Leadtek might not be one of the big players in the motherboard market, but it was one of the first companies to supply us an Athlon 64 board for this roundup. Leadtek has done remarkably well with its range of nForce2 motherboards and the K8N is the next step as itâ€™s based on the nForce3 chipset.
The K8N follows the lead of the K7NCR18D Pro II Limited Edition as the PCB is near black with a silver cooler on the chipset. It also features dual Ethernet, but this time one of the controllers has been upgraded to Gigabit Ethernet. As the nForce3 chipset lacks integrated sound Leadtek has fitted a Realtek ALC658 audio codec. This is the same codec as the Gigabyte K8NNXP uses and it sports improved signal to noise ratio. The motherboard features discrete outputs for 5.1-channel audio as well as a coaxial S/PDIF. The remaining connectors around the back consist of the usual two PS/2 ports, a serial and parallel port and four USB 2.0 ports.
There is no IDE RAID on the K8N but there are no less than four S-ATA connectors and you can run all the four drives in a single RAID configuration. This is the way of the future and we would expect to see four or more S-ATA ports as standard from the middle of next year. FireWire is also standard on the K8N and there are three connectors on the board, but the supplied bracket only has support for two. This is useful if your case features a front mounted FireWire port, but if it doesnâ€™t you might prefer to get the third connector on the bracket. There is also a spare internal connector for USB 2.0 and again there is no bracket supplied.
The general layout of the board is quite spacious and Leadtek has left a space between the AGP slot and the first PCI slot. This does mean that you loose one slot, but it shouldnâ€™t really be an issue as there are still five usable slots available. What does cause some concern is the placement of the floppy drive connector as itâ€™s below the bottom PCI slot. If you intent to connect a floppy drive to this board, be prepared for some untidy cable routing. The IDE connectors are also quite far apart from each other, but this actually makes cable routing tidier in most cases. The S-ATA connectors are also at the bottom of the board and this could cause some concern if you have a full tower case and intend to fit S-ATA hard drives in it.
There is a Pro version of the K8N that features integrated hard drive encryption and this was the board we were sent. Leadtek will however not sell this product in the UK as it adds quite a lot to the price for a feature that only a small amount of users would take advantage of.
The manual is somewhat lacking and at times confusing, this is hopefully something that Leadtek will improve on in the future. There is also no quick setup guide which is a little disappointing. In the box youâ€™ll find the standard IDE and floppy cable as well as two S-ATA data cables.
Performance wise the K8N is one of the fastest boards and it does well in all of the benchmarks.
To sum it all up the Leadtek K8N is a good board if you can live with the design quirks. Leadtek told us that the UK retail price should be Â£98.17 inc VAT which is very competitive.
Leadtek has created an affordable nForce3 board that offers a wide range of features at a very attractive price. It does however, suffer from some layout issues.