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Gigabyte K8NSNXP-939 Motherboard

Gigabyte K8NSNXP-939 Motherboard

Supplied by Gigabyte


*lowest price date of review www.pricewatch.com

 

As one of the first Socket 939 motherboards, the K8NSNXP-939 from Gigabyte, offers a wealth of features. The Dual Power System (DPS) has now become a permanent feature and the adoption of NVIDIA’s nForce3 Ultra chipset brings hefty promises of massive hard drive support, NVIDIA’s firewall and disk management.

ws_box2

The Gigabyte K8NSNXP-939 is the first Socket 939 motherboard for Gigabyte and the new AMD Athlon 64 939-pin processors mark the next evolution and upgrade pathway for AMD. Socket 939 is the most notable feature and right in behind it is the NVIDIA nForce3 Ultra chipset. The nForce3 chipset supports up to, on this particular motherboard, 4 SATA and 2 PATA hard drives in RAID 0, 1 and 0+1 which Gigabyte has named Raid Deluxe. 8-channel audio, IEEE 1394b (800 Mb/s Firewire), Dual Lan, Gigabyte’s Dual Power System (DPS Gold) and Gigabyte’s ever present Dual Bios round out the other high points.

Gigabyte have two motherboards under the K8NSNXP model number. It’s only the “-939″ that separates the Socket 754 version from the Socket 939 version. Remember that come time of purchase else you may come home with your shiny, new K8NSNXP and discover it’s for Socket 754 when you should have ordered the K8NSNXP-939 for Socket 939.

 

Specifications

ws_mobo

 

GA-K8NSNXP-939
nForce3 Ultra chipset
 
Processor
  1. Socket 939 for AMD Athlon64/ 64 FX
Chipset
  1. NVIDIA nForce3 Ultra Platform Processor
  2. Super I/O: ITE IT8712F chip
  3. Integrated peripherals
    1. Silicon Image sil3512 controller
    2. I.T. IEEE1394b controller
    3. Marvell 8001 Gigabit Ethernet controller
    4. ICS 1883 LAN PHY chip
    5. Realtek ALC850 Audio AC’97 Codec
Memory
  1. Type: Dual channel DDR400/ 333/ 266 -184pin
  2. Max capacity: Up to 4GB by 4 DIMM slots
Internal I/O Connectors
  1. 4 x Serial ATA connector
  2. 2 x UDMA ATA 133/100/66 Bus Master IDE connectors
  3. 1 x FDD connector
  4. 2 x USB 2.0/1.1 connectors (supports 4 ports)
  5. 2 x IEEE 1394b connectors (supports 3 ports)
  6. S/P DIF input/output pin header
  7. 3 x cooling fan pin headers
  8. CD/AUX in
  9. 1 x Game/Midi connector
Expansion Slots
  1. 1 x AGP slot (8x/4x-AGP 3.0 compliant), supports 1.5v display card only
  2. 5 x PCI slots (PCI 2.3 compliant)
Rear Panel I/O
  1. PS/2 Keyboard / Mouse
  2. 2 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
  3. 2 x RJ45 ports
  4. 2 x COM ports
  5. 1 x LPT
  6. Audio (1 x Line-in / 1 x Line-out / 1 x Mic) connector
CPU/AGP/DIMM setting
  1. CPU FSB / Multiplier / Vcore Voltage adjustable via BIOS
  2. AGP Voltage / Clock adjustable via BIOS
  3. DIMM Voltage / Clock adjustable via BIOS
Power
  1. ATX power connector and ATX 12V connector
  2. Power-off by Windows 98/ Me/ 2000/ XP shut down and switch
Form Factor
  1. ATX form factor
  2. 30.5 x 24.4 cm
H/W Monitoring
  1. System health status auto-detect and report by BIOS
  2. Hardware detecting and reporting for case open, CPU voltage, and fan speed
BIOS
  1. 2 X 4M bit flash ROM, Award BIOS
Other Features
  1. XpressTM Installation
  2. XpressTM Recovery
  3. Q-FlashTM
  4. @BIOSTM

What’s in the box

ws_box1

Gigabyte includes the standard issue install CD, SATA Raid manual and motherboard manual.

Install_cd_raid_manual

The manual is informative for the new user but it lacks inclusion of the ADVANCED BIOS SETTINGS that a user can access at the main BIOS menu by pressing CTRL-F1.

manual

Three SATA cables are included.

2_sata_cables

Along with 1 EIDE floppy and 1 PATA ribbon cable. It’s clear that the motherboard platform is slowly migrating away from PATA hard drives.

eide_cables

This PCI bracket device is for porting the SATA motherboard headers to the rear PCI slots of a case. An external PATA hard drive array/cabinet can then be hooked up.

pci_ext_sata

Gigabyte includes two styles of SATA power connector cables.

sata_eide_power

sata_power

Four USB headers are on the backplane with two more side by side with the two styles of 1394 ports.

usb_1394_pcibracket

Another PCI USB bracket brings the total USB ports to 8.

usb_pci_bracket

Gigabyte has revised the S/PDIF bracket. Now seen is a different faceplate from prior motherboard models and the inclusion of the spring loaded cover door on the optical port.

audio_pci_bracket

Lastly is the backplane PC case guard and a Gigabyte case and keyboard badge.

backplane_guard

badge

Touring the board

The motherboard tour begins at the socket and moves clockwise around the board.

ws_mobo

Socket 939 is now part of desktop PC life. Socket 939 (and 940) have the plastic heatsink frame while the popular predecessor, Socket A (462), did not.

socket

Above the socket is the ATX 12 volt 4-pin connector. Note the group of seven capacitors. There’ll be more about those further into the article.

12v_header_ws

12v_header_cu

Four DIMM sockets support up to 4 GB of Dual Channel memory. Dual Channel is enabled with 2 memory modules inserted in the red or purple sockets. Dual Channel is also enabled with 4 memory modules inserted. The PATA/Optical drive, floppy and ATX connectors are placed conveniently near the top of the board.

Hiding above the IDE 1 header and behind the ATX power connector is the power fan header. This header is out in the wasteland as any system fans would be at the rear of the case or lower front.

dimms

Gigabyte’s Dual Bios is pretty much a standard on their mid to higher end motherboard products. If the BIOS should ever fail then the secondary BIOS kicks in and can overwrite the main BIOS to return it to operational condition. The CMOS clear jumper is located just above the Dual BIOS chips.

dual_bios

Active cooling is on the NVIDIA nForce3 Ultra chipset.

northbridge_hsf

Down at the lower right of the motherboard are the color coded front panel connectors and USB headers.

usb_header

Next to the USB headers are the first two of four SATA headers. The text may say SATA II but these two are controlled by the Silicon Image SII3512 chip.

sataSII_1394_header

The Silicon Image 3512 chip is a two port chip providing Serial ATA 1.5 Gbps (150 MB/s) data transfer speed for RAID 0 and RAID 1 function. Even though the Gigabyte specs lead you to believe that RAID 0+1 is supported, it is, but not by this chip. This isn’t a Gigabyte deception and all motherboards with this chip work the same way. The two SATA headers at the bottom of the board are controlled by this chip and not by the NVIDIA nForce3 chip which the assumption can be made that four SATA drives cannot be striped together.

sata_1135_chip

Texas Instruments provides support for the faster 1394b Firewire ports via the TSB82AA2 and TSB81BA3 chips.

ti_1394_chip

ti_1394b_chip

Five PCI slots are available which is still a standard compliment for most motherboards.

pci_slots

Note the two other SATA headers above the AGP slot. These are controlled by the nForce3 chipset and here’s where the RAID 0, RAID 1 and RAID 0+1 support lies.

agp_sata_area

Below the PCI slots is the game header, S/PDIF header and info link header.

To the left of the PCI slots is the Marvel 88E8001 chip. This chip controls the LAN 1 port and provides for 32-bit Gigabit ethernet. It will support 10, 100 or 1000 Mbps connections.

marvell_gigabit_ethernet

Tucked away is a tiny Realtek ALC850 chip that drives the 8 channel audio portion of this board. It’s 16-bit, 48 KHz sampling rate device with an A-Weighted Signal to Noise (SNR) ratio of 86 dB digital to analog and 93 dB analog to digital. Total harmonic distortion is 70 dB digital to analog and 86 dB analog to digital. A PCI higher end audio card like the M-Audio Revolution has an SNR of 100 dB analog to digital and 107 dB digital to analog. Motherboard audio has come a long way in the last year.

alc850_chip

The surround header is located relatively far away from the S/PDIF header. Those few inches will mean that one cable from the PCI audio bracket goes one way while a second cable goes another. It isn’t a problem but it isn’t very neat.

surround_header

The ITE IT8712F-A chip “provides the most commonly used legacy Super I/O functionality plus the latest Environment Control initiatives, such as H/W Monitor, Fan Speed Controller, ITE’s “SmartGuardian” function and Smart Card Reader Interface.”

ite_cardreader_game_port_chip

The backplane features PS/2 mouse and keyboard support, parallel and serial ports, NVIDIA LAN, Gigabit LAN, four USB 2.0 ports and 1/8″ jack sensing audio connectors.

backplane

Gigabyte’s Dual Power System (DPS) used to be a daughter card setup but now it is incorporated into the K8NSNXP-939 motherboard. In the manual this is refereed to as the DPVRM (Dual Power Voltage Regulator Module) and on the box and card it is known as the Dual Power System (DPS). DPVRM would be the more accurate term as DPS does not act as a second PSU but a “6-phase power circuit design to provide a more solid and durable power supply.”

dpsgold_ws

The power mofsets are cooled by an elaborate heatsink housing with active cooling.

dpsgold_top_cu

dpsgold_cu

The DPS is cooled by an Everflow fan which is nearly impossible to find the specifications for. Rumor has it that Everflow is Thermaltake’s own brand.

dpsgold_fan

And the entire DPS GOLD system is illuminated.

dps_operational

Inside the BIOS

 

bios_01

The ADVANCED BIOS menu is accessed by pressing CTRL-F1.

bios_02

Standard CMOS features are, well, standard.

bios_03

bios_04

bios_05

2X AGP support is now gone from BIOS. It would take some bit of digging in a used PC parts store to find 2x AGP video cards.

bios_06

The ADVANCED CHIPSET FEATURES menu gives access to aperture size, CPU thermal throttling, HyperTransport link frequency and RAM timings.

bios_07

CPU thermal throttling occurs when the processor is in the Suspend to RAM mode (STR) but does not affect processor performance otherwise. It is a percentage of clock speed the processor “backs down” to while in STR.

bios_08

HT Frequency is the HyperTransport bandwidth. Maximum was 800 MHz so it’s simple to do the math now that we know 1000 MHz is running with the Socket 939 processor; 200 MHz times the multiplier indicated.

bios_09

The INTEGRATED PERIPHERALS menu presents no new surprises.

bios_11

bios_12

Nor does POWER MANAGEMENT SETUP, PNP/PCI CONFIGURATION or PC HEALTH STATUS.

bios_13

bios_14

bios_15

Gigabyte is taking a run at overclocking again with the Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker (M.I.B.). It’s a feature that’s been seen before on other Gigabyte motherboards. CPU clock ratio goes from 4x to 25x in 0.5 increments.

bios_16

CPU overclock in MHz is manually entered. 999 can be entered so that’s the new goal to aim at for overclockers.

bios_19

AGP overclock is also entered manually from 001 to 999 though, sadly, the memory controller now on-die has presented a new set of overclocking challenges to enthusiasts.

bios_20

CPU voltage can be set from 0.800 Volts to 1.700 Volts.

bios_21

bios_22

AGP, and HT Link voltage control is only plus 0.1, 0.2 and 0.3 volts and DRR voltage is only plus 0.1 and 0.2 volts over.

bios_23

bios_24

bios_25

Is the BIOS extensive? Overclockers are challenged since AMD moved the memory controller on-die. The RAM timing functions are most certainly extensive but Socket 940 and 939 processors are finicky about overclocking the CPU clock ratios. Expect small gains only.

Installation and things that go bork

Every Gigabyte board we’ve looked at has not been without it’s wish list. The wish list has always been minor and mostly boiled down to a location of a header or an inclusion of a feature. It was surprising to encounter a problem so obvious as what we discovered.

The seven capacitors above the socket interfere with the stock AMD Socket 939 heatsink.

hsf_problem_06

Here it is from the beginning. First the heatsink in place but not clipped in.

hsf_problem_03

hsf_problem_01

Note the capacitors are aligned and it appears the armature of the heatsink sits snug against the capacitors. The heatsink is loosely positioned and no anywhere near the proper alignment.

Now a close up showing how tight space becomes as the heatsink is fit into proper position.

hsf_problem_04

And when the heatsink is firmly pushed into place the capacitors begin to present a problem.

hsf_problem_05

And a problem they are which we have contacted Gigabyte about.

hsf_problem_06

The installation process was smooth once past the heastink/capacitor problem but have a look at the placement of the two NVIDIA SATA headers just above the video card.

installed_02

In the ANTEC/Chenming/AMK SX1xxx case the position is quite good for the hard drives but this changes from PC case to PC case. If the drives are lower then the SATA cables will have to reach up past the video card.

A word or two about nForce Ultra

For a complete and detailed explanation of the capabilities of the NVIDIA nForce3 250 Gb chipset see our preview. nForce3 Ultra is NVIDIA’s next development in the nForce chipset line. With the Ultra comes the NVIDIA Firewall, Networking Technology and SATA RAID control. The nForce control functions are accessible after installing the ForceWare drivers downloaded from the NVIDIA website. The install disk included in the Gigabyte K8NSNXP-939 box will not make these features accessible.

01_main

 

The ForceWare Network Access Manager is an easy to understand interface for configuring network access and the firewall. It can be incredibly easy or very detailed. Not too many words will be spent on the NVIDIA nForce3 chipset as it’s already been covered in our preview. Suffice it to say that nForce3 has made network configuration and firewall protection easy and configurable. A hint for those sharing drives over a LAN. A custom profile must be created otherwise the default protection levels will stop internet/drive sharing. Use the wizards once CUSTOM has been chosen from the firewall basic configuration menu.

 

02a_network_access_manager_mainpage

02b_network_access_manager_mainpage_cu

 

03a_ethernet_basic_configuration

03b_ethernet_basic_configuration

04a_firewall_basic_configuration

04b_firewall_basic_configuration

The chipset or perhaps software isn’t without it’s glitches. Normally when the CAT5 cable is pulled an error icon should appear in the taskbar such as the example in the following image. It didn’t.

network_unplugged

More than that the network connection failed altogether even when the CAT5 cable was plugged back in. The network connection would only re-establish if the PC was rebooted or the NIC manually forced to auto negotiate such as disabling the connection in the control panel and re-enabling it again.

Even more unfortunate was the total failure of the Marvell Gigabit ethernet.

device_manager

The Marvell Yukon drivers that came with the install CD would not work. The Gigabit LAN 1 port was all but dead but a bit of detective work found the latest drivers (v.7.14.1.3 at this time) and it cured the problem.

EasyTune4/Overclocking

Gigabyte’s EasyTune4 makes the first jumps into overclocking painless. It will never replace the true art of nudging a system towards its peak but it will get the novice user off the ground. The EasyTune4 icon can automatically load into the startup tray.

taskbar_icon

Double-click the icon and the GUI appears.

01_stock

In our quick spin of EasyTune4 overclocking the board maxed out at 2520 MHz. Socket 939 processors will underclock on the multiplier but they will not exceed their default multiplier setting.

02_2519_oc

03_cpuz_2519

 

8 Channel Audio

Both work but which one; nVMixer or Realtek audio?

First this motherboard does not feature the NVIDIA SoundStorm audio package nor its reincarnation. There is a choice of GUI interfaces on the desktop and software translation language under the hood to the Realtek AC97 audio. Installation of the ForceWare drivers overrides any other audio interface. The RealTek audio interface must be installed afterwards to get the Gigabyte RealTek control panel and the audio portion of the ForceWare drivers must be reinstalled to go back again. Don’t look to the CD for the NVIDIA audio drivers. Those are for the SoundStorm package and will not install. Use the latest ForceWare drivers from the NVIDIA website.

The perceived audio quality between the two is identical. The choice of GUI is one of preference as both will result in the same 8-channel sound. Neither is Dolby on the motherboard. A Dolby software decoder, such as in a DVD software interface, must be used. It’s a matter of personal preference for the GUI.

nvmixer_01

realtek_control_panel

Cool’n'Quiet

What will prove to be this year’s hit is AMD’s Cool’n'Quiet. AMD’s Cool’n'Quiet, unlike Intel’s similar offering, isn’t just for notebooks and here’s what it does for desktops.

  • Cool’n'Quiet cuts processor speed when the processor is at idle.
  • Cool’n'Quiet cuts processor voltage when the processor is at idle.
  • Cool’n'Quiet instantaneously ramps up processor speed and voltage in accordance to CPU load.

Let’s talk about the benefits. The first is heat output. A processor that runs at lower voltage outputs less heat. Less heat means that a thermistor controlled CPU cooling fan can reduce speed and thus noise level. The second is power usage. A processor that runs at a lower voltage consumes less power and this power consumption saving adds up on the monthly bill for a business; small, medium or large. Basically it’s the reverse of the P4 Thermal Control Circuit; it runs flat out when it needs to otherwise it backs off to reduce power usage and heat output.

It is active on the Gigabyte K8NSNXP-939 and only needs the software from the CD or downloaded from AMD. Check our review for more information on what Cool’n'Quiet is and what it may save you in real dollars.

Benchmarks.

The test systems.

 

  • AMD FX-53 Processor (32-bit mode Socket 939)
  • Gigabyte K8NSNXP-939 motherboard
  • ATI 9800 PRO 256 MB Video Card Catalyst 4.2 drivers (Application preference ticked for Anti-Aliasing and Anisotropic Filtering in both Direct 3D and OpenGL, VSYNC disabled BIOS AGP aperture set to 256)
  • 2 x 512 MB Corsair PC3200LL TwinX DDR RAM in DIMM 1 and 2
  • LG 8x DVD +/- RW
  • 80 GB Seagate Hard Drive
  • Samsung 950p 19″ Monitors
  • USB Keyboard and Optical Mouse
  • Retail boxed heatsink
  • AMK SX1000 modded PC case (window, fans, cables, loom)
  • Enermax 465 Watt FC PSU
  • Windows XP Professional Service Pack 1 updated DX90.b installed.
  • AMD Athlon 64 3800+ Processor (32-bit mode Socket 939)
  • ASUS A8V motherboard
  • ATI 9800 PRO 256 MB Video Card Catalyst 4.2 drivers (Application preference ticked for Anti-Aliasing and Anisotropic Filtering in both Direct 3D and OpenGL, VSYNC disabled BIOS AGP aperture set to 256)
  • 2 x 512 MB Corsair PC3200LL TwinX DDR RAM in DIMM 1 and 3
  • LG 8x DVD +/- RW
  • 80 GB Seagate Hard Drive
  • Samsung 950p 19″ Monitors
  • USB Keyboard and Optical Mouse
  • Retail HSF
  • AMK SX1000 modded PC case (window, fans, cables, loom)
  • Enermax 465 Watt FC PSU
  • Windows XP Professional Service Pack 1 updated DX90.b installed.
  • AMD FX-53 Processor
    (32-bit mode Socket 940)
  • Gigabyte
    8NNXP-940 motherboard
  • ATI 9800 PRO 256 MB Video
    Card Catalyst 4.2 drivers (Application preference ticked for Anti-Aliasing
    and Anisotropic Filtering in both Direct 3D and OpenGL, VSYNC disabled BIOS
    AGP aperture set to 256)
  • 2 x 512 MB Crucial
    PC3200 ECC REG DDR RAM in DIMM 1 and 3
  • Sony 52x CD
  • 80 GB Seagate Hard Drive
  • Samsung 950p 19″ Monitors
  • USB Keyboard and Optical Mouse
  • Retail boxed heatsink
  • AMK SX1000
    modded PC case (window, fans, cables, loom)
  • Enermax 465 Watt FC PSU
  • Windows XP Professional Service Pack 1 updated DX90.b installed.
  • AMD FX-53 Processor (32-bit mode Socket 940)
  • ASUS SK8N motherboard
  • ASUS SK8N motherboard
  • ATI 9800 PRO 256 MB Video Card Catalyst 4.2 drivers (Application preference ticked for Anti-Aliasing and Anisotropic Filtering in both Direct 3D and OpenGL, VSYNC disabled BIOS AGP aperture set to 256)
  • 2 x 512 MB Crucial PC3200 ECC REG DDR RAM in DIMM 1 and 3
  • Sony 52x CD
  • 80 GB Seagate Hard Drive
  • Samsung 950p 19″ Monitors
  • USB Keyboard and Optical Mouse
  • Retail boxed heatsink
  • AMK SX1000 modded PC case (window, fans, cables, loom)
  • Enermax 465 Watt FC PSU
  • Windows XP Professional Service Pack 1 updated DX90.b installed.

 

Programs used

All tests were run at default video card settings with VSYNC disabled. Anti-Aliasing
and Anisotropic Filtering was left ticked for application preference. AGP aperture
was set to 256 MB. Windows visual effects
was set for ADJUST FOR BEST PERFORMANCE.

Individual performance will vary with any particular or specific timings or
tweaks enabled by you. A 1024 MB page file was moved to D: partition. Temporary
Internet files moved to J: partition at end of drive. OS installed to C: and
programs installed to E:. All programs were benchmarked with initial monitor
settings at 1024×768@75Hz. Your own mileage may very.

In the following graphs the ASUS A8V (Socket 939) was mistakenly identified as the ASUS K8V. Our apologies for any inconvenience this may have caused.

3DMark 2003

3D Mark 2003 was originally designed to measure performance specifically in
shader-heavy titles.

3dmark2003_640

3dmark2003_800

3dmark2003_1024

3dmark2003_1280

3dmark2003_1600

 

Aquamark3

Aquamark3 is a newer benchmark from Massive Development. For the most part
it is a DirectX 8.1 benchmark though it is run with DirectX 90b installed. Four
measurement sets were used. The first has high and low detail with Anti Aliasing
and Anisotropic filtering turned off. The second has high and low detail with
Anti-Aliasing (6x) and Anisotropic filtering (16x) set at max.

aquamark_offofflow

aquamark_offoffhigh

aquamark_616low

aquamark_616high

GL Excess

GL Excess is an OPENGL benchmark that is optimized for DX8.1.

glexcess

 

Quake III high quality

Quake III continues to hang around. This benchmark is one that
most can’t just let go of and it retains grandfather rights in the community.
Many of today’s games are based upon the Quake engine. It wasn’t too long ago that we thought topping 100
FPS was fast. Now we sit at over 300 FPS with the screen set to a high resolution
and detail.

quake3

 

Serious Sam

softimage

 

UT2003 Flyby

ut2003

 

UT2004 Benchmark

ut2004

 

Wolfenstein Enemy Territory: Railgun timedemo

Wolfenstein Enemy Territory uses an improved version of the heavily
modified Quake III engine from Return to Castle Wolfenstein. The Railgun time
demo results were recorded.

wolfenstein

 

X2 Rolling Demo

X2 – The Threat is a teaser with a benchmark option for Egosoft’s
upcoming release. It does not use pixel shaders.

x2

 

Call of Duty Demo

Call of Duty is a new game thus using the latest in optimizations.
FRAPS was used to record the average number of frames per second over a minimum
of 100,000 played frames. Call of Duty also finds its roots in the Quake III
engine.

call_of_duty

 

SplinterCell (Chinese Embassy Timedemo)

splintercell

 

Specviewperf 7.1

SpecviewPerf measures the 3D rendering performance of systems
running under OPENGL.

specview

 

The following two tests are targeted mainly towards CPU performance and will
show if any “flaws” are in board design affecting the ability of the
CPU to crunch through the data. While in render mode the two test programs virtually
bypass ram and GPU.

Adobe After Effects 5.5

Adobe After Effects is a tool to produce motion
graphics and visual effects for film, video, multimedia and the web. It is primarily
a 2D application using imported graphics or digital footage or self generated
effects. A project was created that was a combination of many video footage
files, resizing and rasterizing effects, text animations and multiple layer
effects. This “average” combination was felt to best demonstrate advantages
and/or disadvantages that a real world user may experience rather than isolating
and benchmarking a particular effect.

There is no official benchmark for After Effects
but tasks can be timed to show specific results. Rendering, or the task of building
and compiling frames, is primarily CPU intensive and After Effects generally bypasses
the video card to rely solely upon the processor for speed. The time taken
to render 900 frames shows how fast the processor is working on the
given task.

aefx

Softimage XSI can simply bring
any computer to its knees. It’s an incredibly powerful 3D animation program
that has the ability to become so complex that single processor systems have
been known to “think” for days when rendering an animation. A faster and more powerful video
card will translate to a smoother interface where complex scenes are manipulated
in real time. Users can manipulate objects in a
choice of views from wire frame mode to simulated real-time shading mode. A user must render a frame to disk, which
bypasses the GPU, in
order to look at a finished product. A faster processor will result in a faster render.

softimage

Benchmark Conclusions

On average the K8NSNXP-939 runs 2nd place in gaming benchmarks compared to the ASUS K8V. Second place is only the difference of a very few frames per second. Socket 939 does make up significant ground in Specview Perf besting even the formidable Socket 940 FX-53 processor. The “system killer” Softimage benchmark shows the K8NSNXP-939 as the winner once again and the K8NSNXP places a third place in After Effects losing to its competition by 1 and 2 seconds respectively; a photo finish.

The “dragstrip of benchmarks” is something to keep in perspective. One product may best another by split seconds or a handful of frames which will not make the difference to user feel. A memory timing tweak here and there could make the difference between “loser” and “winner”. The choice of platform comes down to features, stability and ease of use when processors are the same.

Conclusions

ws_mobo

Gigabyte expects to ship over 16 million motherboards in 2004 up from 13.5 in 2003. That’s a lot of motherboards. Take a look through the Gigabyte website and start counting just how many models of motherboards Gigabyte produces. I gave up at 300 and there’s still more.

The K8NSNXP-939 is another of Gigabyte’s flagship products. It has even more potential…for a price. That’s the Achilles Heal for motherboard producers and where some explanation of non-included features could lie. An option, such as NVIDIA SoundStorm may only be a few dollars more to implement by the manufacturer but will translate to $10 or $20 more at the consumer level. This could put the total price beyond acceptable levels. The novice only knows what they see and what their pocketbook tells them. When faced with a package that boldly screams “8-Channel Sound!” for less dollars than one that proudly sports “NVIDIA SoundStorm” for a few dollars more; which is most likely the choice?

The NVIDIA nForce3 chipset does have the capability for Gigabit LAN (which, of course, NVIDIA says is better) but it may have been more expensive to implement than the Marvell Gigabit LAN. 1000 Mbps isn’t a benefit since most users are standalone and connect only to the Internet. Those users who connect PC to PC can hugely benefit from equipping both with Gigabit ethernet. Remember the golden rule: “you’re as good as your weakest link.” If connecting through a router to another PC then a 10/100 router slows a Gigabit ethernet back down to 10/100 speeds.

Gigabyte flagship boards are extremely well-equipped on the motherboard and in the accessories. Two different SATA chipsets is an oddity but many manufacturers adopting the nForce3 chipset will face this challenge as well to stay within competitive price. Gigabyte boards are also “flashy”. The gold/polished brass look of DPS and the nForce3 cooler give it a luxurious look. This is outdone only by DFI who have taken the LANPARTY series of motherboards to the n’th degree of “look at me!”

The thorn in our sides is the installation CD. The Express Installation worked well but installation of the Marvell Gigabit LAN was painful but eventually overcome. The basic NVIDIA drivers were on the disk but the latest ForceWare drivers had to be downloaded from the NVIDIA website to gain access to the functions of the nForce3 chipset. Perhaps there are some licensing issues or politics under the radar. The installation disk is swimming with folders and the novice will be stupefied as to what to install.

This is the unfortunate downfall of all motherboard manufacturers adopting parts of the nForce3 chipset and combining it with other chipsets; drivers, drivers and more drivers. The Gigabyte K8NSNXP-939 will give up a wealth of data with respect to the NVIDIA nForce3 chipset in action as well as investigating SATA RAID 0 and 1 on both chipsets. Those two subjects will provide for enough article content on their own.

ws_box1

Is this the “ultimate” motherboard from Gigabyte? Certainly it is latest ultimate motherboard from Gigabyte but there’s still room for growth. Gigabyte has the option to produce a 939-pin motherboard with every feature of the nForce3 chipset implemented but, like all manufacturers who go this route, it will be at a cost to the consumer.

The Gigabyte K8NSNXP-939 is one formidable platform.

 

Our thanks to Gigabyte for
their support of this and many other sites.

Highs

  • Large memory and hard drive support
  • Top end performance
  • Fully featured
  • Socket 939

Lows

  • More expensive
  • Installation CD is troublesome.

Scores Breakdown
Attribute Score Comments
Bonus items & software 9.5 Everything included. No missing connectors for 1394b, audio and USB.
Design & layout 9.5 Gigabyte has made improvements to the orientation of the DPS module from previous motherboards incorporating this feature. The only quirk is the placement of the power fan header.
Documentation 9 Gigabyte includes 2 manuals (motherboard and Sata Raid) which are excellent for the novice and intermediate user but need to be updated in a few areas including documentation on the hidden BIOS features revealed by CTRL-F1.
Features & options 9.5 Dual LAN, 8-channel audio, 8 x USB, 1394b, S/PDIF optical and digital, SATA RAID x 2 (NVIDIA and SI)…is there more?
Fine-tuning features 8 Overclockers may find AMD’s memory controller on-die a challenge to overclocking. The BIOS has extensive adjustments. Some users may desire greater control/adjustment over DDR, AGP and HT voltage.
Overclocking features 9 Extensive adjustments in the BIOS with the exception of AGP, DDR and HT voltage control which most motherboards follow this same route.
Performance & stability 9 Very good performer. No complications during benchmarks with a PATA hard drive. SATA drives were not tested on NVIDIA or SI chipsets.
Presentation 9.5 Gigabyte definitely has attractive presentation and packaging.
Price / value 8.5 It’s not cheap but there’s a lot onboard.
Total score 81.5/90 90.6%

Comments

  1. Unregistered
    Unregistered Excellant review, I've just added your url to my favs list. However three points for need clarifying. 1) In your benchmarking, one test system was based on the Asus k8v 939, which doesn't exist. The only Asus 939 mb is the a8v(abit's 939 mb is the av8, both use the via kt800 pro cs), the kv8 has the 754 socket.

    2) You listed testing the "Asus k8v" with a AMD64 3800, while the others had FX-53s. Wouldn't it have been more accurate to use an FX-53 for all the machines in order to draw clearer comparisons?

    3) Did Gigabyte respond to your query on the capacitor placement next to the cpu?
  2. TheBaron
    TheBaron hey now, the man makes mistakes :D

    leaving the typos out of the equation, excellent review MM
  3. MediaMan
    MediaMan
    Unregistered said:
    In your benchmarking, one test system was based on the Asus k8v 939, which doesn't exist. The only Asus 939 mb is the a8v"
    You are most correct. Dyslexia setting in again. My apologies. That damn ASUS board (Socket 939) is refusing to be properly named. Somehow I got it stuck in my head with the rest of the model numbers of a kazillion other boards.

    It's next on my review list and I hope to get it right by that time. :)
    Unregistered said:
    2) You listed testing the "Asus k8v" with a AMD64 3800, while the others had FX-53s. Wouldn't it have been more accurate to use an FX-53 for all the machines in order to draw clearer comparisons?
    Two were 3800+ tests (Gigabyte K8NSNXP-939 and ASUS A8V) and two were FX-53 tests. (ASUS SK8N and Gigabyte K8NNXP-940). See above comment. Late nights make for interesting habits for model numbers. :)
    Unregistered said:
    3) Did Gigabyte respond to your query on the capacitor placement next to the cpu?
    Not as of yet but I had sent them the pictures. We are still going back and forth on that plus the botched Marvell driver. On the issue of the capacitors I suspect some engineer in Taiwan is saying "oops." On the Marvell driver issue they believe they are right until I can prove them wrong. That means complete format and reinstallation at least 3 times to confirm.


    Glad you enjoyed the review.
  4. MediaMan
    MediaMan
    TheBaron said:
    hey now, the man makes mistakes :D
    Mistakes? Naaaahh...never...I make conversation starters.

    :)
  5. mmonnin
    mmonnin Call them what you want MM, but we know what they are.;)
  6. Unregistered
    Unregistered THX for the review. I am missing three (for me) important topics though:

    Does the AGP/PCI-Lock work ?

    What intelligent Fan-Features has Gigabyte to offer ? If any, is it equal to Q-Fan / Silenttek, so can it switch out fans as well ?

    Is this a board which can be used for a silent PC ? How much noise will the onboard fan generate ?

    Best Regards
  7. MediaMan
    MediaMan
    Unregistered said:
    THX for the review. I am missing three (for me) important topics though:

    Does the AGP/PCI-Lock work ?
    I'll look into it.
    Unregistered said:
    What intelligent Fan-Features has Gigabyte to offer ? If any, is it equal to Q-Fan / Silenttek, so can it switch out fans as well ?
    With a 939-pin processor there is AMD's Cool'n'Quiet feature which is very good. If the CPU will also dial down in speed when Cool'n'Quiet is enabled.

    Take a more detailed look here: http://www.short-media.com/review.php?r=247&p=3
    Unregistered said:
    Is this a board which can be used for a silent PC ? How much noise will the onboard fan generate ?
    The onboard nForce and DPS fans are very quiet.
  8. Unregistered
    Unregistered Hi Mediaman,

    I understand very well what cool and quiet is. When it works, the CPU should be cooler with dowb to 22w dissipation, but than we want to gain the benefit from this with a CPU and Case fans slowing down, becoming quieter (or simply stop as q-fan and silenttek can do)as well.

    When playing games and full power is needed, the fans should be adjusted automatically so that the CPU is not overheated.

    For me it does not matter wether the CPU has 34 degree celsius or 55 degree celsius. What matters is wether the PC is quiet or not. The should be controlled by the motherboard.
  9. Unregistered
    Unregistered Was a Windows driver provided for the 1394B controller that actually enables S800 mode?
  10. Unregistered
    Unregistered FW800 driver: it's ought to be released in SP2.

    By T2k!
  11. Unregistered
    Unregistered Just bought it...will post pix and specs...very curious as what will finally happen...thanks for the reviews and postings!
  12. mmonnin
    mmonnin All you unregistered folk should sign up to the forums and post your findings there.:)
  13. Unregistered
    Unregistered Hi Mediaman!

    Just read your article. Very well written, but I'm puzzled about the LAN and supposed firewall feature. To my knowledge, the hardware firewall only works in conjunction with the internal GbE MAC of the nForce3 chipset and an external PHY. So far, so good. However, the only kind of GbE mentioned for this board is the Marvell solution, which is a complete GbE solution and doesn't seem to make use of the internal MAC. That leaves the ICS 1883 PHY which is rated for 100Mbit Fast Ethernet only.

    Does this mean that the firewall only works with the 2nd 100Mbit LAN? Or does it even work at all? I'm know the firewall part of ForceWare will install because the nForce3 Ultra inherently supports it, but if it's not used properly....?
  14. Unregistered
    Unregistered The nForce3 has NO SoundStorm feature (only nForce2 and upcoming nForce4) so Gigabyte cann't implement it in this board.
    But that was the only crap that i see i the review. The rest was fine ;-)
  15. Unregistered
    Unregistered A comparisson with MSI K8N NEO2 nForce 3 Ultra would be greatly appreciated :)
  16. Unregistered
    Unregistered Can you adjust the multipler from the Bios? I have heard no and did not see that in your review.
  17. Unregistered
    Unregistered I've bought this mobo since then I can confirm: yes, you can.

    However I have issues regarding my FX-53 FSB speed... :(
  18. solidus667
    solidus667 Regarding the capacitor location:

    I think they are located just fine. The heatsynch and mounting are both symmetrical, so you can mount it in either direction. Mount it (the retail heatsynch) with the lever facing toward the PCI slots and the lever will not get in the way and you have TONS of room. There is no problem here!
  19. Unregistered
    Unregistered yup, what solidus said :-)
    The lever goes on the side of the CPU closest to the AGP slot.

    I've been unable to get this mobo stable in dual channel mode. I've tried every timing, voltage, and prayer, and three brands of RAM (current is Corsair Twin-1024 3200XL PRO). It is rock solid in single-channel mode, but significantly slower. I'm waiting for an answer back from Gigabyte on this issue.
  20. confuzzled
    confuzzled Hello. I have read your review, and based on it, I bought this motherboard. Could you confirm you actually have the Nforce3 chipset features working? For some reason, it appears the Firewall and Network Access Manager are not functional on my version.

    I have been trying to get answered whether or not these features actually DO work. Could you please tell me which version of the Forceware drivers you used?

    Thanks for your time.
  21. cimerol
    cimerol I have the same problem with my system. solid in single channel mode and terrible in dual channel mode. I am beginning to think this ram needs more power than the board can produce.

    thinking of switching to ocz or kingston hyperx, pc3500.
  22. MediaMan
    MediaMan Cimerol,

    Just pointing out the utterly obvious. Have you got the RAM in the proper DIMM slots? I have used both Corsair and Crucial 2 x 512 with no problems.

    confuzzled,

    I use the latest Forceware drivers from the NVIDIA site. This motherboard is not the GB version will all of the features enabled that are capable with this type of chipset.

    Think of it like those motherboards that came with and without Soundstorm. Same chipset just not enabled.
  23. cimerol
    cimerol MM,

    Yes, I have tried a few configurations suggested by the Ram Guy @ Corsair. It's just very unstable and quite a few BSOD's when in dual-channel mode, even with loose timings. Thinking of switching memory modules.
  24. MediaMan
    MediaMan Yer kidding!


    Okay...download MEMTEST86 from our downloads page...see the main page of short-media and run that.

    I've had some funky Corsair ram before and it's best to start with double checking the ram for full functionality. See if there are any errors. I believe I have the 3200LL series of Corsair Ram on my system and everything on AUTO with no problems through 32-bit or 64-bit.

    Start there by checking the bill of health of your ram. :)
  25. cimerol
    cimerol I have already run memtest. as a pair and single sticks. no errors at all. my old setup was an asus a8v with 3200LL, since swapping mobo's i went with the 3200XL. i thought i was upgrading, but same problems. so far, i'm not a happy corsair customer.

    my cousin has a pair of kingston hyperx, i'm going to try them before i totally swear off corsair. i will let you know how i make out!!

    my main concern is, corsair wants 2.75 or 2.8 ddr volts, with this mobo, it only goes +.2, which is still only 2.7v. now i'm not a ram expert, but that voltage doesn't add up.
  26. MediaMan
    MediaMan Interesting.

    And here I sit with the 3200LL Corsair memory with no problems at default. Let me know what you find out.
  27. cimerol
    cimerol actually, i wish i kept the 3200LL, the support voltage is only 2.6, which I feel will work better than the 3200XL which is 2.75 to 2.85 according to the Ram Guy.

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