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Gigabyte K8NNXP nForce3 150 Motherboard Review

Gigabyte K8NNXP nForce3 150 Motherboard Review  - PCSTATS
Abstract: The K8NNXP boasts an impressive list of features, workstation-oriented addons, and performance stats that should make it a crowd favorite among demanding users.
 90% Rating:   
Filed under: Motherboards Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: Gigabyte Oct 28 2003   Colin Sun  
Home > Reviews > Motherboards > Gigabyte GA-K8NNXP

nForce3 150 Chipset

VIA's HyperTransport Analyzer, available here, allows you to test any Athlon64 motherboard and subsequent K8 chipset to see it meets the Hypertransport spec. We ran the test on the nForce3-based Gigabyte K8NNXP and found the NF3's upstream data pipe to be only 8 bits wide. The Hypertransport Bus Frequency was running at 600 MHz, as is expected with the nForce3 150 chipset. The spec bus frequency is 800MHz, for comparisons sake.

The Nforce3 150 is Nvidia's current chipset for the socket 754 AMD Athlon64 processor, and like previous nForce solutions, is a single chip design.

The functions of the traditional 'Northbridge' and 'Southbridge' are integrated into a single package, which then communicates with the Athlon64 processor via a Hypertransport link. All I/O subsystems connect directly to the nForce3, enabling the data to be marshaled internally onto the Hypertransport link for access to the processor and memory controller directly.

Nvidia isn't as forthcoming about the exact specs of the Hypertransport link inside the nForce3 as some other manufacturers, but they do reveal that it provides a maximum bandwidth of 3.6GBps. That amount is more than adequate to deal with the demands of current graphics and I/O technology, as detailed above.

You might be wondering if there are any downsides to packing everything into one core logic chipset, but the benefit of this arrangement is mainly the reduced latency that should be achieved by placing all the IO functions on essentially a single path between the chipset and the CPU.

As far as features go, along with the usual array of USB 2.0, basic audio, PCI, 10/100 Ethernet and parallel ATA, the Nforce3 Pro 150 integrates RAID into the equation. Motherboard manufacturers can add serial ATA support, gigabit Ethernet, or even IEEE 1394B with external controllers, as has been done with the Gigabyte K8NNXP.

VIA have created a handy little tool called the "Hypertransport Analyzer" to espouse the apparent benefits of using their K8T800 chipset which operates at the maximum levels of the Hypertransport spec.

In theory, nVidia's nForce3 150 is not as "fast" (and by that I mean from a users perspective) as VIA's K8T800 chipset because nVidia's nForce 3 HyperTransport link runs at a little slower pace to keep its signal integrity valid. Upstream and downstream rates of HyperTransport on the NF3 run at 600 MHz, as opposed to 800 MHz on the VIA K8T800 platform. We also found that the upstream data pathway for the NF3 was only 8 bits wide instead of 16 bits. The NF3's downstream pathway was 16 bits wide.

The good news for nVIDIA is that this slight shortcoming shouldn't affect 2D applications much, if at all because typical office applications tend to focus on few peripherals other than the hard drive. As you'll see in the benchmarks a little later, the NF3 only takes a slight hit when it comes to 3D performance due to the slower HyperTransport links. Rumors are that Nvidia also plan to release a revised version of the nForce3 150, entitled the nForce 3 Pro 250 which will use full speed 16 bit HyperTransport links up, and downstream.

Of course, unified drivers are what make nVidia's products so simple to use, and the newly released NV System Utility is just one example of how nVidia are providing the tools enthusiasts need to tweak their systems even faster...

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Contents of Article: Gigabyte GA-K8NNXP
 Pg 1.  Gigabyte K8NNXP nForce3 150 Motherboard Review
 Pg 2.  Onboard Features and expansion
 Pg 3.  DPS-K8 power and other unique items
 Pg 4.  — nForce3 150 Chipset
 Pg 5.  nVSystem Utility, the new era of overclocking?
 Pg 6.  Overclocking and BIOS
 Pg 7.  System Spec's and Benchmarks
 Pg 8.  Benchmarks: Winbench 99, SiSoft Sandra 2004
 Pg 9.  Benchmarks: PCMark 2002, 3DMark2001SE
 Pg 10.  Benchmarks: AquaMark3, Quake III Arena
 Pg 11.  Benchmarks: UT2003, Conclusion

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