The Motherboard Continued
The rear I/O panel give you all the connectors you will need. At the back you get two PS/2, one Parallel, one Coaxial and one Toslink SPDIF Output, one Firewire-400 port, four USB ports, two Gigabit RJ-45 ports and 6 stereo audio analogue ports.
Since nVidia doesn't have Azalia rights, this board lacks Intel HD Audio; however, the quality of the onboard sound is very good, though still not matching HD Audio or SB Audigy 2 levels, it is acceptable. On the board itself you have three yellow headers for six extra USB 2.0 ports, a grey header for two Firewire ports and a white header for a serial port.
At the helm is the two chip nVidia nForce 4 SLI x16 Intel Edition chipset. This chip is the latest to market to support the Netburst architecture as well as twin PCI Express x16 slots for true full speed SLI, which should have been done in the first place. The Northbridge houses the first PCI Express x16 port as well as four additional PCI Express x1 lanes for add-on devices. The Southbridge houses the second PCI Express x16 port as well as the built in Gigabit LAN, SATA-II controllers, IDE controllers, USB, Audio and PCI buses. The two chips connect though the Hyper Transport protocol at 16-bit both direction at 1000MHz each direction for maximum data throughput.
Both chips need to be kept reasonably cool. The Southbridge has an active fan on it from shipping, while the Northbridge can have a fan installed which comes in the box, our sample was pre-release, so we didn't get much in the way of a bundle, however, we cannibalized another Gigabyte board with the same fan setup to install one on for our overclocking tests to get the best results possible.
In addition to the features provided by the nVidia chipset, Gigabyte has added in two extras onto the board. First is a Marvell PCI Express x1 Gigabit LAN controller in order to give Dual Gigabit support. The second add-in is a 3 port Texas Instruments PCI based Firewire-400 controller chip.