N-SLI Quad Royal supports Socket 775 Intel Pentium 4/D/XE
and Celeron processors that run on a 533/800/1066 MHz FSB. The boards' four
DDR-II DIMM slots can accommodate up to 4GB of DDR2-667 memory. PCSTATS has a
reviewed a bunch of really great DDR-II modules here, but for this review we'll be sticking
with Corsair CMX2512-8000UL RAM.
The Gigabyte GA-8N-SLI Quad Royal is a full size ATX motherboard with a foot
print of 30.5 x 24.4 cm. Since the board has four physical PCI Express x16
slots, there is precious little space for other types of expansion. With
dual-slot PCI Express videocards installed there isn't any room for other
expansion peripherals, but with single-slot videocards the GA-8N-SLI Quad Royal
will accommodate a PCI and two PCI Express x1 devices.
Throughout the rest of the motherboard space is very tight, and in general
PCSTATS would recommend installing this motherboard into a full size ATX case
with good case ventilation.
Now the question remains, how exactly to do you get four PCI express videocard
slots out of an nForce 4 SLI chipset?