The prospect of a less expensive nForce4 Ultra implementation is certainly tempting, especially when the chipset generally dictate's a motherboard's feature set and performance. Still, enthusiasts look beyond performance benchmarks and spec sheets. We crave intelligent layouts, ample overclocking options, and robust BIOSes filled with tweaking options.
With an nForce4 Ultra at its core, the WinFast NF4UK8AA should have the features and performance that enthusiasts want. Read on to see if Foxconn gets the rest of the board right.
We'll only be highlighting the NF4UK8AA's more notable specs, so if you're unfamiliar with the nForce4 Ultra chipset's features, you should thumb through our in-depth review of the chipset.
|CPU support||Socket 939-based Athlon 64 processors|
|Chipset||NVIDIA nForce4 Ultra|
|Expansion slots||1 PCI Express x16|
2 PCI Express x1
|Memory||4 184-pin DIMM sockets|
Maximum of 4GB of DDR266/333/400 SDRAM
|Storage I/O||Floppy disk|
2 channels ATA/133 with RAID 0, 1, 0+1 support
4 channels Serial ATA II with RAID 0, 1, 0+1 support
|Audio||8-channel audio via nForce4 integrated audio and ALC850 codec|
|Ports||1 PS/2 keyboard|
1 PS/2 mouse
4 USB 2.0 with headers for 4 more
2 Firewire via Agere FW3226-100
1 RJ45 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet
1 analog front out
1 analog bass/center out
1 analog surround out
1 analog rear out
1 analog line in (shared with surround out)
1 analog mic in
1 digital S/PDIF output (RCA)
|Bus speeds||CPU: 200-300MHz in 1MHz increments|
PCI-E: 100-145MHz in 1MHz increments
|Bus dividers||HT: auto, 1x, 2x, 3x, 4x, 5x|
|Voltages||CPU: default, 1.2-1.8V in 0.025V increments|
DDR: default, 2.5-2.8V in 0.1V increments
HT: default, 1.3-1.5V in 0.1V increments
Chipset: default, 1.6-1.8V in 0.1V increments
|Monitoring||Voltage, fan status, and temperature monitoring|
|Fan speed control||None|
The first pillar of the NF4UK8AA's, and indeed the nForce4 Ultra's, trifecta of must-have features is PCI Express. The nForce4 Ultra chipset has 20 lanes of PCI Express, which is more than enough for the NF4UK8AA's single x16 and dual x1 slots. Peripheral expansion isn't limited to PCI Express, though. Foxconn throws in a quartet of PCI slots that should come in handy as we wait for PCI Express audio, TV tuner, wireless networking, and storage products to become available.
Not that the NF4UK8AA needs extra storage. The nForce4 Ultra's robust, er, array of storage options is its second defining feature. In addition to plenty of "parallel" ATA, the nForce4 Ultra supports up to four Serial ATA II devices, complete with 300MB/sec transfer rates and both Native and Tagged Command Queuing. nForce4 does RAID, too. Multiple RAID 0, 1, and 0+1 arrays can be configured with PATA and SATA drives, and individual RAID volumes can even span PATA and SATA devices.
A hardware-accelerated Gigabit Ethernet MAC rounds out the nForce4's triptych of killer features. The integrated GigE's ActiveArmor acceleration not only helps to offload standard TCP/IP packet handling, but also accelerates the stateful packet inspections performed by NVIDIA's firewall software, now known as the ForceWare Network Access Manager.
The nForce4 Ultra's PCI Express, storage options, and Gigabit Ethernet are a potent trio of features that almost make up for the chipset's appallingly bland integrated audio. No SoundStorm here; not even "Azalia" High Definition Audio. The nForce4 Ultra's AC'97 audio is about as basic as it gets. Foxconn could have augmented the board's audio capabilities by using a 24-bit audio controller like the Envy24PT, but instead they've just slapped on a eight-channel Realtek codec and called it a day.