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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

Exploring the nForce 4 chipset

AMD’s line of desktop 64-bit processors, the Athlon 64 and Athlon FX, have quickly stolen the spotlight away from Intel. Enthusiasts have eagerly adopted the new Athlon64 processor, mainly because its performance has stood well apart from comparative Intel processors, especially in the gaming arena.

Until recently, the newest Intel chipsets boasted features that Athlon 64 systems could not match, namely PCI Express and DDR-2 memory.

These two technologies are the wave of the future in motherboard design, but the first generation of socket 754/940/939 Athlon 64 chipsets lacked these features. Only now, with the release of nVidia’s nForce 4 chipset, as well as VIA’s K8T890 and ATI’s Radeon Xpress 200 chipsets, has PCI-Express support been seen in an AMD-based system. DDR-2 memory will have to wait for future chipset releases however, but this is not such a major issue for the Athlon64 now. We’ll explore the reasons for this a bit later.

While current video card chipsets from nVidia and ATI are available in both PCI-Express and the older AGP standard (ie with an HSI bridge, or native), we are rapidly approaching the point where AGP will be dropped completely from GPU architectures. Motherboard manufacturers no doubt breathed a sigh of relief when reference designs for the next generation of motherboard chipsets from nVidia, VIA and ATI dropped through their mailboxes, since the Athlon 64 platform would not have been viable for too much longer without PCI-Express support.

DDR-2 memory is also not a must-have for motherboards now, and it may be considerably longer before it’s considered as essential as PCI-Express is. The reason for this is that DDR-2 RAM is simply an evolutionary upgrade over the existing DDR standard, slowing down the memory internally to allow for higher external clock speeds.

For the whole picture, I suggest you take a moment to read PCstats article on the DDR-2 technology here. Suffice to say that DDR2 is not faster than regular DDR, it simply allows manufacturers to increase the clock speeds of their memory to keep up with the increase in processor bus speeds.

Intel needed DDR-2 RAM support built into their high-end 925X chipset, since they are now bringing in a line of Extreme Edition Pentium 4 processors with a 1066MHz front side bus. The increased clock speed of DDR-2 memory is needed to keep up with these processors.

AMD has chosen a different route for its Athlon 64 processor. The company has no known plans to ramp up memory speed demands of its processors in the next little while, and thus there is no pressing need for DDR-2 memory support in AMD chipsets. As we mentioned, at the same speeds DDR-2 has no performance advantage over standard DDR memory.

This brings us back to nVidia’s introduction of the nForce 4 chipset. Let’s take a look at what features this next-generation Athlon 64 chipset has to offer.

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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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