Gigabyteâ€™s first nForce3 150 based motherboard comes in the shape of the GA-K8NNXP. This is Gigabytes flagship nForce3 board and it comes with a wide range of features as weâ€™ve come to expect with recent high-end Gigabyte boards.
This is the first motherboard weâ€™ve seen that includes IEEE-1394b or 800Mbit/s FireWire. This utilises a different connector from the 1394a standard and so far there is almost no support for this standard, but it is at least there for the day when you might need it. It is also worth nothing that 1394b cards carry a hefty price premium at the moment over 1394a cards. There is also a spare connector on the board for a third FireWire connector which could come in handy if your case features a front mounted port.
Luckily the list of features doesnâ€™t stop here as you get both Gigabit and 10/100Mbit Ethernet on the board. The Gigabit controller comes courtesy of Realtek while the 10/100Mbit is part of the nForce3 chipset.
Next up is drive connectivity and the Gigabyte features both IDE and S-ATA RAID.
This is done by using a Silicon image S-ATA controller as well as an ITE GigaRAID controller for the IDE RAID. This means that you can connect a total of 10 drives to this board. Gigabyte also supplies a bracket that allows you to connect the S-ATA drives externally.
The board does of course feature USB 2.0 but oddly enough there are only two ports around the back, whereas you get another four on rear brackets. The only way this makes sense is if you have a case that features front mounted USB 2.0 ports and you can use these instead of one of the brackets. Two of the ports share the same bracket with the two FireWire ports.
Onboard sound comes courtesy of a Realtek chipset but this is a newer model with better signal to noise ratio compared to past Realtek chips. Gigabyte also supplies a bracket with connectors for the rear speakers as well as the centre and subwoofer. You also get coaxial and optical S/PDIF outputs on the same bracket.
As with many of Gigabyteâ€™s high-end products the K8NNXP ships with a DPS or Dual Power System module. This is a secondary power regulator that can replace the power regulation on the motherboard if it should fail. It can also be run in parallel with the onboard power regulation with the idea being that you should get cleaner and more even power to the board. How this works in reality is hard to tell but it wonâ€™t do any harm to the system to use it. The board also features Gigabyteâ€™s excellent Dual BIOS feature which has saved many a user from a bad BIOS upgrade or even certain viruses.
The general layout of the board is as good as it can get with so many onboard features and our only complaint would be the location of the USB headers at the front of the board. This makes for very untidy cable routing if you use the supplied brackets that mount in the back of the system.
The more standard accessories include three IDE cables, two S-ATA cables with adherent power connectors and a floppy cable. You also get a copy of Norton Internet Security 2003 on the driver CD together with a range of Gigabyte utilities.
The manual is comprehensive, but not always as clear as one would wish. There is a quick setup sheet as well that is very helpful if youâ€™re not an experienced PC builder.
There is also a sticker with all the common connectors and jumper settings that can be attached to the case.
Performance wise the K8NNXP is the fastest board in SYSmark 2002, which is very impressive. It does however fall behind somewhat in PCMark 2002 and 3DMark 2001.
This is a very impressive product with a wide range of features and the first board to offer IEEE-1394b. It does however have one drawback, its relatively high price of Â£140 inc VAT. That makes the K8NNXP the second most expensive board on test. If you intend to use all or most of the onboard features, then this is not so bad. But if you donâ€™t need the integrated features, then itâ€™s not worth it.
The Gigabyte is very impressive with all the features that you would expect from a modern high-end motherboard. But make sure you need the features on offer, as there are cheaper boards out there.