Case modders will absolutely love this motherboard as it's
quite good to look at. These days, a motherboard cannot just be fast and fully equipped,
it also has to look good and Gigabyte has that covered with the blue PCB and
multi-coloured ports on the GA-K8N Ultra-SLI. The layout of the motherboard is near
perfect, and even with the board installed into a case with expansion cards you
should be able to access all the vital connectors.
While Serial ATA has advanced past IDE on many fronts, one thing
I did notice after setting up a few systems is that the cables come off the
motherboard and drives quite easily. That issue has been addressed with the new
style of Serial ATA II connectors and cables now used. Now when you insert one
of the new cables into the appropriate slot, it'll lock into place.
Removing the cable is still quite easy, as pressing down on the latch allows you
to pull the SATA II connector out. The SATA II controller and cables are
backwards compatible with the first generation of Serial ATA drives, although
you'll only be running at SATA I standard speeds of course.
The nForce 4 SLI has a total of 20 PCI Express lanes to
divvy up between the various peripherals. When the switch module just under the
first PCIe x16 slot is set to 'Normal,' sixteen lanes are allocated to the first PCI
Express x16 slot, two are allocated for the two PCI Express x1 slots and officially the
second PCI Express x16 slot is not available.
When the switch module is set to SLI, the
sixteen PCI Express lanes from the first PCIe x16 slot are split in half and
each PCIe x16 slot gets eight lanes while the small PCIe x1 slot between the two
is disabled entirely.
During testing with the switch module set to 'SLI', the MSI RX800XT-VTD256
videocard still had the use of all sixteen PCI Express lanes with no
performance penalty according to SiSoft Sandra 2005. As expected, we were not
able to run two GeForce 6600GT videocards in SLI with the switch module set to
I would have preferred to be able to select normal or SLI modes
within the BIOS instead of having to change a switch, but I guess it's not
possible at the moment since every manufacturer with a nForce4 SLI-based
motherboard requires a physical hardware change on the board
Another innovation bundled in with the GA-K8N
Ultra-SLI motherboard is an SLI bridge rention bracket. Essentially this is
a blank metal PCI bracket with a little metal armature that sits just
above an installed SLI bridge to hold it in place on each SLI videocard.
The underside of the metal arm is insulated to prevent shorts. A nice little
extra, and something that should also help to keep both PCI Express videocards firmly
in their slots.