Features: Gigabyte K8NXP-SLI

Consider the K8NXP-SLI as an K8NXP-9 with SLI. Gigabyte has added all the BIOS options promised for the production boards and then some. Particularly interesting are the 0.5MHz increments available for very fine tweaking in the most used 200-270 CPU clock range, with 1MHz increments to the top speed of 400. The only item that proved too large a challenge for the production board was a wider range of memory voltages. Gigabyte states that future revisions of their nForce4 boards may see an increased memory voltage range, but that a boost in vDIMM options now would have required a board redesign. Gigabyte has tweaked the available vDIMM options to provide an adjustment range from 2.6V to 2.8V. As you will see in our overclocking tests, this had little impact on overclocking abilities, although a broader range is preferred and would have likely facilitated higher memory overclocking.

 Gigabyte K8NXP-SLI Specifications
CPU Interface Socket 939 Athlon 64
Chipset nVidia nForce 4 Ultra (Single-Chip)
Bus Speeds 200 to 400
200 - 270 in 0.5MHz increments
271 - 400 in 1MHz increments
PCI Express Speeds 100 - 150 fixed in 1MHz increments
Core Voltage 0.8V to 1.75V in 0.025V increments
CPU Clock Multiplier 4x-20x in 1X increments
HyperTransport Frequency 1000MHz (1GHz)
HyperTransport Multiplier 1X, 2X, 3x, 4X, 5x, Auto
DRAM Voltage 2.6V to 2.8V in 0.1V increments (Normal, +0.1, +0.2)
PCIe Voltage Normal, + 0.1v, +0.2v, +0.3v
HyperTransport Voltage Normal, + 0.1V, +0.2V, +0.3V
Robust Graphics Booster Auto, Fast, Turbo
Memory Slots Four 184-pin DDR DIMM Slots
Dual-Channel Configuration
Regular Unbuffered Memory to 4GB Total
Expansion Slots 2 x8/x16 (Programmable) PCIe Slot
2 x1 PCIe Slots
2 PCI Slots
Onboard SATA/SATA RAID 8 SATA Drive Total
4 SATA 300 Drives by nForce4
(RAID 0, 1, 0+1, JBOD)
Can be combined with IDE drives in RAID
4 SATA 150 Drives by Sil3114CT176
(RAID 0, 1, 0+1, JBOD)
Onboard IDE/IDE RAID Two Standard ATA133/100/66 (4 drives)
Drives may be as IDE RAID or combined with nF4 SATA drives in a RAID Array
Onboard USB 2.0/IEEE-1394 10 USB 2.0 ports supported by nForce4
2 Firewire High-Speed 1394B by TI 46A9C3W
Onboard LAN Dual Gigabit LAN
On-chip Gigabit LAN by nF4/Cicada 8201 PHY
PCI Express Gigabit LAN by Marvel 88E8053
Wireless LAN PCI 802.11b/g Wireless LAN Card Included
Onboard Audio AC '97 2.3 8-Channel by Realtek ALC850
BIOS Revision Award K8NXP-SLI F2c 11/22/2004

The updated Gigabyte BIOS for the K8NXP-9/K8NXP-SLI family provides a very wide and useful range of adjustments for other features. Continuing with the Gigabyte custom in recent designs, Advanced Chipset Features (and Memory Timings) can only be seen when you press CTRL+F1 while in the BIOS. HyperTransport adjustments are also provided in the hidden Advanced Chipset Features menu.

There are no BIOS options for adjusting or controlling SLI. This is handled in the nForce4 platform drivers and the nVidia graphics drivers.

A new properties section appears in the Advanced properties GeForce tab for boards supporting SLI. This tells you that SLI is possible by installing a second video card. When the board between the PCIe video slots is turned to the SLI position and a second video card is installed with an SLI connector or bridge on top, new messages pop up telling you how to enable SLI.



The process is very easy, but don't assume that anything is wrong if you don't see SLI on the first boot. The first boot identified the video card. After we rebooted, the SLI was recognized and pop-ups led us though enabling SLI. The only boards currently working in SLI are the nVidia 6600GT, 6800GT, and 6800 Ultra. nVidia has stated that future 6800 video cards will also support SLI.

The Gigabyte K8NXP-SLI, like the sister K8NXP-9, was designed as a top-of-the-line nForce4 motherboard. As the flagship model, it sports all the top Gigabyte features.



The SLI version also supports the trademark DPS daughter to increase power reserves and stability by increasing the board to 6-phase power. You can see the DPS slot to the left of the CPU. You will also see dual BIOS chips to the left of the main PCIe video slot. This Gigabyte feature provides back-up BIOS in the event of a bad flash or unstable BIOS setting. The K8NXP-SLI can boot from the good backup BIOS if problems arise with the main BIOS.



Continuing the theme of "more than you might expect", Gigabyte provides eight SATA ports. Four ports are 3Gb/s ports provided by the nForce4 chip, and the other are four 1.5Gb/s ports driven by the PCI bus.

In the nForce4 family, Gigabyte adheres to nVidia's feature set. This time, we see Gigabyte use the nF4 on-chip Gigabit LAN by supporting it with a Vitesse (Cicada) Gigabit PHY. Gigabyte then goes one step further by including a second Gigabit LAN on the PCI Express Bus. This second LAN is also removed from the constraints of the slower PCI bus as it resides on the much faster PCIe bus.



Audio is AC '97 2.3, but Gigabyte uses the popular 8-channel Realtek ALC850. The K8NXP-SLI includes the same wide range of audio I/O provided on the K8NXP-9 to make the most of the 850 chip. This includes 6 programmable audio mini-jacks and coax SPDIF in and out - all on the rear panel. For more information on the Realtek 850, you can check the specifications at the Realtek web site.

Another pioneering feature for Gigabyte has been their support of high-speed 1394B Firewire on their boards. This continues with the K8NXP-SLI with 2 ports capable of 800MB/s. This is double the speed of 1394A, for those looking for fast Firewire access.

From a feature, board layout, and BIOS options point of view, the K8NXP-SLI can be considered the twin of the K8NXP-9. The only real change is the replacement of one PCI slot with a second PCIe video slot. All the good things about the features and layout of the K8NXP-9 are still here in the K8NXP-SLI.

Index Overclocking: Gigabyte K8NXP-SLI
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  • coldpower27 - Friday, November 26, 2004 - link

    With an SLI setup, you may as well test the higher resolutions on the 6600 GT SLI, or 6800 Vanilla SLI it may make sense to limit yourself to 1280x1024, however with the 6800 GT SLI and 6800 Ultra SLI setup's costing 800US/1000US respectively, it won't make sense there.

    I don't think that someone spending that amount of cash is gonna skimp on the displaying device, might as well test on the these:

    NEC/Mitsubishi FP 2141SB
    http://www.newegg.com/app/ViewProductDesc.asp?desc...

    Viewsonic VP201s
    http://www.newegg.com/app/ViewProductDesc.asp?desc...

    or that Dell 2001 thing that can do 16x12 @ 16ms as well:

    a 600US CRT or a 800US LCD to complement the 800US/1000US video card setup seems reasonable to me, and with these kinds of setup, testing at 16x12, 19x14, 20x15 does make sense, though I believe you can't test it with both AA AND AF enabled at those resolutions as 256MB of VRAM is the limiting factor there.

    Also might as well throw in the 850US Athlon FX 55 too :P

    Reply
  • nserra - Friday, November 26, 2004 - link

    #44 YES you can.
    See it at Toms, 5750 and 6800 or X700 and a X800 or a 6800 and a X800.
    http://graphics.tomshardware.com/graphic/20041123/...

    I think its the best think you can have!! Better than having 2 cards in SLI, at least for me.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Friday, November 26, 2004 - link

    I have received a question for a bit more info on the on the K8NXP boards. We did not receive a complete retail package on the SLI, but the SLI will also include the wireless LAN card.

    Ports are included on two daughter cards which fits in slots on the computer. The first includes standard and mini Firewire plus 2 USB slots (4 total). The 2nd includes 2 USB slots.
    Reply
  • gplracer - Friday, November 26, 2004 - link

    One other thing too.... Nice review Wesley. I have a 21" NEC FP2141sb. I think many other users like myself have CRT monitors. I really just do see the benefit besides space and weight to go to a lcd. I had a 19" dell but it had lag. I had a 17" Viewsonic that had no lag but had a price that was too much for the size of the screen. Eventually I might get a lcd. I remember when the rage was having a video card that would do any game at 1600x1200. Now it seems the emphasis is off of that because of the lcd monitors. I think most still have crt monitors. Reply
  • gplracer - Friday, November 26, 2004 - link

    Can you run 2 different varieties of video cards in this board. For example could someone run a 6600 and then later add a 6800 ultra? It is a valid question for many. For example if I were to upgrade to this board I would need a new processor, motherboard, and video card. Some might have to get a cheaper video card than wanted if they had to buy all of this stuff. Reply
  • jcromano - Friday, November 26, 2004 - link

    ChineseDemocracyGNR and Googer, thank you both for your answers. I guess the 3Gb/s is mostly just preparing for the future.

    Jim
    Reply
  • Googer - Friday, November 26, 2004 - link

    Gatak, Last I checked Sony's GDM Line could do such Resolutions. But has been replaced by the Artesian Line. Reply
  • Gatak - Friday, November 26, 2004 - link

    A $400+ 19"+ CRT monitor will do 1600x1200 at minimum 85 Hz and can do 2048x1536 at 60Hz. My nvidia card, however, can't seem to do higher than 60Hz at 2048x1536 so I do not know if the monitor can do better than this.

    In any case, if you benchmark a $800-$1000 SLI setup then you target high-end users and not the standard gray mass... Also, if you benchmark at this resolution then people will see if it works, and if it does, they will want to buy better monitors. therefore the market for better monitors will come and we will get better monitors =)

    Reply
  • Googer - Friday, November 26, 2004 - link

    I ment to say Ultra ATA 33 and putting them on an Ultra DMA (ATA) 100 or 133 controller still makes them run in ATA/33 mode/speed. There is no Improvement for older drives. Reply
  • Googer - Friday, November 26, 2004 - link

    EDIT:

    the truth is that the sata 300 ports would change modes to run in the older 150 mode.
    I have some old Ultra ATA drives and putting them on an Ultra DMA (ATA) 100 or 133 still makes them
    run in ATA/33 mode/speed. There is no Improvement for older drives.

    Jim, Your Hard Drive was not designed from the start to take advantage of newer Technolgical Features.
    With all things being the same, no ncq or tcq added and all modes Identical except the added bandwith of sata 3 Gb/s port there would be NO hard drive improvement with your older drive over 1.5 Gb/s. Since the drive you are using was not specified or designed to take advantage of it.

    Reply

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