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Gigabyte GA-K8NXP-9 nForce4 Ultra Motherboard Review

Gigabyte GA-K8NXP-9 nForce4 Ultra Motherboard Review - PCSTATS
Abstract: The GA-K8NXP-9 is bound to be a favourite solution, for not only does it incorporate PCI Express x16 slot, but it also features a remarkable array of goodies.
 99% Rating:   
Filed under: Motherboards Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: Gigabyte Nov 12 2004   Colin Sun  
Home > Reviews > Motherboards > Gigabyte GA-K8NXP-9

nForce 4 chipset variations

The three different versions of the nForce 4 chipset share all the above features, but there are still some considerable differences. Let’s look into them, starting with the low-end nForce 4 socket 754 chipset.

The nForce 4 chipset (Socket 754)

This variant seems set to be the ‘budget’ nForce 4 release, given that it will be Socket 754 only, with support for Athlon 64 and Sempron chips. Aside from the socket, the two main differences between the basic nForce 4 and its higher-end siblings are in the Hypertransport link between the processor and the chipset and in the Serial ATA controllers.

The basic nForce 4 uses an 800 MHz Hypertransport link, as opposed to the 1000MHz connections found on the nForce 4 Ultra and SLI. This might translate to slightly reduced performance in demanding graphical applications, since less bandwidth will be available. The Hypertransport bus will be locked in the nForce 4, preventing users from raising its speed to increase system performance. The basic nForce 4 also uses standard Serial ATA 150 controllers instead of the brand-new Serial ATA 2 controllers found on the higher-end nForce 4 chipsets.

The nVidia firewall will be present, but not the updated ‘ActiveArmour’ version with hardware support that is seen in the nForce 4 Ultra and SLI. The processing load will be applied to the CPU not the chipset, imposing a performance overhead.

The nForce 4 Ultra

The nForce 4 Ultra chipset will probably become the favourite among the three existing variants, and it’s certainly the one that manufacturers have jumped on first. It has a full 1000MHz Hypertransport link incorporated, as well as the new Serial ATA 2 technology, allowing a full 300MB/s of peak data transfer with compatible hard drives.

The Ultra features nVidia’s new ‘ActiveArmour’ hardware firewall technology. This offloads firewall operations onto the network controller built into the chipset, freeing the CPU from the processing load imposed by firewall operations. If it works as advertised, this should be a great benefit to gamers, allowing them to protect their systems while still squeezing out maximum performance. In addition, the firewall now supports the ‘Intelligent Application Manager’ feature, which monitors and controls applications in a similar manner to popular software firewalls like Zonealarm.

The nForce 4 SLI

The nForce 4 SLI (Scaleable Link Interface) is slated to be the high-end ‘gamer’s’ chipset of the family. Its features are identical to those of the nForce 4 Ultra with one huge exception; it has two PCI Express x16 slots, sharing 16 Hypertransport lanes between them.

The chipset is designed to use a pair of SLI compatible nVidia video cards, and employs a switch built into the chipset to split the 16 PCI Express lanes that would normally feed a single PCI Express video slot into two sets of eight.

When equipped with two nVidia SLI compatible cards, this chipset will enable the cards to work in tandem, splitting the rendering of frames between themselves. What effect this will have on performance is not clear, but early benchmarks on the web have shown up to an 85% frame rate increase in some situations. Currently the nVidia 6600GT, 6800GT and 6800 Ultra are the only video cards compatible with nVidia’s SLI mode.

While this setup does mean that each video card only has half the normal bandwidth of an x16 PCI Express slot available to it, the benefits of SLI operation should significantly outweigh this fact. This is especially true considering that modern video cards do not come close to taking full advantage of the bandwidth that a full PCI Express slot can offer.

The nForce 4 SLI chipset can also be used normally with a single PCI-Express card in one of the slots, as the switch allows all 16 PCI-Express lanes to be applied to a single slot. The single card does not have to be SLI compatible.

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Contents of Article: Gigabyte GA-K8NXP-9
 Pg 1.  Gigabyte GA-K8NXP-9 nForce4 Ultra Motherboard Review
 Pg 2.  Exploring the nForce 4 chipset
 Pg 3.  nForce 4 features and variants
 Pg 4.  Improved disk controller and RAID support
 Pg 5.  Advancing Storage Features
 Pg 6.  Gigabit Ethernet built in
 Pg 7.  — nForce 4 chipset variations
 Pg 8.  Feature comparisons
 Pg 9.  Overclocking and more
 Pg 10.  The BIOS
 Pg 11.  PCStats Test System and Sysmark 2004
 Pg 12.  Benchmarks: Winstone 2004, Winbench 99
 Pg 13.  Benchmarks: SiSoft Sandra 2004, Super Pi
 Pg 14.  Benchmarks: PCMark04, 3DMark2001
 Pg 15.  Benchmarks: 3DMark05, AquaMark3
 Pg 16.  Benchmarks: Comanche 4, X2: The Threat, UT2003
 Pg 17.  Benchmarks: UT2004, Doom 3
 Pg 18.  Maximum Motherboard Overclocks and Conclusion

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