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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  • instant - Thursday, February 24, 2005 - link

    You should play games in 3520x1024 resolution with a SLI setup. :-)

    Can you do Multi-Monitor with SLI?
    Reply
  • BenSkywalker - Tuesday, November 30, 2004 - link

    "What do you think you are gaining by trying to harass Wes."

    It is not an attempt to harass anyone, it is pointing out A flaw with the review(emphasis on A).

    "Does it make you feel like more of a man to try and point out flaws in his motherboard review?"

    Why on Earth would it? If enough people point out the same issue perhaps it will bring home the fact that the higher resolutions are desireable information.

    "This was NOT an SLI performance review. This was a motherboard review. In all honesty all that needed to be said of SLI in it is "Yup it works on the board" and BAM he has fulfilled his requirements for a motherboard review."

    Not quite. The mobo must be capable of handling the load splitting in terms of the PCI-E lanes properly and there is the risk of issues with particular implementations being less then optimal along with the normal issues of early BIOS headaches that could become apparent for SLI adopters. There are also increased power demands at the highest resolutions.

    "It's fine if you disagree with what he wrote but to say that he wrote a pointless review and then troll and try and take pot shots when he responds is just idiotic."

    Not clarifying my points would be idiotic. Creating a summation of every particular reason why higher resolutions should be tested would run numerous pages, so I hold back and only point out those which I find to be most relevant. If a counter-point is offered then I rebut that issue.

    "There is a reason he gets new hardware first and you well..."

    That reason is he works for AT.

    "If you think you can do better than please by all means start a website."

    I used to handle reviews and other random things for a couple of different sites(mainly GameBasement) but the cost and time put into it wasn't worth it and I certainly wasn't going to go with an ad based site as then your credibility is too frequently in doubt.

    When someone pointed out an element they felt I should have included in a review be it either hardware or software I took the time to add it in every time. If you consider authoring for a review site a service to your readers, then you try to do everything honest and accurate that needs to be done to service the readers.
    Reply
  • Akira1224 - Tuesday, November 30, 2004 - link

    I am going to comment on the article in a moment but first I have to ask Ben a question.

    Ben - What do you think you are gaining by trying to harass Wes. Does it make you feel like more of a man to try and point out flaws in his motherboard review? This was NOT an SLI performance review. This was a motherboard review. In all honesty all that needed to be said of SLI in it is "Yup it works on the board" and BAM he has fulfilled his requirements for a motherboard review. It's fine if you disagree with what he wrote but to say that he wrote a pointless review and then troll and try and take pot shots when he responds is just idiotic. There is a reason he gets new hardware first and you well... don't. If you think you can do better than please by all means start a website. Start the www.benskywalkerhardwaretech.com Be careful with the skywalker name I have a feeling there’s a trademark on it. The bottom line to all this is that he did not include 16X12 because this was not about the cards or the processor. It's about the boards performance. If you want to see extreme resolutions then go check out an SLI vid card roundup. Or write one yourself and let us know the results. Please do us all a favor and stop. You reek of "seventeenism".

    Ok sorry about that. With that said great review. I was hoping to see the board against the Asus board but I imagine that you all will do one once the retail boards hit the market.
    Reply
  • cryptonomicon - Monday, November 29, 2004 - link

    I think we will see plenty of 1600 and 2048 benches in reviews to come. Everyone right now is just going nuts trying to figure out the performance ceiling of SLI with the limited benches run. I'll be waiting patiently for the review of the next NF4 production board :D
    Reply
  • BenSkywalker - Sunday, November 28, 2004 - link

    Wesley-

    "A 19" CRT has a real screen diagonal of about 17". I find 1600x1200 on a 17" display far too small for anyone to really see what 1600X1200 actually adds to the game."

    I would have someone set up a double blind test for you, if you honestly can't see the difference then you should set yourself up an appointment with an optometrist. It sounds as if you have some fairly serious issues with your vision.
    Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Sunday, November 28, 2004 - link

    Wesley- any idea if SATA hard-drives limit overclocking on nForce 4 boards, whether using the integrated controller or sockets connected to an additional onboard controller?

    And as the hardware-firewall is one of the features nVidia are pushing in the nForce 4 Pro, it would be nice to have some review coverage of it. All we've had so far is the official nVidia gumf about it.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Sunday, November 28, 2004 - link

    #51 - A 19" CRT has a real screen diagonal of about 17". I find 1600x1200 on a 17" display far too small for anyone to really see what 1600X1200 actually adds to the game. Playing 1600x1200 on a 17" screen is more about bragging rights, IMHO, that it is about visible performance. 1600x1200 is decent on a 21" to 22" CRT, as it is on a 20" LCD. LCD screen sizes are real, so a 20.3" dsiplay is actually a 20.3" diagonal. That 21" to 22" CRT will actually be about the same screen size as a 19" to 20" LCD. Reply
  • SonicIce - Saturday, November 27, 2004 - link

    The best 19" CRT money can buy won't breakmuch more than $300. It would be able to do 1600x1200@85Hz easy. Why would this be uncomfortable or ugly? Reply
  • Executor6 - Saturday, November 27, 2004 - link

    Hey, Anand, are you planning on reviewing that Tyan dual-Opteron SLI motherboard anytime soon? ( http://xtremesystems.org/forums/showthread.php?t=4... ) The interesting thing about that MB is that both PCIe slots for the graphic cards are 16x, rather than the 8x on regular MBs, hence you would be able to tell if the available bandwidth has any impact on SLI performance. Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Friday, November 26, 2004 - link

    A couple of questions about the nForce 4 chipset, not specifically the Gigabyte board:

    Is overclocking limited if SATA hard-drives are used? If so does this only apply when using the SATA sockets off the nForce 4 chip, or also if SATA drives are connected to sockets from an additional onboard controller?

    What are your impressions of the nForce 4 hardware firewall and configuration software? Does it provide all the configuration options you'd find in personal firewalls like ZoneAlarm or Kerio?

    Otherwise a good review. Even though I've got a monitor which can do 2048x1536 @ 85hz and I would run it at that in games with a high-end SLI configuration, those sort of benchmarks (along with 8x AA benchmarking) belong in graphics-card reviews rather than motherboard reviews.
    Reply

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