I've seen a lot of motherboards over the years, but none quite as ugly as the NF4UK8AA. The dull brown board and multi-colored ports and slots are enough to make Carson Kressley cringe. Of course, unless you have a case window, the NF4UK8AA's disastrous aesthetic isn't going to matter.
Fortunately, the board's layout is much better than its fashion sense, but there are still a few problem areas. For starters, the four-pin auxiliary power connector is located a little too close to the CPU socket for my liking. This plug placement creates unnecessary cable clutter around the CPU cooler, which could impede air flow through a case's rear exhaust fan.
While we're talking power, notice the four-pin Molex connector on the bottom left (top left in the picture) of the board. According to the manual, this connector is for auxiliary PCI Express power, although there's no indication of what kind of peripherals would require extra juice. I should also note that the board has a 24-pin primary power connector. The NF4UK8AA works just fine with a standard 20-pin power supply, but Foxconn recommends 24-pin power.
AMD's Socket 939 heat sink retention bracket makes it difficult for motherboard manufacturers to really screw up socket clearance, and the NF4UK8AA is no exception. Apart from a handful of taller capacitors, all the board-mounted components around the CPU socket are shorter than the heat sink retention bracket.
Unfortunately, the clearance picture isn't so pretty around the board's PCI Express x16 slot, which is less than an inch from the nForce4 Ultra chip. This particular layout issue isn't unique to the NF4UK8AA; all nForce4 Ultra boards appear to be similarly afflicted.
Foxconn's solution to the x16 clearance problem is a low-profile fan that's just short enough to tuck under longer PCI Express graphics cards. Unfortunately, smaller chipset fans tend to develop an annoying high-pitched whine over time and are generally more failure-prone than larger fans. I'd much rather see the NF4UK8AA equipped with a taller passive chipset cooler, but given the board's layout, such a configuration would only be compatible with graphics cards that extend less than an inch from the end of the PCI-E x16 slot.
One way to fix the NF4UK8AA's chipset cooler clearance conundrum would be to swap the PCI Express x16 slot with one of the board's x1 slots. However, given the fact that all nForce4 boards seem to share the same chipset clearance issue, I have to wonder if such a move is even feasible.
Clearance is a little dicey around one side of the chipset, but on the other, there's plenty of room for the NF4UK8AA's "parallel" and Serial ATA ports. Just don't ask me why the Serial ATA ports are pink.
Foxconn has endowed the NF4UK8AA with a standard port cluster that has a healthy mix of old and new peripheral ports. The board ships with a PCI expansion bracket that serves up an extra two USB ports, and headers for another two USB ports and one Firewire port are also available on the board.
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