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Board layout
The GA-K8NSNXP-939's aesthetic is anything but understated. With a bright blue board, near-fluorescent ports, slots, and headers, and enough bling to catch 50-Cent's gaze, the GA-K8NSNXP-939 is about as garish as they come. If you want a flashy aesthetic, this board definitely delivers. For the rest of us, the pimpin' look will be hidden away inside a case anyway.


As far as layout goes, Gigabyte has done a pretty good job populating the board with chips, ports, and slots. Power connectors are located on the edge of the board, near the top, which nicely cleans up cable routing around the CPU socket. The layout isn't all roses, though.


For starters, there are a couple of Serial ATA connectors sandwiched between the processor socket and the AGP slot. There's still enough room for stock Athlon 64 heat sinks, but it gets a little tight with a graphics card installed and a couple of Serial ATA cables plugged into the board. Having Serial ATA ports located so close to the AGP slot can also interfere with double-wide passive GPU coolers like Zalman's ZM80.

In Gigabyte's defense, the Serial ATA port placement is identical to NVIDIA's nForce3 250Gb reference board, so NVIDIA's reference design shares some of the blame. This would have been a perfect opportunity for Gigabyte to deviate from the reference design.


There's another layout problem around the AGP slot, but thankfully, DIMM slot clearance isn't it. Instead, it's the proximity of the board's nForce3 Ultra chip. The chip is so close to the AGP slot that Gigabyte is forced to use a low-profile cooler. This cooler has hardly any surface area, so it's largely reliant on a tiny fan to keep the nForce3 Ultra cool. Unfortunately, the cooler's fan guard is going to restrict air flow right off the bat.

I'm worried about fan noise, too. Although the chipset fan was nearly silent during testing, the tiny fans used in chipset coolers tend to develop an annoying whine over time. Normally, it would be easy to replace a noisy cooler with a larger passive heat sink, but the chipset's close proximity to the AGP slot could make it difficult to find a replacement cooler that fits.


On a more positive note, the GA-K8NSNXP-939 DIMM slots are color-coded in dual-channel pairs. Under the DIMM slots, you'll find the board's ATA/133 and floppy ports, which are conveniently located near the edge of the board.


The location of the board's third and fourth Serial ATA ports isn't quite as convenient, though. Those ports are buried at the bottom of the board with the USB and Firewire headers.


As I mentioned earlier, the GA-K8NSNXP-939 employs a six-phase "Dual Power System" (DPS). Gigabyte is quick to point out DPS's support for Intel's latest Prescott Pentium 4 processors (on Gigabyte's P4 boards), so DPS should have no problem delivering clean power to an Athlon 64. The DPS also incorporates a funky VRM heat sink, complete with a fan, to help keep the board's power circuitry cool.


Around the back, the GA-K8NSNXP-939's port cluster is loaded with goodies, including two Ethernet jacks, four USB ports, and a trio of audio jacks.


The board also comes with expansion brackets for two Firewire ports, an additional four USB ports (two not pictured), three more analog audio jacks, and RCA and TOS-Link digital S/PDIF audio outputs. The board also has on-board headers for a game port and an extra Firewire port, although Gigabyte doesn't include brackets to take advantage of those headers.


And there's more. The GA-K8NSNXP-939 also comes with a neat external Serial ATA adapter. This bracket extends two Serial ATA ports and one four-pin power connector to the rear of the case, allowing Serial ATA drives to be connected externally.