The PCB design of this board is quite typical. The PCB carries three 184-pin DDR DIMM slots, five PCI and one AGP 8x slot. The single-chip nForce3 150 chipset is located in front of the AGP and PCI slots. A passive heatsink is mounted on top of it, which may cause problems with expansion cards installation. The IDE, FDD and ATX power supply connectors are all in their proper places to give you no cause for cursing when installing anything. I guess the most significant drawback in the design is the onboard USB connectors placed in front of the PCI slots closer to the front edge. The connectors may interfere with full-size PCI cards, and their cables should go to the back panel of the system case through the entire length of the chassis. The Gigabyte GA-K8N has only two fan connectors, which may be not enough for a modern system with an Athlon 64 CPU inside. The last thing to mention: the Gigabyte GA-K8N has no Clear CMOS jumper. Instead, you have to use tweezers or something like that to close two contact pads when you need to clear the settings.
The CPU voltage regulator is a three-phase circuit. The voltage sent to the processor is close to the nominal. The CPU temperature is measured by the integrated thermal diode. The mainboard supports the exclusive Smart Fan technology, varying the CPU fan rotation speed depending on its temperature. At the same time, the mainboard doesn’t work with Cool’n’Quiet technology. It’s a pity, actually.
The Award-based BIOS of the Gigabyte GA-K8N follows the company’s style. There is the Xpress recovery utility intended for backing up and restoring the boot partition of the HDD. All settings concerning the memory subsystem, HyperTransport and AGP bus are hidden in the secret section of the BIOS Setup, accessed by pressing the Ctrl + F1 keys.
The scope of the memory controller settings is quite impressive and much more detailed than that of the more advanced GA-K8NNXP mainboard. The only thing missing is the option for enabling the ECC check.
The overclocking options are quite standard. You cannot change the CPU multiplier, only the FSB frequency (from 200MHz to 250MHz with 1MHz increment). Although the upper limit doesn’t look too high, it’s more than enough for today. However, if AMD releases Socket754 Athlon 64 models with frequencies below 2GHz, you may get disappointed with your Gigabyte GA-K8N. The mainboard allows you to adjust the voltages, too. The Vcore can be set from 0.8V to 1.7V with 0.025V stepping until 1.55V and with 0.05V stepping above 1.55V. The voltage on the memory and HyperTransport buses can be raised by 0.1V, 0.2V or 0.3V above the nominal. The AGP and PCI busses are clocked independently of the FSB, from 66MHz to 100MHz.
In case of over-overclocking, the Gigabyte GA-K8N can automatically reset all CPU-related BIOS Setup parameters. This is nice, considering the lack of the Clear CMOS jumper.
Finishing up with this mainboard, I would like to say that the Gigabyte GA-K8N is a low-cost normal mainboard for Socket754 processors. The GA-K8VT800, from the same manufacturer, but on the VIA V8T800 chipset, looks more advantageous, though, due to its SerialATA support. So, the Gigabyte GA-K8N may be only recommended for money-pressed NVIDIA fans. Note also that AMD mentions the Gigabyte GA-K8N in its list of mainboards recommended for the Athlon 64 3200+ processor.