Gigabyte's idea of building a motherboard that would support as many as four PCI Express graphics cards is not quite new. In fact, we were asked for our opinion on such a product as early as May, when we spent some time in Taipei, Taiwan for Computex. Okay, it was four PCIe slots then. But even before knowing any technical details, we were already quite confident that the realization of this project actually was not far away.
Gigabyte has proven to be accelerating the pace of development when it comes to technically sophisticated hardware. They have released products such as a Pentium 4 motherboard with PCI-X support , a dual graphics motherboard capable of supporting SLI yet based on an Intel chipset, and of course its popular 3D1 graphics cards family that currently supports either two 6600 GT or 6800 GT chips on a single graphics board. Although this does not particularly help to reduce the total costs for a SLI solution, it definitely is the nicer solution.
Gigabyte's latest stroke of genius is the GA-8N SLI Quad Royal, and is a very high-end motherboard that powers an Intel socket 775 Pentium 4, Pentium D or Pentium Extreme Edition processor via an NVIDIA nForce4 SLI Intel Edition chipset. NVIDIA chose HyperTransport to link the north bridge and south bridge components of the Intel Edition chipset. Gigabyte saw an opportunity to drop the south bridge (called the MCP or Media Communications Processor) in favor of an nForce4 SLI chipset - the AMD version!
All of this was possible because the nForce4 SLI for Athlon 64 is a single-chip solution and incorporates all the interfaces such as storage, networking, and USB that are essential for modern core logic products. After hooking up both chips via HyperTransport, Gigabyte not only had access to the nForce4 AMD Edition's interface features, but also found itself in a position to implement four x8 PCIe slots or two x16 slots.
In theory, this solution would even be capable of running either an AMD Athlon 64 or Intel's Pentium family, since both core logic components are completely available. However, this dual implementation is something that might just be too much of an effort to carry out. The problems start with fairly complex routing and the need for a more flexible clock generator - or a way of switching between two of them. In addition, this would lead to motherboard size issues due to the additional socket and voltage regulators, greatly increasing product costs. Though this would be the coolest thing since the invention of memory modules, it ultimately wouldn't be worthwhile.
Okay, let's come back from dreamland and take a look at what is worthwhile - Gigabyte's GA-8N SLI Quad Royal.