Gigabyte’s GA-K8NE Socket 754 motherboard uses a chipset that we first saw quite recently. It’s an obscure member of the nForce4 family called nForce4-4x, which denotes that the Hyper Transport bus runs at 800MHz, i.e. 4 x 200MHz, rather than the 1GHz that the regular nForce4 manages.
Realistically this isn’t much of an issue with a budget processor like the Socket 754 Athlon 64, and you have to reckon that it makes the chipset cheap, which is always appealing to motherboard manufacturers. At a price point under £65 including VAT it came as no surprise to see that Gigabyte has used all of the features that the chipset has to offer without adding extra controller chips over and above the nForce specification, but it’s good to see that it hasn’t cut any corners on quality.
The audio chip is a Realtek ALC850 which supports eight channels and on the I/O panel there are six audio mini jacks as well as two digital coaxial S/PDIF connectors for input and output. The networking chip is a Marvell Gigabit item. There are four USB 2.0 ports on the I/O panel and three unused USB headers on the board, so if your case has front-mounted USB you’ll be in business.
The four SATA connectors look much sturdier than those used on some other motherboards and there are all the usual touches that you expect to find on a Gigabyte motherboard. The graphics card retention device is a spring loaded pin that is much easier to operate than the pivoting clip that other manufacturers employ, and while we’re on the subject of ease of use, the front panel header pins are labelled and colour coded, making installation as easy as possible.
Gigabyte has spaced the IDE and floppy connectors apart by just enough to make life easy for the PC builder. The layout also assists installation as every single component is intelligently located, and as the icing on the cake Gigabyte has used a large, low-profile, passive heatsink on the chipset. Not only does this reduce noise levels, it also means that the heatsink can be located in line with both the three memory slots and the PCI Express graphics slot, yet the retention devices are accessible and easy to operate.
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