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Gigabyte GA-K8N51GMF-9 (GeForce 6100/nForce 430)
By Zachary Chan
Category : Mainboard
Published by Jimmy Tang on Wednesday, 26th October, 2005
Rating : 3.5 out of 5 stars  


Examining the Board

Much like what we've expected from manufacturers that carry the new GeForce 6100 and nForce 400 series chipset, Gigabyte's GA-K8N51GMF-9 follows the reference design similar to what we've seen during our chipset performance preview. Based on the micro-ATX form factor, the board had pretty much everything packed into a functional layout. Primary connectors for storage and ATX power were all aligned towards the front of the board and Gigabyte gave a pretty wide berth for the four DIMM slots between the socket and IDE connectors. For such a board, this should give the memory modules better breathing room, though the slots themselves are just a tad too close to each other.

Standard ideal connector placement with good spacing between connectors, DIMM slots and CPU socket.


Four SATA II connectors available just below the DIMM slots along with headers for extra USB 2.0 and FireWire ports.

The upper half of the board was mostly occupied by the CPU socket and its retention unit. Though micro-ATX by nature, being able to support the latest Athlon64 X2 and FX processors mean that you might probably require some decent cooling as well. With the space constraints of the board, users will want to look towards alleviated coolers like Gigabyte's own G-Power Cooler Pro, asetek's Vapochill Micro or Thermaltake's Big Typhoon for unobstructed and yet powerful cooling solutions.

The CPU socket area may be slightly cramped on the vertical due to PCB form factor.


The GPU heatsink sits smack in the middle and very nearly brushes against the back of the PCIe x16 slot.

Unlike the Foxconn sample we previewed that came with the entry level chipset combination of the GeForce 6100 and nForce 410, Gigabyte's GA-K8N51GMF-9 pairs the GeForce 6100 GPU with the higher end nForce 430 MCP, giving the board two extra SATA II connections (for a total of four), better RAID options and NVIDIA's Gigabit Ethernet and ActiveArmor firewall. This combination delivers a mid-range platform, with better performance and security features that is perfect for office or production workstations.

Passive cooling is sufficient for both GPU and MCP chips.

Compatibility-wise, the board featured two PCI and one PCIe expansion slots, in addition to a PCIe x16 slot for extended graphics support. The board also included a VIA VT6407 controller for IEEE 1394a support and Gigabyte came through with an excellent choice for audio with Realtek's ALC880 CODEC. As you should already be aware, the nForce 400 series MCPs support Azalia audio in addition to AC'97 and having ready HD audio support for an Athlon64 motherboard is a real plus point.

ALC880 HD audio CODEC for an Athlon 64 socket 939 motherboard.


Micro-ATX it may be, but the GA-K8N51GMF-9 has expansion slots for both PCI and PCI Express.

However, being a mainstream motherboard, Gigabyte chose to skimp on all additional 'freebies'. The packaging only comes with a single data cable for each connector type and there were no brackets for additional USB, FireWire or S/PDIF ports. The good news is that these features are available, albeit requiring additional purchases to enable.


Overclocking

The following overclocking parameters can be found on the GA-K8N51GMF-9:-
  • FSB Settings: 200MHz to 300MHz
  • PCIe Frequency: 100MHz to 145MHz
  • RAM Frequency: DDR200, DDR266, DDR333, DDR400
  • Multiplier Selection: Yes (unlocked CPUs only)


    As per Gigabyte's norm, the GA-K8N51GMF-9 required the customary CTRL+F1 key combo to enable its advanced menus within the BIOS. What we found was a decent set of frequency controls that allowed the user to tweak FSB, memory and PCIe timing. However, there wasn't a single voltage option available through the BIOS. While we understand that the board wasn't supposed to be an enthusiast motherboard, the availability of overclocking options without any voltage selection just seemed out of place. Not to mention that many stock configurations can benefit from slight voltage boosts for better overall stability.

    That being said, we were duly impressed with the overclocking ability of the GA-K8N51GMF-9. The board managed to scale up to a rock solid 280MHz with a 4x HTT multiplier. Just remember that our motherboard overclocking tests are performed with only the motherboard in mind, which means that we downclock memory and CPU to safe values. Without voltage controls, your overclocking attempts could possibly vary to a larger degree.
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