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Gigabyte's GA-K8NSNXP-939 motherboard

Dual everything

Price (street)$209

AS A DUAL OPTERON user running two monitors and a pair of hard drives in RAID 1, I'm a pretty firm believer that two is better than one. Maybe that's why Gigabyte's GA-K8NSNXP-939 Athlon 64 motherboard caught my eye. The GA-K8NSNXP-939 might only accommodate a single 939-pin Athlon 64 processor, but the board comes equipped with dual BIOS chips, a pair of Ethernet jacks, two Serial ATA RAID controllers, dual-channel memory, and even a six-phase "Dual Power System."

Be still my beating heart.

And there's more to the GA-K8NSNXP-939 than two of everything. The board also sports NVIDIA's nForce3 Ultra chipset, a feature-rich BIOS, and a handy external Serial ATA adapter. What's not to like? A couple of things, actually. Read on to see where the GA-K8NSNXP-939 shines and where it stumbles.

The specs
Before running the awkwardly-named GA-K8NSNXP-939 through the gauntlet, let's quickly thumb through the board's spec sheet.

CPU supportSocket 939-based Athlon 64 processors
Form factorATX
ChipsetNVIDIA nForce3 Ultra
North bridgeNVIDIA nForce3 Ultra
South bridgeNVIDIA nForce3 Ultra
PCI slots5 32-bit/33MHz
AGP slots1 AGP 4X/8X (1.5V only)
Memory4 184-pin DIMM sockets
Maximum of 4GB of DDR266/333/400 SDRAM
Storage I/OFloppy disk
2 channels ATA/133
2 channels Serial ATA 150 via nForce3 Ultra with RAID 0,1 support
2 channels Serial ATA 150 via Silicon Image Sil3512 with RAID 0,1 support
Audio8-channel audio via nForce3 Ultra integrated audio and ALC850 codec
Ports1 PS/2 keyboard
1 PS/2 mouse
2 serial
1 parallel
USB 2.0 with headers for 4 more
Headers for 3 Firewire via Texas Instruments TSB82AA2
1 RJ45 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet via Marvel 88E8001
1 RJ45 10/100 Fast Ethernet via nForce3 Ultra

1 analog front out
1 analog bass/center out
1 analog rear out
1 analog surround out
1 analog line in
1 analog mic in
2 digital S/PDIF output (TOS-Link and RCA)
BIOSPhoenix AwardBIOS
Bus speedsCPU: 200-455MHz in 1MHz increments
AGP: 66-100MHz in 1MHz increments
Bus dividersCPU:HT: 1:1, 1:2, 1:3, 1:4, 1:5
VoltagesCPU: 0.8-1.7V in 0.025V increments
AGP: default + 0.1-0.3V in 0.1V increments
: default + 0.1-0.2V in 0.1V increments
HT: default + 0.1-0.3V in 0.1V increments
MonitoringVoltage, fan status, and temperature monitoring

A couple of oddities jump off the GA-K8NSNXP-939's spec sheet list off the bat. First, it doesn't advertise any capability for ATA/133 RAID, despite the fact that the nForce3 Ultra chipset supports RAID 0, 1, 0+1, and JBOD arrays for ATA devices. The nForce3 Ultra even supports arrays that span both ATA and SATA drives, so I'm not sure why Gigabyte chose to leave this functionality off the board's spec sheet. ATA RAID definitely works on the GA-K8NSNXP-939, though.

Another spec sheet curiosity pertains to the board's dual Ethernet controllers, more specifically, the fact that the nForce3 Ultra Ethernet is only listed as 10/100 Fast Ethernet. The nForce3 Ultra has an integrated Gigabit Ethernet MAC, but Gigabyte is only implementing the on-chip Ethernet at a tenth of that speed.

Apart from those curiosities, which we'll explore in more depth later in this review, the GA-K8NSNXP-939 looks pretty loaded.