The board layout is very cluttered, mainly due to all the features that Gigabyte has tried to squeeze in. The four pin CPU fan connector as well as the 12V power connector are located in a very awkward place, especially if you use the U-PLUS D.P.S module. Expandability is also limited with two PCI slots and one usuable x1 PCI Express slot if you’re running an SLi setup. There are two spare fan connectors, but both of these are located towards the front of the board, so neither can be used with a rear mounted case fan.
The GA-8N-SLi Royal sample that Gigabyte sent is revision 0.2 so it’s not a retail ready product and I had some major stability issues while testing. Far Cry would crash out in the early stages of our benchmarking demo and SYSMark 2004 behaved in a very peculiar way – so we couldn’t get results from either. Gigabyte seemed unable to figure out the fault as I received no reply to my emails with regards to these issues.
Nonetheless, after a couple of days of cursing and several reboots I managed to get most of our 3D benchmarks to behave in a reasonable way and I even managed to get some PCMark 2004 numbers out of the board. nVidia kindly lent us a couple of GeForce 6800GT graphics cards to test with and the numbers are pretty impressive. Although I don’t want to draw too many conclusions until I get a final production board, I think a few gamers might be persuaded to move back to an Intel CPU in combination with the new nForce 4 SLi Intel Edition chipset.