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Gigabyte 8KNXP Ultra 64 - a Workstation Wonder

Today we have taken a look at the Gigabyte 8KNXP Ultra 64 workstation and entry level server motherboard which is packed full of onboard features to make both gamers and system admins grin. Cameron checks out the exact specifics of the motherboard and then compares with our usual suite of benchmarks focusing mostly on gaming performance.
@TweakTown
Cameron Johnson
Published Tue, Aug 10 2004 11:00 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:26 PM CDT
Rating: 75%Manufacturer: Gigabyte

Gigabyte 8KNXP Ultra 64 - Introduction

IntroductionIntel Canterwood or I875P chipset has been one of the biggest breakthroughs for Intel and the Pentium 4. Not only has it given the Pentium 4 the ability to show its full potential, but is has also given Intel a solid base from which to build the I9xx series of chipsets. The I975P and I865 family of chipsets have given the desktop and performance users the ability to fully exploit the power of the Pentium 4, but what about the high end workstations and entry level servers? These are stuck on the aging E7205 or Granite Bay chipset. While providing Dual Channel Memory, it's limited to 533FSB.There has been no previous updates to the entry level server/high end workstation chipset market, that is until now, enter the E7210 or known as the Cantewood ES.The E7210 is comprised of two major components, the E7210 MCH and the FWE600ESB ICH5-S. These two components are somewhat similar to the current desktop chipsets, with slight modifications in order to meet and exceed the entry level server and high end workstation requirements.Today we have on the test bench the Gigabyte 8KNXP Ultra 64, the first motherboard to market with the latest server/workstation chipset combination from Intel, while aimed at a server environment; can it handle what is needed for an ultra gaming rig? Let's find out.

Gigabyte 8KNXP Ultra 64 - Specifications

Specifications of the 8KNXP Ultra 64CPUSupports Intel Pentium 4 1.4GHz ~ 2GHz mPGA 478 CPU WillametteSupports Intel Pentium 4 2.0GHz ~ 2.8GHz mPGA 478 Northwood (400FSB)Supports Intel Pentium 4 2.2GHz ~ 3.06GHz mPGA 478 Northwood (533FSB)Supports Intel Pentium 4 3.0GHz ~ 3.2Ghz mPGA 478 Northwood (800FSB)Supports Intel Pentium 4 2.8EGhz ~ 3.4Ghz mPGA 478 Prescott (800FSB)Supports Intel Celeron 1.7GHz ~ 2.9Ghz mPGA 478 (400FSB)ChipsetIntel E7210 AGPset E7210 MCHFWE600ESB ICHIntel Hub Architecture @ 266MB/sBus Frequency100/133/200MHz Internal400/533/800MHz ExternalNetburst Micro ArchitectureExpansion Slots1 AGP 4x, 8x3 PCI2 PCI-XExpansion Ports1 PS2 Keyboard Port1 PS2 Mouse Port4 USB 1.1 Ports4 USB 2.0 Ports 2 Serial Ports 1 Parallel Port3 Stereo Audio Ports Special FeaturesBIOS overclocking control of FSB, voltagesIntel CSA Gigabit EthernetAdaptec Ultra320 SCSI.Silicon Image 4 Port SATA RAIDVIA USB 2.0 Controller

Gigabyte 8KNXP Ultra 64 - Features

Features of the 8KNXP Ultra 64- Package and Contents
Gigabyte in their tradition of giving a good product package has once again done a fantastic job with the 8KNXP Ultra 64. Inside you get three user manuals, one for the motherboard itself, one for the Silicon Image Serial ATA RAID controller and one for the Adaptec Ultra320 SCSI RAID controller. Then comes the cables, with two serial ATA data and two Serial ATA power adapters with two dives per adapter give you a total of four usable Serial ATA drives out of the box. Along with this comes two IDE and one FDD cable as well as a seven port rounded 68pin SCSI cable. Ideal for your initial setup needs. Inside are two floppy disks, one for the Silicon Image controller for Windows 2000 and XP installs along with a Adaptec Ulta320 SCSI driver disk for installing Windows XP onto a SCSI drive. The driver CD included comes with all the drives needed for the E7210 chipset as well as the onboard peripherals, so no need to hunt around for extra drivers on the net. - The Motherboard
The 8KXNP Ultra64 is based around the standard ATX format, so no need for a new case likes E-ATX or WTX. This also means that the power connectors remain the same, so power supplies designed for the desktop work perfectly.The expansion slots are a mixed bag of desktop and server/workstation. One AGP 8x slot is included; however, it isn't a Pro slot, which we are used to seeing on workstation/server boards, which tends to put this motherboard towards the desktop users. There are three standard PCI slots for 33MHz PCI devices as well as two PCI-X slots supporting a maximum of 133MHz PCI-X devices, however, if you need more then three PCI slots, the PCI-X slots support 3.3v PCI 33MHz PCI cards without having to set any jumpers - that's just how versatile the motherboard is. PCI-X allows a maximum of 1.05GB/s shared between the three PCI-X links (the Ultra320 SCSI is on the PCI-X bus) so there is plenty of bandwidth available for all the devices to share. However, this is not where the bottleneck is, which we will come to shortly.On the location side of things, Gigabyte still insists on placing the 4 pin power connector between the Northbridge heatsink and the I/O panel. We have commented about this many times but it seems that the message isn't getting through, while other enthusiast motherboard makers are getting the message, it still seems Gigabyte hasn't taken the hint. On the rest of the components, they are all in ideal locations.
The heart and soul of the 8KNXP is the E7210 or Canterwood ES chipset. This chipset has come out in order to replace its aging brother, the Granite Bay or E7205 chipset. The E7205 made its claim to fame for Intel as the very first Intel MCH to support Dual Channel memory, while only at 266MHz it provided a synchronous bus for the memory to CPU controller, allowing the memory to run in perfect sync with the FSB. Until the E7210, it still remained the main workstation chipset, meaning that 800MHz FSB Northwood and Prescott processors were not able to run on the Granite Bay, and server/workstation solutions would have to be replaced with desktop motherboards.The E7210 changes all that. It is essentially an I875P Northbridge, however, ECC memory and parity are supported, unlike the I875P, allowing for error free memory operations at DDR-400 speeds. It also includes an asynchronous bus, allowing faster CPU's to run with slower memory. In addition to this, AGP 8x has been added to replace the 4x standard of the E7205 allowing 2.1GB/s between the AGP and MCH.The Intel CSA bus also makes its appearance on this chipset, allowing for latency free Gigabit Ethernet to be used for servers and workstations without crowding the PCI or PCI-X buses.To complement this, the FWE6300ESB ICH5-S Southbridge has been added, the "S" meaning Server. This Southbridge is essentially an ICH4 with added features. This Southbridge incorporates only four USB 2.0 ports into the Northbridge, as well as two Serial ATA ports supporting RAID 0 and 1, however, it isn't an Intel Serial ATA RAID controller but rather an imbedded Adaptec SATA RAID controller. Adaptec products have been given a great reputation in the server and workstation markets, to capitalise on this Intel has asked Adaptec to submit its Serial ATA RAID controller, which is integrated into the Southbridge. Since this Southbridge is aimed at servers, Intel has done away with the need to add a separate PCI-X bridge controller like the other server chipsets do, instead, it has been integrated into the Southbridge, allowing for a total solution all on the one chip. Added to this is an AC'97 Audio controller and all the other major features you expect to find on the Intel ICH series.While this all sounds good in theory, there is one major drawback - the Intel Hub Architecture bus. Since the primary buses of the Northbridge remain unchanged from the I875P, the link between the ICH and the MCH is still limited to one 266MB/s channel, whereas other server chipsets tend to have multiple channels, or a wider single channel. This 266MB/s must do the entire roll of transferring all the data between the ICH and MCH, when the SCSI controller and SATA controllers are in full swing, it does tend to get overcrowded on the tiny bus.

Gigabyte 8KNXP Ultra 64 - Features Continued and Overclocking

- The Motherboard ContinuedWhile not a huge requirement on the desktop platform, SCSI controllers are pretty much second nature to the server environment, in fact, SCSI in servers outnumbers IDE 3:1. SCSI has proven to have a much higher sustained transfer rate, as well as being able to have more than two devices per channel does give SCSI the advantage. The Adaptec AIC-7902W Ultra320 SCSI controller is built directly onto the motherboard with the chip interfacing with the PCI-X bus at 100MHz, giving it a high speed connection to allow data to pass to the rest of the system without the constraints of the 33MHz PCI system. Two 68pin Ultra Wide SCSI ports are located at the bottom right of the motherboard. Each port can support seven drives, that's a total of 14 drives on the SCSI controller, with RAID 0, 1, 0+1 and RAID5 support; you will certainly have redundancy with this setup.
Serial ATA support is a must have for any new motherboard - server or desktop. While the ICH does support two native Serial ATA ports, Gigabyte simply felt that wasn't enough. The tried and true Silicon Image Sil3114 four channel Serial ATA controller is built on to the PCI bus to give four extra Serial ATA ports.
Since the ICH only supports four native USB 2.0 ports, the VIA VT6202 four port USB 2.0 controller chip makes a return, this chip was big on Intel motherboards that didn't support USB 2.0 during its initial introduction. Today it returns to add four extra USB 2.0 ports, a total of 8 onboard.
Gigabyte has in the past shown us that CPU's are ever changing and requiring more and more power to function in overclocked situations. Even before Prescott hit, Gigabyte was introducing dual power modules to boost their boards from three phase power to six phase power. Traditionally it has been through a riser card added into a VRM slot. This time Gigabyte has come out and simply integrated the extra three phases directly to the motherboard. Under the heatsink and fan are six phase voltage regulators, which come especially handy if you have a power hungry Prescott, great for stability in server environments when stable systems are a must have. OverclockingThough you may find this odd to see, the Gigabyte 8KNXP Ultra64 features all of the overclocking features its desktop motherboards do which is very unusual for a server classed motherboard, showing Gigabyte tend to push this motherboard at the more performance users who want the lot.Under the Frequency/voltage control menu you find all the overclocking options including FSB speed, DRAM ratio, AGP/PCI/SATA lock, Vagp, Vdimm and Vcore. FSB settings are from 133MHz all the way up to 355MHz in 1MHz increments, while 355 is almost impossible to reach, it is good to see a full selection. DRAM ratios are selectable depending on what speed your CPU is, but none the less you will get speeds for 266, 333 or 400MHz.Locking the AGP/PCI/SATA to 66/33/100MHz respectively keeps the main buses in check, so your add-in devices aren't the cause for a poor overclock. Voltages are a mixed bag. CPU voltage is selectable from 0.9v up to 1.75v in 0.025v increments. Doesn't matter if it's Prescott or Northwood, they all have the same settings, though pushing the Prescott above 1.55v is a bad idea. DRAM and AGP voltages in the past have been very limiting and again Gigabyte isn't listening to the demands of the users. You can only set your DRAM and AGP voltages to a max of +0.2v above standard, this means DRAM max is 2.8v and AGP is 1.7v. DRAM - voltages to be competitive need 3.2v these days, as modules are designed to handle up to 3v now.That said our maximum FSB we achieved was 253 MHz. When trying higher, the DRAM would simply cause system resets - more DRAM voltage is needed.

Gigabyte 8KNXP Ultra 64 - Benchmarks - Test System Setup and Sandra 2004

Test System SetupProcessor: Intel Pentium 4 3.2GHz EE (800MHz FSB) (Supplied by Spectrum Communications)Memory: 2x 256MB OCZ DDR-533 (Supplied by OCZ)Hard Disk: Western Digital 120GB 7200RPM PATA (Supplied by Plus Corporation)Graphics Card: ATI Radeon 9800XT 256MBOperating System: Microsoft Windows XP SP1Drivers: ATI Catalyst 4.6 SiSoft Sandra 2004SiSoft Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) 2004 is a synthetic windows benchmark that features different tests used to evaluate different PC subsystems.
Sandra doesn't show any difference between the 8KNXP, 8PENXP or 8KNXP Ultra64.

Gigabyte 8KNXP Ultra 64 - Benchmarks - PCMark04

PCMark04PCMark04 is a new multipurpose benchmark, suited for benchmarking all kinds of PCs, from laptops to workstations, as well as across multiple Windows operating systems. This easy-to-use benchmark makes professional strength benchmarking software available even to novice users. PCMark04 consists of a series of tests that represent common tasks in home and office programs.
The only major difference we can see is in the Hard Disk tests, looks like the integrated Adaptec controller isn't as optimised as the Intel built controllers.

Gigabyte 8KNXP Ultra 64 - Benchmarks - 3DMark03

3DMark033DMark03 is the latest instalment in the popular 3DMark series. By combining DirectX 9 support with completely new graphics (including the GeForce FX and ATI Radeon 9800), it continues to provide benchmark results that empower you to make informed hardware assessments.Please Note: Due to recent events with the 3DMark03 series, we are adding results purely for those who are still in favor of 3DMark03. These results should not be taken too seriously and are only added for interest sakes.
Here the other two Gigabyte motherboards take a slight lead over the 8KNXP Ultra64.

Gigabyte 8KNXP Ultra 64 - Benchmarks - Aquamark3

Aquamark3Aquamark3 is the latest instalment of the Aquamark benchmark suite. This new benchmark is much more powerful and demands much more from both the system and the graphics card. If there is any weakness in the system or 3D components, Aquamark3 will find them.
Again the Hard Disk lets down the overall performance of the 8KNXP Ultra64 in Aquamark3.

Gigabyte 8KNXP Ultra 64 - Benchmarks - Halo PC

Halo - Combat EvolvedHalo PC is new to us at TweakTown. Though we have used it in a couple of benchmarks in the past, it has now found a permanent place in our Benchmark Suite. This is simply due to its support for the latest DirectX 9 API's to put some more stress on the system to determine the best of the best.
Here we see since Halo is very intense on the entire system, the HDD lets down the 8KNXP Ultra64 slightly.

Gigabyte 8KNXP Ultra 64 - Benchmarks - Jedi Knight II

Jedi Knight IIJedi Knight II, Jedi Outcast is an OpenGL game that many have been waiting for. It has much improved graphics over its predecessor. It fully supports advanced shaders, as well as very high texture resolutions and effects. There is one demo included in the multi-player section that is good for benchmarking use.
Here the hard disk doesn't come into the picture much, as most of the work is able to be done in the CPU, memory and GPU, with very little impact from the HDD.

Gigabyte 8KNXP Ultra 64 - Benchmarks - Unreal Tournament 2003

Unreal Tournament 2003Unreal Tournament 2003 continues the success that Unreal Tournament generated as an online game and benchmark. UT2003 pulls all of its weight on to the 3D and Memory subsystems, pushing graphics reality to the maximum is its game, and you need some serious power to gain playable scores with this game.
Like JKII, the HDD doesn't play much of a role in the FPS of this game, so the three motherboards score almost dead even.

Gigabyte 8KNXP Ultra 64 - Conclusion

ConclusionFrom the start, we didn't hold our breath with this motherboard as it seemed more like a server platform, however, when we delved into it, we could see Gigabyte moving it into a high performance integrated overclockers motherboard - in reality it's a mix of both worlds.While it does support overclocking features, they aren't enough for an avid overclocker. DRAM voltages and FSB adjustments are fantastic, with great range in both, as is the ability to lock the AGP, PCI and SATA clocks, the fact is that Gigabyte has for some time, been rather limited in the DRAM and AGP/Chipset voltage adjustments, which are now just as important as having a good FSB and Vcore range. Without a good amount of DRAM voltage, your FSB can go all the way to 1000MHz and CPU voltage can go to 3.0v, but if you are limited to 2.8v for memory and only 1.7v for the chipset, you are going to hit a big wall very quick, and this is so with the Gigabyte 8KNXP Ultra64. We have seen this in too many motherboards now to simply put it down to a single bad bunch, something now has to change fro Gigabyte to take on the big names like ABIT and ASUS, who now offer ultra voltage options on their motherboards.Overall the onboard features were fantastic, with PCI and PCI-X for high speed peripherals, Ultra320 SCSI for those of you how can afford those monster process for the fastest drives available the option is there as well as CSA Gigabit Ethernet for high bandwidth LAN. In all a great featured motherboard is unfortunately overshadowed by a very poor overclocking set and slightly annoying placement of certain components onboard.- ProsSupports 6 Phase power for Prescott stabilityPCI-XUltra320 SCSI6 DDR slotsSilicon Image SATA controller- ConsVery limited DRAM and AGP/Chipset voltage optionsQuite expensiveRating - 7.5 out of 10

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