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Abit vs. Gigabyte: Tier 1 i865PE Head to Head

By: Cameron Johnson | Socket LGA 775 in Motherboards | Posted: Aug 18, 2003 4:00 am

Features of the IS7-G


Package and Contents



First off, we look at the ABIT IS7-G and its package and what ABIT gives you for your cash. The IS7-G is packed in a similar color coded box as the SI7-G motherboard in a white, black and blue box. This is guaranteed to stand out on the shelves with large ABIT writing in white. Within the box is where all the goodies come into play. ABIT packs a generous bundle. You receive two user manuals, one for the motherboard and another for the Silicon Image Serial ATA controller, one CD containing installation drivers, monitoring software and a few extra goodies, three floppy disks (1 for the ICH5-R Windows 2000/XP Installations if you use the Serial ATA in RAID format, 1 Floppy for the same purposes of the Silicon Image SATA controller, and 1 Floppy containing drivers for the ICH5 USB 2.0 controller). You also get a heap of cables including two IDE cables, one FDD cable (all rounded), and two Serial ATA cables at 50cm each. Four would have been better to take advantage of all the ports, but these babies are becoming more available now so it's not that big a concern. A special I/O shield is used, as ABIT doesn't follow the standard ATX port layout. Serial ATA power cables are also provided so you can hook your Serial ATA drives up to currant Power Supply Units.


Board, Layout and Complaints



ABIT's layout of the IS7-G resembles something of the IC7-G, with a few slight changes. First off, the PCB is a light brown rather than a dark brown/black color. Second, the CPU socket has been rotated for better position, especially for water-cooled units and larger heatsinks. Like the IC7-G, one AGP slot is included supporting AGP 4x 1.5v or AGP 8x 0.9v cards only. 3.3v cards will not work in this board as all new chipsets are phasing out the AGP 2.0 specs.


The DIMM sockets again have been color coded, two light blue for Channel A and two darker blue/purple for Channel B. This will aid in installation of memory for Dual Channel operations straight off the ball. Of late, the placement of the power connectors has been something ABIT has slacked off on. This time, however, things have slightly improved. The massive 20-pin connector is located behind the DIMM sockets well away from the CPU socket while the 4-pin connector is between the I/O ports and the Northbridge. It is well over towards the I/O ports making the cables easier to route to keep away from the Heatsink and fan.


One of the interesting things was the 90 degree rotation of the IDE sockets. Normally these take up huge amounts of space, but ABIT has rotated them 90 degree and placed them on the outer edge of the board, keeping the cables flat and away from the airflow of the case.


Intel's Latest Beast



The IS7-G is powered by the i865PE Northbridge giving dual channel DDR-400 memory for a peak bandwidth of 6.4GB/s. AGP 8x AGP slot and CSA networking with a max FSB of 800MHz. Unlike Gigabyte, ABIT has decided to use the ICH5R Southbridge allowing for the two Serial ATA ports to act in RAID 0 or RAID 1 functions.


Silicon Image pops up again



It has been the most used Serial ATA PCI controller since the introduction of the standard first appeared. Due to its support for Serial Packets rather than converting Parallel to Serial, it has given better performance than Promise or Highpoint controllers. ABIT has also chosen to add a 2nd Serial ATA controller with two extra ports.


Firewire Comes Standard



Firewire is becoming even more popular due to its fully hardware driven nature. Its use of the CPU is negligible and its support for 400mbps networking through piggyback operations makes is a great choice for home users. ABIT has included the Texas Instruments 3-port Firewire controller. ABIT supplied three ports, two by expansion brackets and one you need to source for yourself.


Gigabit Ethernet but not CSA?



This was one of the most puzzling things to me; Intel added the CSA bus to allow for faster Ethernet controllers. While fully supported by the i865PE, ABIT has elected to shut down the CSA bus and use a 3Com Gigabit controller tied into the PCI bus making the PCI system slower when using Gigabit Ethernet.


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