Socket 939 has arrived with its dual-channel DDR for the masses, but it has not had the crushing effect on Socket 754 that many envisioned. 939-pin Athlon 64 processors are still quite expensive, and AMD is looking to maintain Socket 754 as a top mainstream performance choice. This is quite evident when perusing the CPU price lists, where the Athlon 64 2800+ and 3000+ provide a ton of value in a 754-pin package.
In order to achieve a mainstream price for an AMD64 platform, Socket 754 is still the place to go, running in either the upstart VIA K8T800 or the original NVIDIA nForce3 150. Both platforms have their pros and cons, and in this review we'll be taking a look at the nForce3 150-powered Gigabyte K8NNXP, and comparing it to the K8T800 competition in terms of features, performance and value.
The Gigabyte K8NNXP is based on the NVIDIA nForce3 150 chipset, and is at the high-end of the Gigabyte Socket 754 class. Basic features include AGP 8X, DDR400 and USB 2.0, although the NVIDIA HyperTransport implementation utilizes a bi-directional 600 MHz link, as opposed to 800 MHz for the VIA K8T800. The K8NNXP motherboard does include high-end options such as dual Gigabit & 10/100 LAN, 6-channel audio, upgraded IEEE1394b Firewire (800 MHz vs. 400 MHz for IEEE1394a), and Parallel (4x) and Serial ATA (2x) storage options. The Gigabyte K8NNXP also includes Serial ATA RAID 0, 1, and PATA RAID 0, 1 and 0+1 support, through the GigaRAID ATA 133 and Silicon Image SATA controllers. Gigabyte also includes a variety of overclocking features, such as 1 MHz FSB tweaking, and CPU core, AGP and DDR voltage options.
There are a few innovative features on the motherboard, such as Dual Power System K8 (DPS K8), which is an external, slot-mounted module that helps provides a more solid and durable power supply. The Gigabyte K8NNXP works fine with or without the DPS K8 module installed, but the extra security is a nice feature to have. The DPS K8 mounts above the CPU socket, and features a fan cooler and LED colored effects. The upgrade to 800 MHz IEEE1394b Firewire is also a nice feature, and the external bracket includes both IEEE1394a and IEEE1394b-comptible ports. The standard Gigabyte DualBIOS feature is also present, and provides a second BIOS chip in case of virus attack or data corruption.
The Gigabyte K8NNXP includes an ample selection of bundled hardware, and along with the motherboard, it includes the DPS K8 module, one floppy cable, three ATA-66/100/133 cables, one SATA cable, one USB/Firewire bracket, one audio bracket, one I/O Shield, a driver and utilities CD, a 112-page hardcopy user manual, a quick install guide, and a Serial ATA RAID manual. There is also an optional SATA card, which features two external SATA ports, an external ATX power pass-through, a power cable and a SATA cable. This is actually a very nice retail bundle, and the optional SATA card can come in very handy when installing a few external drives.