Socket 939 Motherboard Roundup: ABIT, MSI, Gigabyte
Gigabyte GA-K8NSNXP-939: The Board & Layout
The K8NSNXP-939 is quite a sight. This motherboard is about as colorful as a peacock, and just about every inch of the PCB's real estate is covered with an IC, connector, heatsink, or header. Because of all of the goodies incorporated onto this motherboard, pick up a CPU, RAM, video card, and a K8NSNXP-939, and you've got yourself a fully loaded system without the need to purchase a single PCI expansion card.
Even with all of the K8NSNXP-939's integrated peripherals, Gigabyte still managed to avoid most of the common layout pitfalls some other major OEMs make, save for a couple of questionably placed connectors. The K8NSNXP-939 is built upon a dark blue PCB with color-coded connectors. The most prominent aspects of the K8NSNXP-939 have got to be the dual active, gold coolers mounted to the nForce chip and DPS (dual-power system) VRM. This was a wise move on Gigabyte's part, as the chipset and VRM are the two hottest running components on the motherboard, next to the CPU. And as we all know by now, heat is the enemy! The AGP slot is also somewhat unique. The card retention mechanism is much easier to use than the traditional levels used on most other motherboards because the pin moves parallel to the PCB and is easy to grab.
The floppy connector, two IDE connectors, and ATX power connector are situated just behind the four color-coded DIMM slots along the front edge of the board. Follow the same line down the front edge of the board and along the bottom edge of the board, and you'll find most of the other connectors and headers and the dual-BIOS EPROMS. The K8NSNXP-939 has extra headers for additional USB and FireWire connectors and a total of four SATA connectors, two powered by a Silicon Image controller and the other two by the nForce3. Also notice the color-coded header for the case connectors. We especially like this feature, as it makes installing the K8NSNXP-939 into a case very easy for even a novice. The external I/O connectors are made up of two PS2 ports, two serial ports, a parallel port, four USB connectors and three audio connectors, and dual RJ-45 Ethernet ports. The RJ-45 ports are powered by a Marvell 8001 Gigabit controller (PCI bound) and by the nForce3 itself. Strangely, Gigabyte uses an ICS 1883 PHY that only operated at 10/100 though. Audio comes by way of Realtek's high-end ALC850 codec. The K8NSNXP-939 is also equipped with a Texas Instruments IEEE 1394b controller, which offers the highest FireWire transfer speeds currently available.
About the only negative aspect of the K8NSNXP-939's layout is the placement of two SATA connectors just behind the AGP slot. In some cases, with some right-angle SATA cables and a couple of strategically placed wire ties, these SATA connectors may not pose a problem, but we don't think it's a great idea to have data cables lying between two virtual furnaces, a video card and CPU.