Physical ExaminationThe EPoX EP-8NPA SLI is unlike any other nForce 4 SLI motherboard you may have seen in the past. The first thing that hits you is the size of the board itself – it’s very small! In fact, it almost looks like a mATX board at first glance. The width of the PCB is just 8″ compared to the 9.5″ on the 9NPA+ SLI which means this smaller board can fit into a wider variety of ATX cases. This also reduces the cost of manufacturing which translates to you paying less at the store, but this doesn’t come without some compromises.
The socket area bears the burden of a smaller form factor by being cramped and less ergonomic. The RAM DIMMs are close to the socket which likely makes installing/removing RAM difficult with a large heatsink installed. Capacitors line one side of the socket gave me issues with the stock heatsink clip design, but did not interfere with the Zalman CNPS 7700-Cu.
The ATX and 12V power connectors are awkwardly placed among other components which makes it hard to access. ATX power cables will need to get routed around or over the socket area which may hamper airflow to your CPU. However, some coolers have fans oriented differently (like the Asetek Vapochill, or the Cooler Master Hyper 6+ ) so the power cable problem may not affect you as much.
Along the top edge of the board are two DDR DIMMs. The EP-8NPA SLI only supports up to 2GB of RAM which is half of that offered by typical nForce 4 SLI motherboards using Socket 939. Knowing that this will turn some of you away, I asked EPoX about this decision and they told me that this was done to help keep costs low and that their typical value customer is likely using 2GB or less.
The old SLI paddle board is gone! With this, you gain an extra 1x PCI-E slot between the 16x slots. This makes the EP-8NPA an improvement over the older 9NPA+ SLI motherboard which used the paddle and had only a single 1x slot. Also on the board are two PCI slots which hopefully should be enough for you.
The 8NPA SLI features a diagnostic LED, 4 SATA, and 2 IDE channels.
On the bottom-left you can see the Power-On and Reset switches built on the board.
Some other unique features of the EP-8NPA SLI are built-on RESET and POWER switches, 2 character diagnostic LED, and a 4-pin PWM CPU fan connector for finer fan RPM control.