Conclusion, Analysis and The Little Green Man
Our review of the Gigabyte GA-8N-SLI Royal holds a two fold purpose. For one, it is a full fledged product review based on the hottest chipset to hit the Intel scene. On the other hand, it is a performance review of what to expect of the very same hot chipset hitting the Intel scene. www.hardwarezone.com® has been very fortunate not only to have received the Gigabyte GA-8N-SLI Royal, but also a NVIDIA reference board based on the nForce4 SLI Intel Edition. With these two boards, we were able to generate actual comparative results. Of course, no review would have been complete without throwing in Intel's top end Alderwood (the 925XE Express) into the equation.
First off, the NVIDIA nForce4 SLI Intel Edition chipset was certainly able to match all the hype, setting new performance margins for the Pentium 4 platform. In all previous nForce iterations, the chipset had always fallen short of expectations. Consecutively, it took NVIDIA a few revisions to work out the kinks with performance and stability. The nForce4 however seemed to have gone off on the right foot and our tests of Intel Edition proved no different. Throughout our benchmarking, it consistently scored better than the reference Intel 925XE Express board with a 5% average lead. This is a milestone in chipset history as Intel has finally been dethroned by a third party chipset.
Gigabyte's GA-8N-SLI Royal, behold the next generation of performance setters for the Intel pentium 4.
We then come to the Gigabyte GA-8N-SLI Royal. Looking back at our results, the GA-8N-SLI Royal gave an exceptional performance in most system benchmarks especially SYSmark 2004, SPECviewperf and SPEC CPU2000. However, our nForce4 SLI Intel Edition reference board was able to top the rest. Readers have no reason to be alarmed since the scores were generally within a negligible 1% margin. While its performance may not be stellar in retrospect, stability was never an issue with the GA-8N-SLI Royal and the board remained rock solid with default voltages even at overclocked speeds. Scores were further boosted with the use of DDR2-667 memory and quite notably too. With official support for DDR2-667 and the eventual unofficial enthusiast overclocking, the benefits of DDR2's superior bandwidth should finally make a noticeable impact on overall performance.
With SLI, ActiveArmor, DualDDR2, and SATA II, the nForce4 SLI Intel Edition brings more than just raw performance to the table. NVIDIA has a champ on their hands and if retail performance is anything like what we've seen from the GA-8N-SLI Royal, we anticipate the 'Green eye' to quickly saturate the high end Pentium 4 market. NVIDIA has launched their top end chipset first and rightfully, the Gigabyte GA-8N-SLI Royal was appropriately tailored towards enthusiasts and gamers. The board itself was fully decked out with dual LAN, IEEE 1394b and more storage channels in abundance. With Hitachi recently announcing a 500GB SATA II hard disk, Terabyte RAID arrays will soon become a reality in home PCs and the Gigabyte GA-8N-SLI Royal can readily support six of these babies.
This doesn't mean that the board is perfect though. There were a couple of nitpicks about its design and functions we felt ill at ease with. Coupled with the fact that both board and chipset are at their infancy, we are awaiting the floodgates to open for more products from other manufacturers. Until a more comprehensive comparison can be made in all areas of price, performance and features, we will refrain from awarding top honors to the board. This does not alter the fact that the Gigabyte GA-8N-SLI Royal is a very robust motherboard that would blow away the current generation of Pentium 4 boards.