Gigabyte GA-K8N51PVMT-9

Written by John Chen    Monday, 19 December 2005 11:00
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Introduction

Everyone knows that Nvidia's nForce3 and nForce4 desktop chipsets rule, at least they do for AMD's platforms.  While they have a new competitor in the field, their performance and sales are still strong.  ATI has a lot of catching up to do.  The story is much different when it comes to Intel platforms.  Their nForce4 chipset for the Intel platform is struggling, and struggling very hard.  The current C19 chipset just cannot compete with Intel's dominance.  They are obviously working hard to change all that.

One of the reasons why Intel owns the largest piece of the pie in the computer industry is because they provide the best budget computer components around.  Literally, I really mean budget.  This does not mean a somewhat decent computer at $500.  I am referring to really affordable computers that grandmas and grandpas buy with $300, or less.  How do they achieve such a feat?  The answer is not just the use of a low end Celeron, but the onboard video solution they provide.  Intel's integrated graphics solution is the most widely used onboard video solution available.  Of course it cuts down on price, but the performance is not extremely terrifying.  I used it to play Counter-Strike 1.6 and ruled!  Nvidia realizes the need to reach into that large market share and expand their grasp.  Built around the technology of the AMD nForce4 Ultra chipset, the new C51 chipset includes an onboard video similar to the Geforce 6200, called the Geforce 6150.  Gigabyte is pretty much the first to announce the use of Nvidia's new chipset featuring onboard video graphics.  Gigabyte has been making great boards lately and their new C51 offering looks mighty promising.


 

Gigabyte GA-K8N51PVMT-9 Package

Gigabyte provides the most impressive motherboard bundles I have ever encountered.  The numerous accessories and included software programs are just spectacular.  Of course those bundles were found in their high end motherboards.  Since Gigabyte's C51 targets at budget conscious enthusiasts, the bundle is not as majestic.  It would be quite pointless to release a budget oriented motherboard only to have the included accessories hike up the price.  The usual accessories are found: IDE and floppy ribbon cables, single SATA cable, back I/O plate, drivers CD, and user's manual.  Perhaps the greatest selling point of the C51 is the TV-out capability embedded into the Geforce 6150.  This means that Nvidia's C51 makes an excellent low end HTPC motherboard.  With the TV-out support, it is only appropriate that Gigabyte includes a cable box that allows S-Video or component cables.

 


 

Motherboard Layout

It is as expected that the C51 comes in a micro-ATX form factor--the onboard video solution lessens the need for a separate video card, unless you are a gamer and want better graphical power.  The DIMM slots are color coded orange and purple to denote dual channel capability.  At the right edge of the motherboard are the IDE connectors, floppy connector, and the ATX power connector.  The four SATA connectors are just below, at the bottom right corner.  These are color coded orange-yellow.  Gigabyte always provides good color differentiation to help users with installation.  To the right of the SATA ports is the Southbridge.  Wait, doesn't Nvidia chipsets only use one chipset?  Nvidia was the first to introduce a single desktop chipset design due to AMD's implementation of the memory controller on the CPU.  That freed the chipset from holding the responsibility for controlling memory performance.  But with the inclusion of the onboard graphics, the chipset is once again required to separate the load.  Both the Northbridge and Southbridge are cooled by passive heatsinks and did a fairly good job at keeping the chipsets cool.  During full load with onboard video enabled, the Northbridge was only warm to the touch.

A micro-ATX motherboard is always restricted to the use of four PCI slots.  The Gigabyte C51 comes with a PCI-E x16 for video upgradeability, in case if you need more graphic horsepower for your latest games.  Right below that is a PCI-E x1 slot for future add-on cards.  There are two regular PCI slots provided for a better sound solution, a TV tuner, or a wireless NIC.  If you are not an audiophile, then you won't have to worry about the onboard sound solution.  The Gigabyte C51 provides an 8-channel sound solution that is powered by the Realtek ALC880 chipset.  The sound quality is very good and I find it more than pleasing.  I hooked it up to a typical 4.1 speakers and games and music sounded great.  If you are using this motherboard for an HTPC build, I highly suggest you use something better.  Your expensive speakers will definitely receive a nice benefit.  The back I/O provides the typical ports likes the keyboard and mouse, parallel, IEEE 1394, RJ45 Ethernet, and four USB 2.0.  Since the onboard sound solution provides up to a high 8-channel speaker configuration, there are numerous audio jacks for your subwoofer, front, rear, and side speakers.  The onboard Geforce 6150 provides only an analog output so DVI monitors are lucked out.  One great feature about the onboard video of the C51 is that it comes with a TV-out connection.  If you plan to use the motherboard for an HTPC build, it will certainly come in handy.

Just because the motherboard comes in a micro-ATX form factor does not mean that the space is limited.  There is plenty of space around the CPU socket for a beefy aftermarket CPU heatsink.  While the Northbridge heatsink looks awfully close, it is low enough not to cause any compatibility issues.  The only physical gripe I would have with this motherboard would be the 4pin 12v CPU power connector.  It is located towards the top left corner of the motherboard, a hard to reach place, especially when installed inside a case.  At the very bottom of the motherboard is the front I/O connectors.  I was a bit surprised that Gigabyte did not follow their traditional colored pins for easy decoding.  They are well labeled, though.  If four USB ports at the back are not enough, there are two additional USB headers for an additional four more USB ports.  To the left of that is the extra IEEE 1394 header.  It is not pictured (sorry), but it is clearly marked.

 


 

BIOS

Micro-ATX motherboards are never known to be great overclockers, so any options would be a plus from the start.  While browsing around in the BIOS, I noticed that there were no DRAM timing options, not even under the Advanced Chipset section.  Does that mean that we are forced to run our memory at 2T?  There is no need to fret; Gigabyte often hides these extra options.  To open up these options, simply press CTRL and F1 simultaneously.  The screen will flicker once and you will notice some additional options.

  • HTT Frequency:  200MHz - 300MHz
  • LDT Multiplier:  1x, 2x, 3x, 4x, 5x, AUTO
  • PCI-E Frequency:  100MHz - 145MHz
  • CPU Multiplier:  Default, 5x - highest your CPU allows
  • Memory Dividers:  100, 133, 166, 200, 216, 233, 250

Although some extra options became available after pressing CTRL + F1, there were still no voltage options shown.  Perhaps that is a bit too conservative on Gigabyte's part.  There might not be a need for excessive voltage options, but at least a little bit would help.  Without any voltage options, the overclocking headroom does not look too promising.


 

 

Software

The software bundle does not come with cool antivirus programs, but it does include all the necessary drivers for a proper system install.  Well obviously, it has to.  Gigabyte also includes its Windows-based overclocking utility to allow enthusiasts to overclock on the fly.  There are two modes; easy mode and advanced mode.  All the drivers can be selected and installed with one click of a button.  There is no need to go through the multiple "next" steps.



 

Test Setup and Overclocking

Test Setup:

  • AMD Athlon 64 3700+ San Diego
  • DFI LANParty UT nF4 Ultra-D
  • Gigabyte GA-K8N51PVMT-9
  • 2 x 512MB GeIL Xtreme PC4800 ES
  • ATI Radeon X800XT
  • Arctic Freezer 64
  • SilverStone ST65ZF
  • ATI Catalyst 5.10
  • Nvidia AMD nForce4 6.70

Overclocking:

While DRAM timings were prevent memory latency bottlenecks, the lack of voltage options prevented the motherboard from achieving insanely high frequencies.  I am sure that the majority of you are quite used to seeing an nForce4 motherboard reach 300HTT easily.  The following might be a little disappointing.  The first test will be conducted with the memory divider at 1:1. The second test will be with a divider, so that the RAM wouldn't pose as a bottleneck. All memory timings were left at 3-4-4-8 2T and the LDT multiplier at 1x and CPU multiplier at 6x. I made sure that nothing would bottleneck the chipset and motherboard potential.

  • Highest overclock 1:1:  270HTT
  • Highest overclock with divider:  270HTT

The GeIL Xtreme PC4800 ES I used was definitely not a bottleneck since it is capable of reaching 300MHz 2.5-3-3-5 with just 2.7v-2.73v.  The CPU is not a bottleneck because the multiplier has been reduced to 6x, resulting a CPU frequency of nowhere near the stock 2.2GHz.  The nForce4 chipset is known to be a great overclocker so the biggest blame can be pointed to the lack of voltage options, although there still can be other hindering variables.  All in all, the overclock result is still quite good.  You cannot tell me that you expect a micro-ATX motherboard to overclock as well as full-fledged desktop offerings.  A CPU with a 10x multiplier paired with 270HTT will yield a good 2.7GHz, provided that your CPU can run that speed with stock voltage.  The lack of voltage options is really holding back this motherboard.

 


 

Results

Sysmark 2004

Sysmark2004 is a very common benchmark used to measure a system's potential in performance.  It goes through long and grueling tests that include compression and decompression and office intensive programs.

3DMark2001SE

3DMark is probably the overclocker's favorite benchmark.  Unlike 3DMark2003, which stresses mainly the video card, 3DMark2001SE tests all of the system's main components.  Increasing the CPU speed, memory speed, and video card speeds will result in higher results in the final score.

PCMark2004

The PCMark2004 system benchmark puts the entire system to work.

PCMark2002

PCMark2002 is older than PCMark2004 but still very similar.



 

Results Continued

Everest Home Edition

Everest Home Edition is a good benchmark for testing memory performance.  Since the motherboard's overclocking potential and memory bandwidth is closely related, I find this benchmark to be trustable.

SiSoft Sandra

Like Everest Home Edition, SiSoft Sandra memory bandwidth tests the motherboard's memory bandwidth performance

Super PI

Since the value of PI is an infinite value, Super PI is a speed test to find the digit you're looking for.  In this case, we chose the millionth digit.  Super PI benefits greatly from higher FSB as well as low latencies.

PiFast

PiFast is similar to Super PI and the results can be greatly affected by a slight adjustment to the memory megahertz and latency.

Unreal Tournament 2004

Unreal Tournament 2004 is a very popular game that is highly effected by the system's performance.  Testing was done under the resolution of 640x480 to minimize the dependency of GPU and CPU power.

 


 

Onboard Geforce 6150 Results

The following results are based on some graphic intensive games as well as popular multiplayer games.  The resolutions are tested at 800x600 and 1024x768.  Let's be honest here, you cannot expect the onboard graphics to be that powerful.  Anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering are all turned down to absolute zero so the best gaming performance is possible.  The driver used was the ForceWare 81.85 and the system was kept at stock speeds.

You can see that there is not much to expect from the Geforce 6150.  Playing a graphic intense game like Doom 3 is quite impossible.  The skipping frames will skip you to death.  Far Cry was a little better, but still a far cry from playable.  The Geforce 6150 only sees potential from an older, yet popular, game like Unreal Tournament 2004.  Unfortunately, that is at the lowest resolution.  I tried it the Geforce 6150 on World of Warcraft and it showed me an average of 20-22 frames per second in a regular town, not an Auction House town.  It felt like my mage was casting "blink" the entire time.  The Geforce 6150 will provide good video quality for your multimedia purposes, but gamers will definitely need a horsepower boost from a separate video card.

 


 

Conclusion and Thoughts

There is a reason why Gigabyte is one of the top five motherboard manufacturers in the world.  They bring immediate solutions from new chipsets and do a great job at providing a quality motherboard.  The C51 we see today is a solid performer.  Its performance runs very close with the DFI LANParty Ultra-D, currently the highest praised desktop motherboard for the AMD platform.  The overclocking result might have not been as pleasing, but it still provides a decent amount of headroom for a small form motherboard.  I have no doubt that the motherboard is capable of more, but the lack of voltage options is definitely the major bottleneck.  Gaming performance is not something you can count on, but it will get you by an old multiplayer game like Unreal Tournament 2004.  Counter-Strike 1.6 players will definitely be able to frag too.  Perhaps the biggest attraction of the Gigabyte C51 is the HDTV and TV-out support.  HTPC enthusiasts can easily use this motherboard for a small and silent system. 

Pros:

  • All passively cooled
  • Onboard video provides TV-out
  • HDTV supported
  • Decent overclocking headroom
  • Very affordable
  • Great performance

Cons:

  • No voltage options whatsoever

We would like to thank Gigabyte for providing us the sample.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to hit us up in the forums. You can also check out more of our latest reviews on the front page.

 

 

 

 

 

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