Pro/250 IDE & USB2
have a known-satisfactory USB/Firewire/SCSI/SATA internal or external
solution for your optical devices the following may not apply - but please
note we have not found a working SCSI or USB2 solution for 8x (or faster)
DVD-burners, & SATA solutions are not to our knowledge yet proven
compatible with NFORCE drivers.
systems based on the DK8N are likely to be specified with a CD or
DVD-burner; if you wish to attach a DVD or CD reader or burner to the DK8N
you will likely use the NFORCE PATA channels.
is first installed it sees the four NFORCE3 channels (2x PATA & 2x SATA) as
2x Primary & 2x Secondary PATA channels.
At this point, the default Windows drivers work stably & well, with proven
compatibility for ATAPI devices. This is an important issue for burning
software sending a range of commands to optical burners.
XP Pro install into the DK8N looks similar to this:
The NFORCE IDE drivers installation unscrambles the 4x 'PATA channels'
detected by Windows into 2x SATA & 2x PATA & of course replaces
the Windows drivers:
the key issue being that you cannot partially install (or uninstall) the
NFORCE drivers without a very great deal of trouble - SATA & PATA are inseparable.
these reasons, at present any user specifying an ATAPI CD or DVD-burner
with their DK8N will either lose NFORCE SATA or risk iffy optical-burner
performance, depending on their burner model & firmware, & the
are external 5.25" USB2 enclosures containing IDE<>USB2
bridges; but in our experience some of the common chipsets on which these
bridges are based (specifically the Cypress 'EZ-USB' family) are
unreliable for DVD-burning over 4x speed. There are reliable IDE<>Firewire
bridges for external enclosures - famously those using the 'Oxford 911'
We found the
NFORCE IDE drivers to work well with PATA hard drives - tho' not persuasively
better than the default MS drivers; but, yes, as
with many others we found functional issues when using NFORCE drivers &
a PATA DVD burner with several burning software applications.
were really impressed by the DK8N's NFORCE3 integrated USB2 - it requires
no installation of third-party drivers & . . . well . . . just works.
picky professional market the DK8N is aimed at values & appreciates
(& expects) this sort of seamless hassle-free behaviour.
checked all the DK8N's onboard ports - all four backplate sockets &
both motherboard headers - all tested OK at the sort of data-transfer
rates our external USB2 hard drive could manage - in the 25MB/s
noticed that the CPU% usage while transferring large chunks of data
to a USB2-attached hard drive had this form - we don't recall seeing
this pattern when using an NEC-chipset USB2 host. Average CPU usage
in a 4GB transfer was approx 11%
DK8N's feature of an integrated Hardware Firewall sounds great even
to those not on a network: many folk connect to the web via an
always-on USB or ethernet-attached broadband modem, & one
strength of a hardware solution is that its rules are effective
against intrusion before Windows loads all its drivers & so on -
including any software firewall.
This feature has
already caused a BIOS-level redesign of the DK8N - originally it had
a true AMI BIOS (with its very useful rescue bootblock feature); but
use of the AMI flash utility caused loss of the LAN MAC address.
the NFORCE3 hardware firewall drivers & software, you can fire
up a web-based configuration utility: this offers a 'wizard'
naturally enough, we chose to apply the 'high' setting.
As a simple test
of what this means in practice, we visited the 'Shields Up' pages at
Gibson Research Corporation
to see this promised 'stealth mode' in action.
Pro/250 firewall only, High Security Profile: (first 1056 ports
Pro/250 firewall, High Security Profile; plus ZoneAlarm (or
our feelings 'encompass' no comment; but we suggest that it might be a
good idea for NVIDIA to offer basic task-oriented configuration wizards
aimed at the naive or lazy user. In fairness, it must be said that this
firewall can be configured manually in considerable detail; but this
requires a reasonable understanding & can be tiresome to troubleshoot.
recommend always using a good third-party software firewall such as ZoneAlarm
- their crucial feature is control over outgoing application permissions,
& the checking of any allowed outgoing applications' MD5 signatures -
neither is a function of the NFORCE firewall.
Pro/250 AGP Tunnel
sorry - really sorry - about this:
ATI were to send us on loan some whizzo video-accelerator to check the AGP
performance, & above all, to see if this NFORCE3 Pro/250 worked
properly under stress with high~ish end ATI cards.
is an important issue to many potential buyers of the DK8N, since the AMD-8151
HyperTransport AGP graphics tunnel part in the AMD reference chipset
for previous dual-channel Opteron workstations is frequently reported to have
serious issues with ATI 9xxx-series cards.
no doubt, to this reviewer's incompetence, the dratted thing hasn't
arrived: this of course means we cannot test this compatibility issue, nor
run any of those framerate-centred gaming benchmarks dear to
web-reviewers. None of our olde-worlde (Matrox) accelerators would in fact
work in the DK8N due to their voltage requirements, so at the last minute
we dashed out & bought a cheapo FX5200 just to get the thing fired up.
suitable AGP-card comes our way we will update this review - tho' no doubt
any other review of the DK8N will include gaming benches galore.
& Realtek ALC655 onboard sound
. quite a bit rides on the quality of this onboard sound
DK8N has only one 32-bit PCI slot, & installation of any AGP
accelerator with a bulky cooling solution will block this out.
suitably notched fully PCI rev 2.1-compliant 3.3v sound-card could be installed
into either PCI-X slot - draggging that bus to 33MHz, or in either PCI64 slot; but if so
this would have to be jumpered to
This in turn will force the onboard 32-bit Sil3114 from
66MHz to 33MHz, halving its theoretical bandwidth to 133MB/s, through
which up to 4 SATA-attached hard drives, perhaps in a RAID array, would
have to transfer data.
may (like us) have at least one each PCI-X & 66MHz
64-bit PCI-card, which you want or need to run at full speed
. . . & folk are awfully sniffy about onboard sound.
news is that this reviewer, changing reluctantly from a Turtle Beach Santa
Cruz to try this Realtek solution; found the sound acceptable in the
clarity of its sound picture & in volume: CPU usage is low - around or
below 4% - & the sound doesn't go weird with both CPU's under heavy
continuous load re-encoding MPEG2 streams.
We had a
pretty discouraging experience with the v3.52 Realtek drivers available
for download on the Iwill site;
the sound was iffy & the centre speaker of our 5+1 setup didn't work
changed for the better with v3.61 drivers: after installation a tasktray
icon gives access to Realtek's 'Sound Manager' utility - this has basic
tools for setting up & testing your speakers & connections. Most
will prefer to install NVIDIA's neat & complete 'NVIDIA NVSOUND' -
which replaces 'Sound Manager' & installs additional drivers to
complement Realtek's - the images below should give an idea of what sound
resources you then have & how you might tweak 'em:
reviewer has a slight preference for the sound-quality from the
basic Realtek v3.61 drivers, without the NVIDIA NVSOUND package; but
both are acceptable & appear stable.
DK8N's NFORCE3 integrated widgets: conclusions
determinedly practical, detail-by-detail review like this has the
weakness of failing to give an impression of the whole: the DK8N's
integrated NFORCE3 Pro/250 solution for IDE, USB2, the firewall,
& sound really does feel competent, solid, & together.
same impression applies to the entire DK8N motherboard & a
system based upon it - it does not have the usual PC 'lashed
together from the parts-bin' character . . . . but:
really must sort out their IDE drivers right now: it is unacceptable
that CD & DVD burners attached to NFORCE chipset drivers are so
notorious for incompatibility with standard burning applications.
What's worse, the conjoined SATA/PATA character of the DK8N's
implementation makes it unpleasantly difficult to roll back to
stable & compatible MS drivers - our troubleshooting guide has links
to a third-party technique.
firewall configuration utility should be focused around a few
task-centred security profiles; not many users wish or are competent
to fiddle around with the dark underworld of ports & their