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Gigabyte GA-8N-SLi Royal nForce 4 Intel mobo

Puts Intel CPUs at the forefront of gaming?

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The sample I tested is revision 0.2 so it's not a retail-ready product and I had some major stability problems during testing. Far Cry would crash in the early stages of our benchmarking demo, and SYSMark 2004 behaved in a very peculiar way, so we couldn't get results from either. Gigabyte didn't respond to my requests for assistance.

Nonetheless, after a couple of days of cursing and several reboots I managed to get most of our 3D benchmarks to behave in a reasonable way and I even managed to get some PCMark 2004 numbers out of the board. Nvidia supplied a pair of GeForce 6800GT graphics cards, and the numbers are pretty impressive. Although I don't want to draw too many conclusions until I get a final production board, I think a few gamers might be persuaded to move back to an Intel CPU in combination with the new nForce 4 SLi Intel Edition chipset.

Looking at the numbers, 106.8fps in Doom 3 at 1024 x 768 with 8x anisotropic filtering is not to be sneezed at. More impressive, the test setup managed 100.2fps with the same filtering settings at 1600 x 1200. Enabling 4x full-screen anti-aliasing dropped the framerate to 72.4fps.

Gigabyte GA-8N-SLi Royal Doom 3

Half-Life 2 ran at over 90fps at 1024 x 768 no matter what the AF and FSAA settings were changed to. This indicates that the CPU is the limiting factor, with the graphics cards not being used to their full potential. Similarly at 1600 x 1200 there was little change in performance, although for some odd reason the results were slower using 4x FSAA than with 4x FSAA and 4x AF.

Gigabyte GA-8N-SLi Royal PCMark

3DMark 03 is getting old now, so a score of 20,903 is high, but somewhat moot. That said, the 3DMark 05 score of 8463 is quite impressive. The PCMark 2004 scores are the only system level benchmarks that I managed to run due to the stability issues, but the memory score here is very healthy at 6380, beating the 925XE chipset by 110 points using the same CPU. I haven't tested the new Intel 955X chipset yet so I can't make a comparison here, but it seems like Nvidia has created a very fast platform.

Verdict

This is a product that's quite hard to sum up. On one hand we have what looks to be the best performing chipset for Intel processors, while on the other, the stability issues were a letdown. To be fair, this is often the case with pre-production mobos and I expect the full retail products will have these issues ironed out.

Feature-wise, the GA-8N-SLi Royal is up there with the market's top-of-the-range boards, and this is exactly were Gigabyte is pitching it. At £160, it's fairly expensive when compared to most of the AMD nForce 4 SLi boards, but this is the first of its breed. Intel platforms tend to be more pricey than AMD ones anyway.

Our sample of the Gigabyte GA-8N-SLi Royal might not be quite retail-ready, but it put in some impressive benchmark numbers in the tests that I managed to run. The board also has a wide range of features other than SLi - just make sure you need the complete feature set before putting down a wad of cash.

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Gigabyte GA-8N-SLi Royal
 
Rating 80%
 
Price £160 inc. VAT
 
More info The GigaByte site

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