Leadtek K8N Pro (NVIDIA nForce3 150)
Well, I have to admit that Leadtek K8N Pro mainboard appeared to cause us most problems of all the testing participants. The thing is that the sample, which we received from Leadtek for our roundup, didn’t want to boot reporting “BIOS Checksum Error” even before POST. The problem actually implied that the BIOS stored in the Flash memory contained some bugs and the board simply couldn’t unpack the code stored in the ROM. Therefore, before testing the Leadtek K8N Pro board I removed the Flash memory chip from the socket (luckily it was not soldered to the PCB) and reflashed the BIOS on a different mainboard. After I installed the ROM back into Leadtek K8N Pro mainboard the problem was gone and the board started working properly.
In fact, Leadtek company is more well-known for its graphics cards. However, they started the mainboard business not so long ago. Here I would like to say that the mainboards from Leadtek from the very beginning boasted very attractive specifications and high quality components mounting. Leadtek K8N Pro is also not an exception. Moreover, the features of this mainboard make it stand out a lot compared with the other products we are reviewing today.
As you can see from the picture, Leadtek K8N Pro boasts a not very traditional PCB design. Although, this can be explained by the features the mainboard actually supports. So, let’s discuss them now. The major peculiarity of this mainboard is the way the manufacturer used the IDE ports laid out on the PCB. NVIDIA nForce3 150 supports three ATA/133 ports, however, Leadtek K8N Pro features only two traditional ATA/133 ports. The third port is actually also there, but it Leadtek equipped it with eNOVA X-Wall LX-64 chip, which performs real time data encryption according to DES algorithm with 64bit key. As a result, all the info stored on the HDD connected to the third ATA/133 port of this mainboard appeared encrypted. eNOVA X-Wall controller requires a hardware key for initialization purposes (one key is supplied together with the mainboard). Otherwise, it is impossible to access the encrypted data. This way, Leadtek K8N Pro appeared the first mainboard with integrated data security features.
SerialATA protocol is not supported by the NVIDIA nForce3 150 chipset, that is why the mainboard features an external onboard SerialATA-150 controller – Silicon Image Sil3114. This controller supports four SerialATA-150 ports and allows creating RAID 0, 1 or 0+1 arrays. This way Leadtek K8N Pro supports up to four ATA/133 devices, four SerialATA hard disk drives and one ATA/133 HDD with data security encoding feature. Not bad at all, I should say.