Gigabyte GA-K8N (NVIDIA nForce3 150)
Many manufacturers target their nForce3 150-based mainboards for enthusiastic users. Gigabyte first followed the suit issuing its GA-K8NNXP, but now tries to get to the low end with its cheaper GA-K8N. The Gigabyte GA-K8N is a budget version of the GA-K8NNXP and an alternative to the GA-K8VT800 on the VIA K8T800 chipset. To make the product less expensive, the engineers had to re-design the PCB, that’s why we decided we should take a separate look at this mainboard.
The absence of any integrated controllers implies that Gigabyte GA-K8N is targeted for the mass market. This does make the product less expensive. On the other hand, the nForce3 150 chipset is not perfect as far as its functionality goes. As a result of all this, the Gigabyte GA-K8N has no SerialATA ports onboard. A mainboard without SerialATA looks strange today, but someone may find this acceptable.
There’s only one onboard controller in the Gigabyte GA-K8N. It is a 10/100Mbit Ethernet chip - Realtek RTL8100C. Gigabyte didn’t use the network controller implemented in the chipset, since the Realtek chip can be easily replaced with a pin-compatible Gigabit Ethernet solution when they will design an advanced version of this mainboard.
Besides, there are some spots on the PCB that have been laid out for additional controllers. They are used in a more expensive mainboard modification GA-K8N Pro. This version features an ATA/133 RAID controller (ITE GigaRAID), a FireWire controller (TI43AB23), DualBIOS technology and a second network controller, provided by the chipset.
But let’s return to our Gigabyte GA-K8N mainboard. Besides Fast Ethernet support all other features are implemented in the chipset. The mainboard has two ATA/133 ports (the third port supported by the chipset is not implemented), two USB 2.0 ports at the mainboard back panel and two onboard connectors for four more USB 2.0 ports. The mainboard comes with a bracket with two additional USB connectors on it. The integrated AC’97 solution is based on the six-channel Realtek ALC658 codec. It means that Gigabyte GA-K8N supports the new popular technologies such as Jack Sensing and Universal Audio Jack, which make it easier for the user to work with the audio subsystem and peripherals. Only three audio jacks are spotted at the back panel; the SPDIF output is implemented as an onboard connector in the rear part of the PCB, behind the PCI slots.