Gigabyte GA-K8NNXP (NVIDIA nForce3 150)
Although the NVIDIA nForce3 150 chipset boasts fewer capabilities than the VIA V8T800, some mainboard makers preferred to us it for their high-end solutions. Maybe the reason for that is the fact that NVIDIA’s chipset has “server” background, having been first offered for Opteron-based systems. The Gigabyte GA-K8NNXP is an example of an nForce3 150-based mainboard for enthusiastic users. Having added quite a bit of extra controllers, Gigabyte got a solution boiling with various interfaces and technologies. So, let’s get acquainted with it now.
Yes, the number of onboard chips is immense. Even though nForce3 150 is a single-chip chipset! However, the chipset characteristics make it really hard to get along without adding any extras. The nForce3 150 doesn’t even support SerialATA, so the manufacturers have to integrate an additional SerialATA controller. By the way, the curious thing about Gigabyte GA-K8NNXP is the fact that it boasts laid out, but not soldered up SerialATA connectors marked as SATA1_SB and SATA0_SB. Judging by the names, they are even connected to the chipset. It probably means that Gigabyte is going to release a mainboard on the upcoming nForce3 250 (which is supposed to support SerialATA), similar in design to the GA-K8NNXP and based on the same PCB.
Back to the mainboard. The PCB is equipped with two ATA/133 ports of the three supported by the chipset. Gigabyte didn’t stop at that, having added an ATA/133 RAID controller, aka ITE GigaRAID IT8212F. This chip supports two ATA/133 ports. Thus, you can attach as many as eight Parallel ATA devices to this mainboard. The SerialATA interface is supported through the Silicon Image Sil3515 chip providing two Serial ATA-150 ports and RAID 0 and 1 arrays support. So, you can attach only two SerialATA devices to the Gigabyte GA-K8NNXP, which might be not enough in some cases for a truly high-end system.
By the way, you can attach your Serial ATA drives to this mainboard from outside, thanks to their “hot swap” ability. The Gigabyte GA-K8NNXP comes with a GC-SATA bracket for the system case. It carries Serial ATA ports and power connectors. Both onboard Serial ATA connectors can be attached to that GC-SATA bracket. In this case, you can use your Serial ATA drives as external storage media, connected on the fly, without getting inside the chassis.