Pushing onto the board itself, GIGABYTE hasn't made many changes at all compared to the X48-DQ6 we reviewed previously. The major change in the design is the removal of the DDR2 memory slots in favour of the DDR3 slots. The same blue 6-layer PCB measuring 30x24cm is used and the layout remains the same.
The 24-pin power connector and the FDD connector get placed behind the four memory slots along with the DES power usage LEDs which are right beside the fourth DIMM socket at the top of the board; these let you know in real time how many phases the board is running on if you have DES working, if you don't then all 12 will be on at all times. The 4/8 pin E-ATX combo port is located at the top left of the board behind the PS/2 ports, right behind the heatpipe assembly. Thanks to the new heatpipe, it's easier to get to the power cable if you need to unplug it for any reason.
The IDE and SATA ports are unchanged which is extremely efficient where GIGABYTE has placed them. The six yellow ports are controlled by the ICH9R which you can use to setup a six drive RAID array (or five if you place a SATA ATAPI device on the ICH9R Southbridge) and two purple SATA ports which are run off the JMicron chip which is also responsible for running the IDE port. If you prefer to use all the ICH9R SATA ports for Hard Disk RAID arrays, you can place any SATA ATAPI devices on the JMicron chip as this chip supports all forms of SATA devices, both HDD and ATAPI. The IDE port is not tied into the RAID array function of the JMicron chip, so any drives on the IDE bus are separate and can not be setup in a RAID of their own or combined to the SATA port RAID; a small limitation, but in today's modern PC, IDE is now heading south very quick.
Moving along to the CPU area, GIGABYTE's Dual 6-phase voltage regulation system (a total of 12 phases) is used on the X48T-DQ6 which we have found gives quite a healthy power flow to heavily overclocked CPU setups. The DES system on the board is able to shut down inactive phases when the CPU is under lighter loads, but you can't use it when manually overclocking, which is a blessing really as this technology will result in unstable overclocking systems, as you want more voltage to the CPU, not less.
The heatpipe design has been re-worked and is a lot more efficient than some of the previous heatpipe setups GIGABYTE has used, but it still cools the Mosfets, Northbridge and Southbridge effectively.
The rear I/O ports on the back are identical in design and layout to the X38-DQ6 and the X48-DQ6; GIGABYTE hasn't changed them and are looking to keep this same setup for the next few DQ6 boards, which makes upgrading a lot easier as you don't have to change I/O plates which is one annoyance I must admit I do hate.
The X48T-DQ6 keeps the same expansion port arrangement that the X48-DQ6 was given, this being it has two PCI Express x16 slots that are coloured blue and run off the X48 Northbridge. Both are true x16 slots and are PCI Express 2.0 compliant. The three PCI Express x1 slots that are included are run off the ICH9R and are PCI Express 1.1 spec. The last two PCI slots share the bandwidth with the PCI Firewire controller chip embedded onto the board.
Compared to the ASUS P5E3 Premium, the GIGABYTE X48T-DQ6 lacks a third PCI Express x16 slot to place a third graphics card into in order to have a dedicated Physics card; this is where the ASUS board comes into its own. As well as sporting an onboard Wireless Network card/Access point combo means that the ASUS board has the ability to be run as a media server for a HTPC equipped house, leaving the GIGABYTE board high and dry in this regard.