Albatron K8SLI Motherboard Review
By Gabriel Torres e Daniel Barros on April 4, 2006


Introduction

Hardware Secrets Golden Award

K8SLI from Albatron is a socket 939 motherboard (i.e., targeted to Athlon 64, Athlon 64 FX, Athlon 64 X2 and Opteron CPUs), based on NVIDIA nForce4 SLI chipset. Its main advantage is its price, lower than other SLI-based socket 939 motherboards available on the market. Does lower price mean lower quality and lower performance? We will check this out on our review.

Albatron K8SLI
click to enlarge
Figure 1: Albatron K8SLI Rev 1.1 motherboard.

K8SLI appearance is very simple and follows the same design used by other boards manufactured by Albatron. What immediately caught our attention was its size. It is extremely compact for a SLI motherboard, thus not requiring big cases. On the other hand, its size can prevent the installation of bigger CPU coolers.

Another criticism regarding its layout is to the position of its black SATA ports. With two video cards installed it is almost impossible to use these ports.

Albatron K8SLI
click to enlarge
Figure 2: nForce4 SLI active heatsink.

The manufacturing quality of this board is very good and all its main capacitors are from Japanese Chemi-con.

No special procedure is required to activate SLI mode on K8SLI. Just connect two compatible video cards and the SLI mode will be activated. It is also not necessary to connect any extra power supply cable when SLI mode is used, but we recommend you to use a good quality power supply with at least true 450 watts.

Albatron K8SLI
click to enlarge
Figure 3: PCI Express slots.

K8SLI has four DDR-DIMM sockets, supporting up to 4 GB RAM DDR266/333/400. Albatron used purple color on sockets 1 and 2 and green color on sockets 3 and 4. To use DDR Dual Channel mode just install each module on sockets with the same color.

More Features

Now talking about its storage capacity, it has two ATA-133 ports and four Serial ATA II ports controlled by nForce4 SLI chipset. These ports support NCQ (Native Command Queuing) and NVIDIA RAID feature, which allows the use of up to eight hard disk drives (four Serial ATA and four ATA-133) under RAID 0, 1, 0+1, 5 or JBOD. K8SLI comes with only one Serial ATA cable and a Serial ATA power adapter.

Albatron K8SLI
click to enlarge
Figure 4: Four Serial ATA-300 ports.

Albatron K8SLI
click to enlarge
Figure 5: Cables and accessories.


On its networking side, K8SLI has “only” one on-board LAN port. We say “only” because the majority of competing motherboards have two on-board LAN ports. The LAN port from K8SLI is Gigabit Ethernet (1,000 Mbps) controlled by nForce4 SLI chipset supporting hardware-base firewall by NVIDIA and needing only one small chip for making the physical layer interface (in the case of this motherboard Vitesse VSC8201RX was used).

Albatron K8SLI has a six-channel on-board audio, produced by the chipset using Realtek ALC655 codec, which has a signal-to-noise ration of 90 dB and a coaxial SPDIF output soldered on the motherboard.

This motherboard also brings eight USB 2.0 ports (four soldered on the back part of the motherboard and four available through I/O brackets, which don’t come with the motherboard).

Albatron K8SLI
click to enlarge
Figure 6: K8SLI back panel.

A very interesting feature available on this board is called ABS (Albatron BIOS Security), which is a small card containing an extra BIOS, to be used to recover the original BIOS if the motherboard doesn’t turn on anymore because of a wrong BIOS update procedure or because of a CIH/Chernobyl-like virus attack.

Albatron K8SLI
click to enlarge
Figure 7: Albatron Bios Security.

Main Specifications

Albatron K8SLI main features are:

* Researched on Shopping.com on the day we published this review.

How We Tested

During our benchmarking sessions, we used the configuration listed below. Between our benchmarking sessions the only variable was the motherboard being tested.
 
Hardware Configuration

Software Configuration

Driver Versions

Used Software

We adopted a 3% error margin; thus, differences below 3% cannot be considered relevant. In other words, products with a performance difference below 3% should be considered as having similar performance.

Overall Performance

We measured the overall performance of this motherboard using SYSmark2004, which is a software that simulates the use of real-world applications. Thus, we consider this the best software to measure, in practical terms, the system performance.

The benchmarks are divided into two groups:

The software delivers specific results for each batch and also an overall performance result, all in a specific SYSmark2004 unit.

We selected the following motherboards to compare to Albatron K8SLI:

You can see the results on the chart below.

Motherboard

SYSmark 2004 -
Score

%

Sapphire PI-A9RX480 (ATI Xpress 200P)

188

0

Albatron K8SLI (nForce4 SLI)

188

 

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme (nForce4 SLI)

188

0

MSI K8N Diamond Plus (nForce4 SLI X16)

187

-0.53

ULi AP970A (ULi M1697)

187

-0.53

DFI LANParty UT nF4 SLI-D (nForce4 SLI)

186

-1.08

Foxconn WinFast NF4UK8AA-8EKRS (nForce4 Ultra)

185

-1.62

ULi AP9567A (ULi M1695)

184

-2.17

ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe (nForce4 SLI)

183

-2.73

ECS KN1 Extreme (nForce4 Ultra)

181

-3.87

On this test Albatron K8SLI achieved a performance similar to the majority of motherboards we tested, being a little bit faster than ECS KN1 Extreme (nForce4 Ultra).

Processing Performance

We measured processing performance using PCMark04 program. You can see the results below.

 

 

Motherboard

PCMark04
(Build 1.3.0)

%

ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe (nForce4 SLI)

4683

+0.80

DFI LANParty UT nF4 SLI-D (nForce4 SLI)

4677

+0.67

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme (nForce4 SLI)

4670

+0.52

Foxconn WinFast NF4UK8AA-8EKRS (nForce4 Ultra)

4669

+0.50

ECS KN1 Extreme (nForce4 Ultra)

4653

+0.15

Albatron K8SLI (nForce4 SLI)

4656

 

MSI K8N Diamond Plus (nForce4 SLI X16)

4638

-0.17

ULi AP970A (ULi M1697)

4609

-0.80

Sapphire PI-A9RX480 (ATI Xpress 200P)

4598

-1.04

ULi AP9567A (ULi M1695)

4595

-1.77

All motherboards achieved a similar performance on this test.

3D Performance: 3DMark2001 SE

One of the best ways to measure the performance of a PC is through 3D games, since they usually pull the maximum power from the motherboard, memory, CPU, video card and hard disk drive. We chose five programs for measuring the 3D performance of the motherboard being reviewed: 3DMark2001 SE, 3DMark03, 3DMark05, Doom 3 and Quake III Arena. The motherboards with SLI feature were tested twice, one with SLI enabled and another without SLI configuration.

3DMark2001 SE simulates DirectX 8.1 games. We used this program to see how the motherboard being reviewed acts running games from this generation. You can find the results below.

Motherboard

3DMark2001 SE
(Build 3.3.0)

%

Albatron K8SLI (nForce4 SLI)

20545

+4.62

Albatron K8SLI (nForce4 SLI) Normal

19637

 

Foxconn WinFast NF4UK8AA-8EKRS (nForce4 Ultra)

19580

-0.29

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme (nForce4 SLI) Normal

19506

-0.67

ULi AP970A (ULi M1697)

19328

-1.60

ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe (nForce4 SLI) Normal

19314

-1.67

ECS KN1 Extreme (nForce4 Ultra)

19302

-1.74

DFI LANParty UT nF4 SLI-D (nForce4 SLI) Normal

19284

-1.83

MSI K8N Diamond Plus (nForce4 SLI X16) Normal

19265

-1.93

ULi AP9567A (ULi M1695)

19115

-2.73

Sapphire PI-A9RX480 (ATI Xpress 200P)

19054

-3.06

ULi AP9567A (ULi M1695) - AGP

18988

-3.42

On this test MSI K8N Diamond Plus achieved a performance similar to the majority of motherboards we tested, being a little bit faster than Sapphire PI-A9RX480 (ATI Xpress 200P) and ULi AP9567A (ULi M1695) – AGP.

We included K8SLI results with SLI for you to compare the performance difference you may expect when enabling SLI on this motherboard. As you can see, the performance increased just a little bit on 3DMark 2001 SE when we activated SLI. This result was expected, since older games aren’t optimized to use SLI.

Comparing the results among SLI-enabled motherboards (see table below), K8SLI achieved a performance similar to the majority of motherboards we tested, being faster than MSI K8N Diamond Plus (nForce4 SLI X16), which used a newer driver that isn’t optimized for 3DMark2001 SE.

Motherboard

3DMark2001 SE
(Build 3.3.0)

%

DFI LANParty UT nF4 SLI-D (nForce4 SLI)

20853

+1.50

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme (nForce4 SLI)

20573

+0.14

Albatron K8SLI (nForce4 SLI)

20545

 

ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe (nForce4 SLI)

20004

-2.70

MSI K8N Diamond Plus (nForce4 SLI X16)

19668

-4.46

3D Performance: 3DMark03

3DMark03 simulates DirectX 9 games, which are the games available today on the market. So we used this software to see how the motherboard being reviewed acts running DirectX 9.0 games. You can check the results below.

 

Motherboard

3Dmark03
(Build 3.6.0

%

Albatron K8SLI (nForce4 SLI)

13820

+66.07

DFI LANParty UT nF4 SLI-D (nForce4 SLI) Normal

8364

+0.50

ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe (nForce4 SLI) Normal

8353

+0.37

Foxconn WinFast NF4UK8AA-8EKRS (nForce4 Ultra)

8348

+0.31

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme (nForce4 SLI) Normal

8334

+0.14

ECS KN1 Extreme (nForce4 Ultra)

8327

+0.06

Albatron K8SLI (nForce4 SLI) Normal

8322

 

MSI K8N Diamond Plus (nForce4 SLI X16) Normal

8312

-0.12

ULi AP970A (ULi M1697)

8283

-0.47

ULi AP9567A (ULi M1695)

8239

-1.01

ULi AP9567A (ULi M1695) - AGP

8167

-1.90

All motherboards achieved a similar performance without using SLI configuration.

We included K8SLI results with SLI for you to compare the performance difference you may expect when enabling SLI on this motherboard. Enabling SLI we had a 69.33% performance increase on this test.

Comparing the results among SLI-enabled motherboards (see table below), Albatron K8SLI achieved a performance similar to other motherboards we tested.

Motherboard

3Dmark03
(Build 3.6.0

%

MSI K8N Diamond Plus (nForce4 SLI X16)

14075

+1.85

DFI LANParty UT nF4 SLI-D (nForce4 SLI)

13835

+0.11

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme (nForce4 SLI)

13831

+0.08

Albatron K8SLI (nForce4 SLI)

13820

 

ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe (nForce4 SLI)

13801

-0.14

3D Performance: 3DMark05

3DMark05 measures performance by simulating DirectX 9.0c games, i.e., using Shader 3.0 model. This programming model is used by games like Far Cry. This programming model is used by GeForce series 6 and 7 from NVIDIA and Radeon X1000 series from ATI. You can find the results below.

 

Motherboard

3Dmark05
(Build 1.2.0)

%

Albatron K8SLI (nForce4 SLI)

6397

+81.27

Foxconn WinFast NF4UK8AA-8EKRS (nForce4 Ultra)

3600

+2.01

ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe (nForce4 SLI) Normal

3597

+1.93

ECS KN1 Extreme (nForce4 Ultra)

3595

+1.87

DFI LANParty UT nF4 SLI-D (nForce4 SLI) Normal

3589

+1.70

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme (nForce4 SLI) Normal

3535

+0.17

Albatron K8SLI (nForce4 SLI) Normal

3529

 

MSI K8N Diamond Plus (nForce4 SLI X16) Normal

3509

-0.57

Sapphire PI-A9RX480 (ATI Xpress 200P)

3427

-2.98

ULi AP970A (ULi M1697)

3317

-6.39

ULi AP9567A (ULi M1695)

3276

-7.72

ULi AP9567A (ULi M1695) - AGP

3111

-9.90

On this test K8SLI achieved a performance similar to the majority of motherboards we tested, being faster than all motherboards based on ULi chipset.

We included K8SLI results with SLI for you to compare the performance difference you may expect when enabling SLI on this motherboard. Enabling SLI we had an 81.27% performance increase on this test.

Comparing the results among SLI-enabled motherboards (see table below), K8SLI achieved a performance similar to other motherboards we tested.

Motherboard

3Dmark05
(Build 1.2.0)

%

Albatron K8SLI (nForce4 SLI)

6397

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme (nForce4 SLI)

6354

-0.68

ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe (nForce4 SLI)

6346

-0.80

MSI K8N Diamond Plus (nForce4 SLI X16)

6339

-0.91

DFI LANParty UT nF4 SLI-D (nForce4 SLI)

6262

-2.16

3D Performance: Doom 3

Doom 3 is one of the heaviest games available today. We run this game at 1024x768x32 resolution at high quality. We run demo1 four times and wrote the obtained number of frames per second. The first result we discarded at once, since it is far inferior than the other results. This happens because at the first time we run the demo the game must load all textures to video memory, fact that doesn’t happen from the second time we run the demo on. From the three results left, we consider as our official result the middle result, i.e., we discard the highest and the lowest values. Curiously almost all times the values obtained at the second round on were the same.

A very important detail that we must mention is that Doom 3 has an internal FPS lock: it is only capable of generating 60 frames per second, even if your PC is able to produce more frames per second than that. This is done in order to make the game to have the same “playability” sensation independently from the video card installed on the PC. This lock, however, is disabled in the game benchmarking mode.

For further details on how to measure 3D performance with Doom 3, read our tutorial on this subject.



Motherboard

FPS

%

Albatron K8SLI (nForce4 SLI)

101.9

+22.77

Foxconn WinFast NF4UK8AA-8EKRS (nForce4 Ultra)

83.7

+0.84

DFI LANParty UT nF4 SLI-D (nForce4 SLI) Normal

83.6

+0.72

ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe (nForce4 SLI) Normal

83.5

+0.60

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme (nForce4 SLI) Normal

83.4

+0.48

Albatron K8SLI (nForce4 SLI) Normal

83

 

MSI K8N Diamond Plus (nForce4 SLI X16) Normal

82.1

-1.10

Sapphire PI-A9RX480 (ATI Xpress 200P)

81.4

-1.97

ECS KN1 Extreme (nForce4 Ultra)

81.3

-2.09

ULi AP970A (ULi M1697)

79.5

-4.40

ULi AP9567A (Uli M1695)

78.3

-6.00

ULi AP9567A (Uli M1695) - AGP

77.6

-6.96

On this test K8SLI achieved a performance similar to the majority of motherboards we tested, being faster than all motherboards based on ULi chipset.

We included K8SLI results with SLI for you to compare the performance difference you may expect when enabling SLI on this motherboard. Enabling SLI we had a 21.80% performance increase on this test.

Comparing the results among SLI-enabled motherboards (see table below), K8SLI achieved a performance similar to other motherboards we tested.

Motherboard

FPS

%

Albatron K8SLI (nForce4 SLI)

101.9

 

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme (nForce4 SLI)

101.3

-0.59

DFI LANParty UT nF4 SLI-D (nForce4 SLI)

100.6

-1.29

ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe (nForce4 SLI)

100.1

-1.80

MSI K8N Diamond Plus (nForce4 SLI X16)

100

-1.90

3D Performance: Quake III

Even though this is an old game its importance comes from the fact its engine is used by several other games, like Jedi Knight II and Medal of Honor, and also because this game is very sensitive to any changes on the hardware configuration. So we used this game to check how the reviewed motherboard acted running old but popular games.

We used the demo four available on version 1.32 of Quake III to make our benchmarking with this game. We ran this demo three times at 1024x768x32 resolution and all image quality settings on their default configuration and we picked the middle value for our comparisons, i.e., we discarded the highest and the lowest values.

Check the results below.

Motherboard

FPS

%

MSI K8N Diamond Plus (nForce4 SLI X16) Normal

357.5

+8.27

DFI LANParty UT nF4 SLI-D (nForce4 SLI) Normal

345.6

+4.66

Albatron K8SLI (nForce4 SLI) Normal

330.2

 

ULi AP970A (ULi M1697)

329.2

-0.30

Foxconn WinFast NF4UK8AA-8EKRS (nForce4 Ultra)

328.5

-0.52

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme (nForce4 SLI) Normal

327.2

-0.92

ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe (nForce4 SLI) Normal

326.2

-1.23

Sapphire PI-A9RX480 (ATI Xpress 200P)

325.2

-1.54

ULi AP9567A (ULi M1695)

324.4

-1.79

ULi AP9567A (ULi M1695) - AGP

321.2

-2.80

ECS KN1 Extreme (nForce4 Ultra)

315.5

-4.66

Albatron K8SLI (nForce4 SLI)

281.3

-17.38

On Quake III under normal mode K8SLI was beaten by DFI LANParty UT nF4 SLI-D (nForce4 SLI) and by MSI K8N Diamond Plus (nForce4 SLI X16), this one using a newer video driver and because of this achieved a better performance than other motherboards. K8SLI achieved a performance similar to the other motherboards we reviewed, being a little bit faster than KN1 Extreme (nForce4 Ultra).

On MSI K8N Diamond Plus we had to use a newer driver because nForce4 SLI X16 chipset only works with newer video drivers. The ideal scenario would be benchmarking all the motherboards with the same newer video driver, but several of the motherboards included on our tests weren’t available anymore.

Under SLI mode, excluding MSI K8N Diamond Plus that was using a newer video driver, Albatron K8SLI was beaten only by DFI LANParty UT nF4 SLI-D (nForce4 SLI).

But keep in mind that on Quake III SLI decreases the system performance instead of increasing it (see previous table).

Motherboard

FPS

%

MSI K8N Diamond Plus (nForce4 SLI X16)

335.2

+19.16

DFI LANParty UT nF4 SLI-D (nForce4 SLI)

294.3

+4.62

Albatron K8SLI (nForce4 SLI) Normal

281.3

 

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme (nForce4 SLI)

279.8

-0.54

ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe (nForce4 SLI)

276.8

-1.63

Overclocking

For our overclocking tests we used an Athlon 64 3500+ (2.2 GHz) with 512 KB L2 memory cache based on Venice core, which has a better overclocking capability than our Athlon 64 3800+ used on our benchmarking.

Albatron K8SLI BIOS V.1.12 overclocking options:


click to enlarge
Figure 8: Basic overclocking options on K8SLI.


click to enlarge
Figure 9: Basic memory timings settings

On Figures 10 and 11 you can check the overclocking we could achieve with this motherboard


Figure 10:
HTT configured at 365 MHz, an excellent result.


Figure 11: Our 2.2 GHz CPU running at 2.853 MHz (285 MHz x 10).

With K8SLI we could put our CPU running stable at 2.853 MHz (285 MHz x 10), an increase of almost 30% on its internal clock rate, an excellent result.

To achieve this overclocking we had to change the HyperTransport bus multiplier to 3x, the memory voltage to 2.80 V, the CPU voltage to 1.5 V and keeping the memory clock always below 250 MHz.

Besides its reduced size, K8SLI wasn’t intimidated, achieving better results than motherboard that costs up to twice its price.

Conclusions

As you can notice by reading our results there is almost no performance difference between socket 939 motherboards. This occurs because Athlon 64 has an embedded memory controller, so the chipset doesn’t play any drastic role on performance on this platform. The decision on what socket 939 motherboard one should buy must be based on extra features, price and overclocking.

Even though it has few extra features, Albatron K8SLI is a great motherboard, bringing excellent performance and overclocking capacity.

Albatron was corageous to launch a “vanilla” motherboard supporting SLI. The majority of SLI-based motherboards available on the market have tons of features and fancy design, many costing the double the price of K8SLI. And here is the biggest advantage of Albatron K8SLI against its competitors: it is the cheapest SLI motherboard available on the market.

With the money you will save, you can buy a faster CPU, more memory or even a better video card, keeping the same performance of more expensive motherboards.

In order to cost less, Albatron cut the “fat” by cutting the extra features, of course. You won’t find a fancy design, lights, colored cables, countless accessories, FireWire ports, extra LAN port or eight-channel audio.

But honestly: who uses or cares about all those extra features? Do you really care that your motherboard came in a fancy box with holographic effect?

If you want to save money and at the same time buy a motherboard with great performance and outstanding overclocking capacity with SLI support, Albatron K8SLI is the way to go. Its cost/benefit ratio is unbeatable.

Originally at http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/Albatron-K8SLI-Motherboard-Review/309


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